Classic or Trash: Nike SB Dunk Low "Grateful Dead"
Classic or Trash: Nike SB Dunk Low "Grateful Dead"
- Words Asaf Rotman
- Date July 28, 2020
”Classic or Trash” is a recurring franchise highlighting a specific item and asking exactly that question: is it classic or trash? Granted, each member of the Grailed community is entitled to their own opinion, and while the Grailed editorial staff does its best to judge items objectively, we more than encourage you to disagree and sound off in the comments below.
The Nike SB Dunk resurgence is one of the most interesting recent developments in hypebeast-dom. Lusted after for years and just as suddenly cast aside in the 2010s, SB Dunks were the ugly stepchild of the sneaker world, considered Grails by some and heinous by far more. As recently as 2016, SB Dunks were essentially worthless, with noted collectors offloading infamous pairs for little over retail, a fraction of what they sold for just a few years prior. Largely sidelined in favor of retro Jordan
and Yeezy releases, the SB market imploded and even the most noteworthy releases—Jeff Staple’s “reverse Pigeon” Dunks or Concepts' latest “Lobster”—barely received any buzz or aftermarket value. Yet, by 2018, the tide began to shift.
In large part due a renewed interest in mainline Nike Dunks courtesy of one Virgil Abloh, collectors once again began seeking out vintage models, SB included. From 1985 “Be True to Your School”-series' “Michigans” to 2003 “Brazil” Dunk Lows, shoes that, for years, no one cared about were suddenly appearing on collectors' feet and mood board feeds. The series of Off-White Dunk Lows only exacerbated the trend, but it was Travis Scott’s rising celebrity that breathed new life into SBs.
Beyond just Scott—who himself is a noted SB Dunk enthusiast who regularly wears some of the rarest models to date—the entire Cactus Jack camp began lacing up SBs, from Chase B to Bloody Osiris all culminating with the release of the Nike SB Dunk Low “Cactus Jack”. Dressed in tan, blue paisley and tartan plaid, the shoe (considered by many to be objectively ugly) struck a chord with his largely Gen-Z demographic who suddenly began searching out for his references. The fact that nightlife impresario Zack Bia stepped out in a pair of infamous unreleased $20,000+ “Paris” SB Dunk Lows only a few months later is proof that the next generation of sneakerheads is taking note. Of course, Nike has not failed to notice and recent releases like the collaborative Ben & Jerry’s “Chunky Dunky” made headlines and wishlists, despite questionable aesthetic choices. So, enter the Nike SB Dunk Low “Grateful Dead.”
While Dead-mania and DIY merch arguably peaked over two years ago following the rise of Online Ceramics and the addition of John Mayer to Dead & Co (with a number of hippy dippy, tie-dye friendly streetwear brands still chugging along) the ship has not completely sailed. Still, in terms of relevancy, Nike SB probably missed the boat.
Regardless, real heads know that this recent Dunk is clearly a modern reinterpretation of the fur-laden “Three Bears” pack from 2006. The trio, which included a high, mid and low-top, were inspired by the classic Goldilocks fairytale. Each model was decked in a separate color pastel and covered with shearling, at the time considered just grotesque enough to be cool and clearly not intended for skating. Still, in their prime, the shoes commanded a handsome resale value, and—like other SB models—have recently regained lost ground, regularly fetching four-figure sums for mint condition pairs. Combining this history with the current Deadhead revival (or what’s left of it anyways) was bound to be successful, and sure enough the sneakers sold out instantly, infuriating thousands who desperately logged on to the SNKRS app only to come up empty handed.
Despite demand and a significant resale, let’s be clear: these are not objectively "good looking" shoes. Whether it's the Oscar the Grouch green set against a marine blue check or goldenrod yellow on teal, both pairs are an eyesore and the fur is a statement that no one should reasonably make. An orange pair released exclusively at FTC Skateboarding in The Greatful Dead's hometown of San Francisco—likely to be the rarest pair of all. Again, though, like its predecessor that is clearly the point.
For a new generation of SB fans, this may very well be the “Three Bears” equivalent. A sneaker so strange, unwearable and obnoxious that transcends its looks and becomes a symbol all its own. For that, it should be recognized. If anything, offbeat, ostentatious—even ugly—sneaker iterations and inspirations are a major factor in the cult success of the overall Nike SB line. It's worth remembering: Modern sneaker culture may have been started by Jordan Brand, but it was shaped and sustained by the unique and bizarre Nike SB series.
If the new SB Dunk wave lasts, this pair surely will be considered a landmark. But if, once again, the line falls to irrelevancy, then the shoe will be judged purely based on its outward appearance and, trust us, it will not be rewarded.
Classic? Potentially. Trash? Most definitely.
Now, we ask you: Classic or Trash? Let us know in the comments below.
Follow Asaf Rotman on Instagram here.