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Dunk x Supreme

When the Nike Dunk was first released in 1985, it was a functional trainer specifically made for college basketball teams. Now, more than three decades later, it has become one of the brand’s most well-known fashion items. Much of its success can be put down to its aesthetic versatility, which itself is a result of the original sneaker being produced to allow distinctive colour-blocking that could be used to clearly display each team’s colours. This also made it an excellent option for collaborations as it provided the perfect canvas for other designers to express their own artistic flair. One of the earliest brands to make use of the Dunk’s design flexibility was skateboarding lifestyle brand Supreme. Based in New York, Supreme had already established itself as an influential force in streetwear culture, so it seemed like a natural fit to collaborate with Nike SB after it was founded in 2002. The relationship between the two quickly developed, growing into a fruitful partnership that continues to produce highly desirable Nike Dunk x Supreme colourways to this day.

When Sandy Bodecker was setting up Nike SB, he chose the Dunk as its launch model due to its connection with the skating community, which had been built incidentally during the late 80s and early 90s. Following the initial success of the Dunk Low Pro SB, Supreme was tasked with crafting the first collaborative sneaker for Nike’s new skateboarding division, resulting in the Nike Dunk x Supreme White Cement. Its use of Tinker Hatfield’s iconic elephant-print graphic, which was first seen on an Air Jordan 3 with the same nickname, made it incredibly popular, and the Black Cement soon followed with a new take on its own AJ3 namesake.

These two designs paved the way for a collection of Nike SB Dunk x Supreme high-tops featuring colour-blocking similar to that seen on the original two-tone models, but with the glittery addition of golden stars on the flanks and faux-crocodile skin overlays. Three colourways were made, each one honouring the Dunk’s college basketball history. The Blue Stars incorporates the fan-favourite University Blue tone on its outsole and overlays, the Red Stars a vivid Varsity Red and the Orange Stars a bright hue known as College Orange.

Throughout the next decade, Supreme and Nike worked together on a number of different silhouettes before returning to the Dunk in 2012 to mark the 10th anniversary of the Supreme Dunk Low and the brands’ prospering alliance. They released the Red Cement colourway, whose low-top design is similar to that of the 2002 collaborative sneakers but which adopts a vibrant Fire Red underlayer to assert a bold contrast with its elephant-print overlays and black swooshes.

The next Nike Dunks to be made in collaboration with Supreme were brought out in 2019, and, while the general construction of the shoe remained the same as those that had come before, the combination of its jewelled swooshes, the Supreme star branding embroidered into its lateral heel and its alternative colour arrangement almost makes it look like a different model. This set comprises the Jewel Swoosh Red, which has a glossy red coating on its toe and swooshes along with elegant white across the rest of its leather upper, the Jewel Swoosh Silver, whose shimmering toe and swooshes sit perfectly alongside its deep black upper and white midsole, and the Jewel Swoosh Gold, with its smart navy blue upper, Metallic Gold toe and eye-catching golden swooshes.

This trio of sneakers met with great success, becoming instantly popular and precipitating further Nike Dunk x Supreme collections in the new decade. In 2021, the two-tone colour-blocking, striking sidewall stars and faux crocodile skin overlays of the 2003 editions were brought back, this time appearing on four low-tops. Golden branding shows up on the tongue and heel, and a bright red insole references Supreme’s famous box logo with its white Nike SB and Supreme lettering; an element that has become a key part of the brands’ collaborative Dunks. A dark blue tone decorates the upper of the Hyper Royal colourway, and an almost fluorescent lime green the Mean Green. Meanwhile, the other two in the set feature deeper colours, the Barkroot Brown taking on a rich mahogany hue, the Black version making use of a bold black alongside its white leather underlayer to imbue it with a classic look.

In 2022, the two brands were able to celebrate a remarkable twenty years of Dunk collaborations, doing so with a trio of SB Dunk High x Supreme sneakers in a series entitled By Any Means. Each one employs a duo of tones across its premium leather upper, while the set is distinguished by its intricately embroidered details and branding effects, which recall a line of hats released by Supreme in 2008. Just like those popular pieces of headgear, these shoes incorporate the words “By Any Means”, with the design of the letters “NY” referencing the New York Yankees baseball team and Supreme’s connection to the city, and have the No Love logo as a nod to the well-known “I love New York” T-shirts that are so often bought by visiting tourists. Supreme Team embroidery lines the top of the heel, SUP lettering has been woven through the tongue label and each design has a red sockliner with white dual branding. In terms of colourways, the Red Navy has a dark red underlayer and dusky blue overlays, the Stormtrooper features a fashionable combination of black and white, and the Brazil resurrects a 2001 colourway with its vibrant yellow and green upper.

Just one year later, in 2023, the brands reunited once more to produce a pair of artistic Dunk designs. Both blend canvas and suede on the upper, the latter sections appearing in black on the low-top and white on the high-top. They are then united by their decorative canvas panels, which are coated in artwork by graffiti writer, visual artist and hip-hop pioneer Rammellzee as a commemoration of his creative legacy and Supreme’s first collaboration with the avant-garde artist from 30 years earlier. Rammellzee’s style, known as Gothic Futurism, gives the shoes a one-of-a-kind aesthetic as the off-white canvas is punctuated by abstract motifs in a myriad of different tones. All of these factors combined mean that each shoe can be taken as a work of art in itself, and both the High and the Low editions were incredibly popular on their release.

Although Nike and Supreme have worked together on a number of different models, their Dunks make up one of the most stylish and desirable collections of any silhouette. With the collaboration already into its third decade, there are so many Nike Dunk x Supreme sneakers out there to enjoy, from the elephant-print low-tops to the gold-star-monogrammed designs and the skilfully decorated shoes, all are memorable iterations of the original Nike Dunk, and each one has achieved tremendous success as a result.

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