The sneaker market was fundamentally different twenty years ago. At the turn of the century, skating was finally granted some much needed recognition, and for the first time, skate culture was creating an impact on sneaker sales. Nike, for its part, was desperately trying to secure a foothold within the fledgling industry. The Swoosh had signed Bam Margera—known more today for Jackass antics than his skating ability—but the relationship bore little fruit. A trio of signature Margera silhouettes released in the late ‘90s failed to make any impact whatsoever. Nike’s strategy at the time—acquiring nascent skate brands, putting product in general sports stores rather than independent skate shops, tacky TV commercials—proved Nike fundamentally misunderstood skate culture. Still, a handful of skaters were already skating in classic Nike silhouettes. Lance Mountain and the Bones Brigade famously wore Blazers and everyone from Mark Gonzales to Steve Caballero rocked Jordan 1s.

While Nike as an entity failed to recognize—and if anything attempted to monetize—the subculture, its full-leather construction and high-end tech actually proved ideal for skating, laying the groundwork for some of the most successful and beloved skate shoes ever made. In 2001, Nike’s skate-focused imprint, Nike SB, began the process of capitalizing on the years-worth of grassroots momentum by introducing a model that revolutionized not only the brand’s skateboarding line, but sneaker culture as a whole: the SB Dunk.

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