WORDS BY STEPHEN YU
The Nike Dunk is having its renaissance moment – but this isn’t the first time. Long overdue and highly demanded, the most recent bevy of collaborative Dunks are just the latest in a long line from the Portland master artists of footwear. Debuted in 1985 as a performance basketball trainer, this mash-up of the Air Jordan I and Nike Terminator was based around the fit of the Nike Legend, then the best fitting last in basketball, period. An evolution of its bigger brother – the Air Force 1 – it not only felt good to wear but looked good, too. Unveiled through the now iconic ‘Be True To Your School’ print ad campaign, the Dunk arrived in the colourways of the 12 best college basketball teams, enabling fans to rep their school’s colours from head to toe, and making it the first basketball trainer ever produced in such bold shades.
For the more style-conscious skaters, the same Nike tech that made the Dunk so great for basketball also made it a hit for skating in, too. Though the Dunk was widely adopted by the skateboard community, it would take until 2002 with the founding of Nike SB that they would finally get their skate-specific Dunk. The Nike SB Dunk featured increased padding, an extra-grip sole and Nike Zoom insoles, making them even comfier than the original.
The fact that you could wear them to shred in and chill in meant they appealed to both the skater and the inner sneakerhead. But perhaps even greater than this, the Nike SB Dunk managed to achieve full crossover appeal when it transitioned from athletic footwear to the fashion realm during the mid-noughties, through a string of collaborations with the likes of streetwear culture legends Supreme, Stussy, Futura, Unkle, and even brands like eBay and Heineken. For millennials growing up during the Nike SB Dunk era who’d missed out on the Jordan hype, the limited releases of elephant print, hemp and denim-adorned Dunks in Neapolitan ice cream and Tiffany-inspired colourways were their gateway into the sneakerhead world.
Now entering its third act, buoyed by Soulland and Comme des Garçons releases a few years back, the Dunk is one trainer that’s more than worthy of its retro revival. Like all great Nike shoes it comes with an illustrious history in the world of sports, a heavy dose of nostalgia for sneakerheads, but most importantly it's now in a selection of great colourways. Even if you’ve missed out on the Parras, the Strangeloves or the Ben & Jerry’s, with a whole slew of limited-edition Dunks incoming, you’d be silly not to get your sizing queries answered now. This is the definitive Nike SB Dunk Sizing guide.
The Ultimate Nike Dunk Sizing, Fit & Styling Guide
The Nike Dunk has been around for a while now but it’s always been a quintessential sneaker silhouette. There’s been a resurgence of Dunks lately with a lot of retro colourway releases and some very notable collaborations with brands such as Off-White, StrangeLove Skateboards, Travis Scott and Ben & Jerry’s. The Nike dunk has been adapted by many prominent streetwear figures, one of them being Virgil Abloh who previewed the Off-White X Futura Nike Dunks during Paris Fashion Week last year, which got sneakerheads like myself very excited. The Nike Dunk is a must have for me because it’s a classic, timeless silhouette with such a rich history and many iconic collaborations since the early noughties.
I’m wearing my Nike SB StrangeLove Dunk Lows today. So far, this is one of my favourite sneaker releases of 2020 because it’s red/pink colourway and plush velvet uppers make for a playful take on the Nike SB Dunk. I usually style my Dunks with Nike ACG cargo pants or bike shorts and Nike socks.
Sizing & Fit:
The Nike Dunks fit true to size so I recommend just going for your regular Nike shoe size. However, compared to the Air Jordan I it does have a slightly wider fit in the toe box, but the difference is quite minimal so it isn’t necessary to size up or down.
The Nike Dunks were originally a basketball shoe that was then adapted into a skate shoe for Nike SB, so you can be assured that they are comfortable and definitely good for everyday wear.
Wet wipes usually do the trick when I need a quick clean of my leather Dunks. I’m not too careful with them as I don’t mind if they look a bit distressed or beaten up – sneakers are made to be worn, after all.
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What originally drew me to the Nike Dunks was the clean colour blocking and the vibrancy of the original dunk colourways, namely those from the “Be True To Your School” pack. What I love about the silhouette is just how wearable the shape is, which – similar to its big brother the Air Jordan I – has a thin sole and doesn’t look too bulky.
Today I’m wearing my 1999 Syracuse Highs, simply because it’s one of my favourite colourways (it’s a toss-up between these and the Michigans). As for styling, it’s a versatile silhouette but I usually rock mine with a pair of cargos or cords, normally with a baggy fit. The slim look of the shoes goes so well the bagginess of the bottoms, which complement each other perfectly. You also can’t go wrong with a pair of shorts or joggers.
Sizing & Fit:
The Nike Dunks fit true to size so my advice is to just take the size you normally wear. They’re slimmer than other models like the Air Force 1, and every Air Jordan except the 1s, so compared to them you can probably go as much as half a size up from your regular size. For example, if you’re a size UK 8 in AF1s, then you should be good with a UK 8.5 in Dunks. With sleeker silhouettes like the Air Jordan I, just take the same size that you’d normally wear.
They’re not the comfiest shoes in the world, especially as it’s a retro shoe, so we can’t expect the same levels of comfort as in the newer Nike models. They’re still comfortable enough to wear for a few hours, but I wouldn’t be walking up and down the city all day in them.
I try to keep all of my shoes as clean as possible, but I don’t with Dunks; they look better with wear and I definitely prefer that vintage, worn-in look. But if you’d like to keep yours looking fresh then just give them a wipe with sneaker cleaning wipes or a clean using a soft brush after wearing them.
Skateboarder from London, United Kingdom
Nike Dunks are classic and look great. As a skateboarder, a fashion/streetwear fan and someone who used to play and was interested in basketball at school, this shoe is a staple for me as it crosses all of these cultures.
Today I’m wearing the Nike SB Dunk Low in purple, navy and atmosphere grey. I always wear Nike SB Dunks as they’re built to last and can withstand rough skateboarding wear and tear, but I’ll still wear them on a day when I'm not skating, like today. This colourway is pretty unique and I prefer wearing Dunks with jeans or shorts rather than trousers.
Sizing & Fit:
I tend to find Dunks and Nike in general come up quite small in comparison to other sportswear and high-fashion sneakers. I don't know whether this is just in smaller sizes as I usually wear a size UK 3, but in Nike I go half a size up and wear a UK 3.5.
The Nike Dunks are a solid and comfortable pair of sneakers. The SBs have additional padding so they provide support right where you need it, yet are still built for style, durability and performance.
I don’t take any particular extra steps to provide special care for my sneakers – the Nike SB Dunk is a pretty easy-going sneaker. I have a crazy pair of sneakers from a high-fashion brand and there are so many different layers and shaping to the sneaker that dirt gets trapped in awkward and hard to reach places, which isn't a problem with these.
I’m not part of the circle of OG Dunk collectors, but I used to skateboard throughout my teens which sparked my interest in skateboard footwear. I’m a big fan of the Nike Air Jordan I and the Dunk has a similar vibe, which makes it appealing to me. I’m very happy this classic sneaker is having a renaissance – there are so many great iterations dropping. Every colourway of the Nike Dunk has a concept behind it, executed not only through the colour choice but also texture and material, too. Nike Dunks combine good looks with a good story.
The Nike Dunk is a must-have because it’s a great design with cool concepts behind it. It’s very easy to combine with other pieces and looks great with different outfits – and there’s a lot of variety between the different versions, too. Depending on what look you’re going for, you can either make a statement with something more eye-catching or keep it low-key with a cleaner pair.
The Dunk is one of those iconic silhouettes you can never go wrong with. It’s very simple yet well designed, and I enjoy how much effort Nike puts into the range.
Today I’m wearing olive Dickies workwear pants – baggy fit, of course. I’ve matched an oversized, boxy shirt on top. Nothing crazy, just a white shirt with a cool print. This is my go-to look. Also, I’m glad that bottoms with a less fitted shape are back; I love matching mine with the Travis Scott or Orange Box-era SB Dunks.
Sizing & Fit:
Sometimes they fit true to size, and sometimes they don’t. It really depends on your foot shape. Differences in materials and details (Nike SB Dunks come with additional padding for skateboarding) can cause a variation in fit.
The comfort level of the Nike Dunk is comparable to many other sneakers like the Air Jordan I or Air Force 1. This isn’t meant to be a performance shoe – except for skating in some cases, obviously. The Nike Dunk is a very good looking lifestyle shoe which can be worn throughout the day and won’t turn into an overly tight, foot biting, evil shoe creature as time passes.
Some styles of the Nike Dunks need special care. The shoe can be very sensitive depending on the material chosen for the upper. Anyone who has a pair of Nike SB Dunk “Papa Bear” in their collection will probably remember feeling a mixture of pride and fear at the same time – imagine spilling a drink on one of those fluffy beauties. It’s really about avoiding getting them dirty in the first place. Luckily there are many pairs that come with leather uppers which just need to be wiped for a few minutes with a wet cloth and will look brand new again.