May 24, 2012 BY John Kim
A very strong case can be made for the ‘sneaker collaboration’ being a trailblazer for widespread popularity of kicks today. The individually numbered shoes tied to a renowned cult street-artist or sneaker boutique and boxed up in custom packaging had all the sex appeal to get the sneaker-libido raging for any obsessed fanatic, but before the era of the collaboration, there was a sneaker that stretched the definition of ‘Limited Edition’ so far that we often don’t even consider it when discussing the toughest sneaker pick-ups in history. Why? They’re nearly impossible to find. Leap years occur more often than Wu-Tang Dunk sightings, and Flight Club, the one-stop shop for finding the world’s most rarified kicks while keeping a blind eye to price-tags, hasn’t had a pair come through its doors in over five years. What are they valued at? It’s one of the very few sneakers that might have an inconsistent appraisal for a number of reasons; it could be priced identically to what it last sold for on Flight Club ($5,000), or it can be adjusted for inflation and appreciation and easily mark them at double that figure. Some may assess that these don’t have tangible value at all – a priceless sneaker at the very core and no doubt worthy of a spot on Classics Revisited.
Throughout the 1990’s, the Wu-Tang Clan, based out of the NYC boroughs of Staten Island, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, made an incredible name for their alternative style of hip-hop and wordplay, and have since sprouted a wide range of career paths that cover anything and everything that needed a unique flavor. Solo albums, careers in film and TV, music production – the Wu was very much a part of pop culture outside of their albums, and consistently the Wu-Tang Clan is listed among the greatest and most influential music acts in history. In 1999, when the original Nike Dunk High ‘Be True’ Collection was re-released, Nike created a special edition Wu-Tang Clan ‘Friends & Family’ edition of the Black/Goldenrod colorway associated with the University of Iowa – one of the original seven representatives of the Nike Dunk ‘Be True’ Series.
The Black/Yellow colorway was selected in accordance with ‘The Swarm’, a 1998 album put forth by the Wu-Tang Killa Beez – a collective of Wu-Tang members and its affiliates. The sneaker featured the iconic Wu-Tang logo embroidered on the heel and on a custom tongue label, and the mere addition of the logos made the simplistic two-toned colorway a staggering beauty that exuded the aggression and refined grit we associate with the Wu-Tang Clan and its music. The true number of issues of the Wu-Tang x Nike Dunk High isn’t exactly firm; while a number of pairs were given to the Wu-Tang Clan, a very limited number actually did release (perhaps the first Nike ‘hyperstrike’ release ever) in New York City at Training Camp, a sneaker spot known for its hip-hop celebrity clientele which included the likes of Raekwon, Jay-Z, and many more NYC-based rappers.
Sneaker historians, Dunk enthusiasts, and even those behind Nike walls consider the original ‘Be True’ series of the Nike Dunk as one of the holy landmarks of Nike Basketball and Nike Sportswear history. The ‘Be True’ re-release in 1999 struck a chord with the sneaker community and gave the Dunk new life and was praised for its Retro styling and energetic colorways, quickly becoming a cult hit and rolling out the red carpet for the Dunk renaissance of the early 2000’s. With our praise of these Nike Dunk classics this week, the Wu-Tang Dunk is, ironically, close to being an unattainable shoe – a Dunk ‘nirvana’ if you will. Perhaps, in another life. Wu-Tang Killa Beez forever!
Wu-Tang x Nike Dunk High