‘Year of the Dunks’: Nike Dunks celebrate 15th anniversary in 2021


Photo by @Smile_kicks on instagram

Assorted Nike Dunks; the apparel company is celebrating the 15th anniversary of the SB Dunks this year.

We saw the versatility of the Nike SB Dunk expand from the Ben and Jerry’s collaboration, to the bright orange Syracuse colorway. Now, the 1985 silhouette of the Dunk has made a very big return – and people want more.

Last year we saw a lot of play on colorful Dunks. This year, Nike will still lean toward the colorful side, while offering neutral tones as well. One of the biggest drops this year will feature the “University Blue” from UNC’s light blue colorway, which made headlines when Sneaker News dropped a photo of the shoe. Baby blue has long been a favorite amongst sneakerheads, especially after Virgil Abloh’s collaboration in his Off-White “University Blue” Jordan 1 release. 

The expectations are high for Nike’s sneaker drops this year. The sneaker industry over the past few years has changed drastically due to resell culture. Dunks that normally retail for $150 have more than tripled their value on StockX, a site that allows buyers to place bids on authentic shoes through local resellers. The crossover between streetwear and mainstream fashion has created a higher demand for sneakers, making it extremely challenging for people to get their hands on a pair. 

“Sneaker culture has definitely changed due to digital lines, bots, bidding sites like StockX and Goat,” said Kassandra Ruvaclaba, a sales employee at the DTLR sneaker store on North Kedzie. “Resellers are kind of messing up the shoe game just because they’re not letting everyone get the shoe they want, they’re just trying to make a profit off of it.”

Just five years ago, it was normal to camp outside of stores leading up to sneaker release dates. Sneaker culture has changed so much that in order to get a hot sneaker, you have to try your luck on five different websites or apps just to get them for retail price.

Social media has also impacted the demand for sneakers, in part due to  celebrities like Travis Scott, who has had multiple collaborations with Nike. Athletes are no longer the only people with sneaker deals; sneaker culture has evolved beyond that. Your favorite rappers and singers have collaborations, too. The “Cactus Jack” SB Dunks were a favorite in 2020 from Scott’s line. 

It’s no surprise that Nike sales have thrived during the pandemic, thanks to the number of people who have begun working out at home. According to CNBC, Nike’s digital sales went up 84 percent during this past quarter due to people wanting gear to stay healthy and active during the pandemic. 

Aside from the spike in online sales, retail stores are still hoping to recover from the past year’s struggles. Some sneaker stores in Chicago took a hard hit when some stores were looted during protests over the summer. Ruvaclaba said that DTLR has been very successful since its reopening. 

“When we opened up we had all the releases, so I would say business has been overly well, our first day I think we made like $35,000,” she said.

DePaul students are no stranger to sneaker culture. Although it has been a while since on-campus classes have been available, the Lincoln Park and Loop campuses both have different aesthetics. 

“Classes in Lincoln Park have way more sneakers, while classes in the Loop have more business casual shoes,” said DePaul marketing student Max Segal. “I see a lot of Jordan 1’s, and Yeezy 350’s.” 

This difference in styles has everything to do with the environment and majors of students. Since the Loop campus is home to DePaul’s business school, you see a lot of business casual outfits. And since Lincoln Park houses humanities colleges like the College of Education and the Theatre School, the dress code is slightly more casual. 

The emergence of athleisure wear in the fashion world has found great success in brands like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour. Nike is the most successful sportswear brand in the world, totaling $37.4 billion revenue in 2020 alone, according to Nike News. Part of Nike’s marketing strategy is to capture everyday people who work out, like one of their first ads featuring an 80-year-old marathon runner. The sportswear market is not tailored to athletes — it has expanded to everyday people who want to look and feel good while exercising. 

“The brand is about realizing the potential that we all, each of us have within us,” said Ken Krimstein, a professor of public relations and advertising at DePaul. “It’s a very empowering message that’s been incredibly consistent for 40 years now.” 

Another ad that made headlines was Colin Kaepernick’s feature on a picture that read “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” 

DePaul students are familiar with protests and activism. If you’ve walked on the quad, you’ve most likely run into a protest. Some aspects of their branding have started conversations across student bodies. 

“The brand used to be totally in charge of its message.” Krimstein said. “Now, really, the consumer of the advertising has a very large part in creating the message through social media, and retweeting, and posting. They’re very empowered to talk about the brand, so they’ve become kind of a collaborator in the brand message.” 

The partnered relationship between advertising and consumers has created a bigger platform for sneaker lovers to keep voicing what they want more of from Nike. In the month of January alone, Nike is releasing two different Dunks, with a retail value no more than $150, but a resale value of twice that amount.