Nike SB, More Than a Shoebox
Nike SB is possibly the first lineage that comes to mind when it comes to a range of creative collaborations and designs. After the original Nike Dunk was released in 1985, designed by the late Peter Moore, skaters quickly adopted the silhouette thanks to its high ankle support and easy wearability.
During the time between the Nike Dunk and the later released Nike SB line, Nike was trying to break into the skate subculture through other means. Releasing in 1996, the Swoosh unveiled four separate silhouettes including the Nike Choad, Snak and Lien Lo, a sneaker that shares similarities with the recently released Ishod Wair SB. However, despite their best attempts, the brand that was then linked mainly with running and basketball sneakers was unable to penetrate the skate market.
That was until Sandy Bodecker came in.
Originally joining Nike as a wear tester in 1982, Bodecker would make incredibly detailed notes on each of the sneakers that he would test. This quickly caught the attention of the heads at Nike, Phil Knight and Mark Parker, and led him to be appointed the general manager of Nike SB in 2001.
As well as working within Nike’s Soccer (Football) sector in the EU, Bodeckers knowledge of the skating industry led him to be known as the Godfather of Nike SB. His first job, revitalising the Nike Dunk and creating the SB (Sandy Bodecker) Dunk. The details that go into the SB variant of the silhouette are now widely known thanks to its resurgence over the past couple of years. However, there’s more to Nike SB Dunks than just the sneaker itself.
Ask any sneaker collector their top 5 favourite reasons for collecting, and it is almost guaranteed that 9 out of 10 of them will mention the shoeboxes themselves with many collectors having a room filled with shoeboxes. It’s this culture of collection that Nike has been able to tap into with SB.
Each era of Nike SB holds its own story with its shoebox design. An ongoing tradition, the shoebox has almost become as important as the sneaker inside it.
Orange Box Era, March 2002 - December 2002
The era that started it all. The orange box era of SB was the beginning of the new brand at Nike and was heavily focused on partnerships within the industry. At the time the orange box was released, Nike showcased their breakout signings with the likes of Gino Iannucci, Danny Supa and Richard Mulder.
In addition to individual skaters getting their own colourways, Nike made sure to also tap into the prominent skate teams at the time. Within Nike SB’s first wave of releases, they released the Dunk Low Pro SB Alphanumeric Lighting in partnership with the skate brand Alphanumeric. They would later go on to release their first collaboration with Supreme. A release that has since remained at grail status.
Silver Box Era, January 2003 - September 2004
While Nike SB is known for its eye-catching shoebox designs, it wasn’t until 2003 that this theme came into effect. With the initial rollout using the toned-down orange box, Bodecker and Knight quickly realised that, along with the growing popularity surrounding the newly released SB lineage, they could make a box that would stand out from the rest. And it only seemed right to do so in conjunction with the higher-key releases of this era.
As well as the newly designed box itself, Nike also introduced new details including a green size label on the front with pixelated text as well as a wood grain style design to the paper as a nod to the skateboard the shoes were made for.
At the time Nike released the silver box, they also tried out two new silhouettes, similar to the ones previous to Bodeckers enrollment, titled the URL and E-CUE. However, these silhouettes were just as unpopular with fans fixated on the SB Dunk.
The silver box era showcased some of the rarest SB Dunks ever to release, including the infamous Paris, FLOM and Iron Maidens as well as including a second collaboration with Supreme.
Pink Box Era, September 2004 - December 2005
The pink box era of Nike SB is widely regarded as one of, if not the, best of any era thus far. By the time the era had come around, Nike SB was at its peak. Releasing highly coveted collaborations with Stüssy and Diamond Supply (a collaboration that was originally proposed to GIRL Skateboards) as well as the release of the ‘Medicom 2’ and ‘Hunter’ which showed new ways that Nike was willing to play with the SB Dunk to set it apart from its other performance-based lines.
While the pink box era is known for its popular releases, it was also the time in which Nike signed the legendary Paul Rodriguez (P-Rod) who was given his first skate shoe named the Zoom Air Elite (AKA J-Rod) which was designed by Tinker Hatfield and paid homage to Michael Jordan with hits of elephant print leather as seen on the Air Jordan 3.
Additionally, in November 2005, Nike celebrated the 20th anniversary of where the Nike Dunk started with a retro of the Be True To Your School pack, re-releasing the original colourways.
Black Box Era, February 2006 - September 2007
The black box era of Nike SB didn’t bring the same hype as the previous pink box. However, the newer, sleeker, design that featured a purple Nike logo upon a black shoebox seemed to move further away from conventional skate attire than ever before. By this time, Nike was in full swing on experimental materials with releases including a quilted upper on the SB Blazer Mid ‘Supreme’ Pack as well as thick hair on the SB Dunk ‘Three Bears’ Pack which saw a High, Mid and Low release.
Additionally, Nike also took the SB line into a new realm, with a set of Golf sneakers with the SB ‘Golf Pack’ that saw two classic colourways complete with perforated detailing and signature lace covers.
In July 2007, Nike continued their collaborative work with music artists following De La Soul, releasing their second project with MF Doom. Featuring a slue of Doom related details, as well as faux ostrich leather around the toebox, the sneaker saw a resurgence in popularity following the rapper's untimely passing in 2020.
Gold Box Era, October 2007 - March 2009
Despite the unusually small number of releases during the gold box SB era, the releases that did come to fruition made sure to be some of the most groundbreaking yet.
Arguably the most iconic release in SBs history, the SB Dunk Low ‘Freddy Kruger’ was technically never actually released. After being cancelled before they could be sold to the public, pairs of the sneakers designed by Todd Bratrud had been sent out to a small number of skate stores allowing for some of the staff to get their hands on them. This would ultimately mean that while the release never occurred officially, a very limited number of pairs can still be found floating around.
As part of Nike’s first full-length skate film titled ‘Nothing But The Truth’, they released the ‘What The Dunk’. A mishmash of 31 previous releases all on one sneaker. While the release was initially met with a controversial response, it has since become a popular pair paving the way for further ‘What The’ projects, the most recent of which being Paul Rodriguez’s ‘What The P-Rod’ from 2021.
Blue Box Era, April 2009 - June 2012
The blue box era of Nike SB saw popularity surrounding the lineage begin the dwindle slightly. SB Dunk collectors partially hold Nike accountable for this shift after design changes on the sneakers saw a thinner tongue and the strap removed from the SB Dunk Mid.
During this time, Nike released the fourth instalment in their ongoing partnership with Supreme on the lesser-known Zoom Air 94 Hi as well as releasing both a Low and High colourway of the SB Dunk in partnership with skater Eric Koston after he was signed to Nike SB in 2009.
Nevertheless, despite the lull in popularity, designer Todd Bratrud created the ‘Skunk Dunk’. Released in April 2010, the sneaker was made by way of celebrating the ‘420’ holiday. A theme that has since become a mainstay within Nike’s SB Dunk range.
Taped Box Era, July 2012 - November 2013
Following the drop in popularity surrounding the SB Dunk line at Nike, things went from bad to worse during the striped box era. In an attempt to fight the falling popularity, Nike decided to open up their stockists. While before SB Dunks were stocked exclusively at Skate stores and selected independent boutiques, they decided stock SB Dunks at mainstream sports and lifestyle retailers.
As could be predicted, the Skate culture, in which the SB Dunk plays a massive part, didn’t take kindly to its community being shared with the general public.
Regardless of the attention being taken away from the SB, Nike went on to release a red colourway of their OG Supreme collaboration in July 2012 by way of celebrating the initial release 20 years prior.
Key releases: SB Dunk Low Pro x Supreme ‘Red Cement’, SB Dunk High Pro x Concepts ‘When Pigs Fly’
Teal Box Era, December 2013 - December 2019
After the lacklustre years that Nike SB experienced, they needed to make a change. And change they did. To move forward, Nike needed to look back at previous releases, and this went for the shoebox as well as the sneakers.
A change that many collectors site as being the reason why the popularity of SB shifted, was the introduction of the teal shoebox. Inspired by the classic Tiffany jewellery box, a name that the Diamond Dunk from 2005 had been given thanks to its light blue panels, Nike was able to bring back the take the bolder, in your face aesthetic, of the pink box era.
During the teal box era, Nike brought back some of the greatest projects from past years including the Dunk Low ‘Lobster’ series, three new colourways with Diamond Supply as well as a Supreme pack and introducing artist and skater Paul Parra to the Nike family.
While Nike was able to bring in new SB Dunk releases, they also had a couple of line crossovers, introducing the Polar SB Trainer 1, released in June 2019, which saw skate brand Polar Skate Co. collaborate on the Air Trainer 1 from 1987 as well as a release of the SB Air Jordan 1 Low, released in June 2019, which takes design cues from the co.JP Air Jordan 1 High by way of celebrating 35 years of the classic silhouette.
Around the same time, SB Dunks began to gain further traction thanks to the likes of Virgil Abloh and Travis Scott seen wearing various models of SB Dunks, with Scott becoming a key reason for the silhouette's huge resurgence.
Key releases: SB Dunk Low Pro ‘Black Pigeon’, SB Dunk Low Pro ‘Canary, White & Black Diamond’, SB Dunk Low Pro ‘Roswell Rayguns Home’, SB Dunk Low & High Pro ‘Box Series’, SB Dunk Low Pro ‘Purple Lobster’
Striped box Era, January 2020 - Present
Two years into the striped box era and there have already been enough releases to class it as one for the history books. The past two years have seen a huge resurgence in the Nike Dunk as well as the SB Dunk.
Thanks to the influence of celebrities including Travis Scott and high-key releases like the SB Dunk Low x Ben and Jerry’s ‘Chunky Dunky’ that hit mainstream news, as well as Skate culture becoming a popular trend, SB Dunks are once again seeing sellout success with certain releases being exclusive to the stores that inspired them.
Not only have the past two years seen sellout success thanks to its mainstream appeal, but the projects that Nike have undertaken with SB. Examples like the SB Dunk High ‘Hawaii’ released in April 2021 and the Ishod Wair x Magnus Walker SB Dunk High, released in June 2021 showcase layered designs or the SB Dunk Low x Civilist, released in August 2020, which changes colour according to the heat of the wearers foot.
Nike is once again using its SB line to push the possibilities of sneaker design and use them as a canvas for pieces of art. Bringing the lineage back to its roots and creating memorable, collectable releases.
It’s this sense of collection and one-off pieces of art that are reflected through the shoeboxes they’re encased in. As with any collaboration, they deserve a special shoebox to set them apart. But with Nike SB, there’s more to it. When you see the colourful box, you know that there is a special project inside. For those collectors that have stacks of shoeboxes, the artistic designs allow them to follow and commemorate the journey that SB has been on, and will continue to pursue.