The Nike Dunk is a sneaker originally designed for basketball by Peter Moore for the North American sportswear company, NIKE, Inc. Debuted in 1985, the model has enjoyed newfound mainstream attention since 2017 thanks in large part to co-signs from Travis Scott and the late Virgil Abloh.
Initially named the “College Color High,” the shoe was originally sketched as a mash-up of various sneakers – including the Air Force 1 from 1982 and Air Jordan 1, which debuted just months before it. Although the Oregon-based company had amassed a formidable roster of hoops-ready sneakers by the mid 1980s, it was determined to capitalize on the off-court appeal basketball footwear had begun enjoying thanks to fashion trends, music-driven subcultures and film. The creative minds behind the Nike Dunk landed on said name because the final product was created on the same shoe last used to make what was widely considered as the best-fitting basketball shoes of the time: the Nike Legend.
Aware of network television's role in expanding college basketball's reach throughout the '80s, the Swoosh (as Nike is also referred to because of its iconic check logo designed by Carolyn Davidson) stylized its new design after 12 key schools so that fans could support their favorite teams from head to toe. Nike introduced the “College Colors” program via print advertising using the tagline “Be True to Your School,” with the original eight colorways drawing inspiration from the University of Kentucky, Iowa State, Syracuse University and University of Nevada, Las Vegas, among others. The Nike Dunk High was introduced in August of 1985 with color-coordinated apparel and bags.
Over the last 37 years, Moore's original design has been offered in a variety of trims, with Nike SB – the brand's skateboaring-focused category – utilizing the High, Mid and Low iterations interchangeably. Although the Swoosh didn't officially recognize the Nike Dunk as a skate shoe until March 2002, the month during which the late Sandy Bodecker took over the SB team after a failed first launch in the 1990s, countless skaters gravitated towards the basketball silhouette in the years following its debut: all the characteristics that made it a progressive option on the hardwood – lateral support, Air cushioning, pivot-oriented traction – helped Moore's design become a staple within the skateboarding scene.