With links to sneaker tourism, skateboarding, streetwear and runway appearances, the Nike Dunk is a focal point of not only sneaker culture, but men’s fashion at large. Yet, for a shoe with such rich cultural appeal, the Dunk has a difficult history.

The second most-popular shoe to debut in 1985—after the Jordan I—the Dunk was never intended as a flagship model. Instead, it was a college-centric basketball shoe. Designed for NCAA athletes (and their respective fans), the Dunk was an attempt to capitalize on the collegiate leagues' growing appeal. But, despite playing second fiddle to one of the most successful Nike sneakers of all time, the shoe took on a life all its own, quickly diverging from its intended audience and finding new life in a variety of subcultures. From there, the shoe faded in and out of public consciousness, never quite hitting fever pitch but always making waves.

As of 2020, though, that’s all changed. Not only is the sneaker back in full force, boasting Off-White and Travis Scott collabs and a number of successful retros, but its sister sneaker, the SB Dunk is once again a hypebeast must-have.

How did an eerily similar Nike silhouette gain such a fervent following? Furthermore, considering how it fell out of fashion multiple times, what caused the recent resurgence? The answer is a long history of beloved colorways, clever collaborations and leveraging its own cachet.

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