Why is Nike Dunk Low so popular?

The Nike Dunk is trending…again. For seasoned sneakerheads, this news might induce an obligatory eye roll; after all, it’s hard to marry the high-profile, low-cut sneaker’s enduring success (the shoe has been “trending” for nearly three years) with its place in the current hype cycle.

But a brief trip to Nike.com — where the Dunk is perpetually out of stock, the occasional raffle sells out immediately and the swoosh is reportedly jacking up the price of the style next quarter — and subsequently, to third-party resellers like StockX and Grailed, where the $100 style is fetching thousands, reveal just how in-demand Nike’s unlikely star remains. Like it or not, the Nike Dunk is (still) having a moment.

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Why is Nike Dunk Low so popular?

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Originally conceived as a college basketball shoe in 1985, the Nike Dunk found new life in the skate community during the ’90s and early aughts, establishing a kick-flipping cult following around the reinterpreted Nike Dunk SB. A number of imprints, from the causal Dunk Low to a variety of vintage-inspired styles have spawned in the years since, highlighting the sneaker’s illustrious 35-year history.

However, it’s a slew of celebrity endorsements from the likes of Travis Scott and ASAP Rocky and a variety of high-profile collaborations that have skyrocketed the style into a different stratosphere of sneaker hype. From the cutting-edge streetwear labels of Union LA and Off-White to unexpected partnerships (who could forget the fuzzy Grateful Dead collab, or worse, the Chunky Dunky?), the sheer amount of hype around Dunk releases has cemented the style as one of Nike’s most wanted.

Why is Nike Dunk Low so popular?

The Nike Dunk SB “Pigeon” remains a highly sought after style.


And unlike a plethora of other sneakers that have made waves in the past years (we’re looking at you, New Balance 550), the Dunk Low seems to have serious legs. With a perpetual influx of new designs and a seemingly insatiable appetite for the laid-back style, the Dunk demand doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon. If anything, the ubiquity of the sneakers in recent years seems to be edging towards a heritage status (not totally unlike another red-hot, vintage inspired sneaker of the summer).

If you’re interested in grabbing a pair for yourself, we have bad news. Chances are, you won’t…or not at retail, anyway. While Nike’s aforementioned SNKRS App offers a raffle system — the next Dunk drops 9/9 — stock is highly limited. You’ve got a much better chance of grabbing a pair on the resale market. While you’ll pay a premium at the likes of StockX, hundreds of Dunk styles are up for grabs. We’ve highlighted a couple of more affordable styles to get you started.

Why is Nike Dunk Low so popular?

Nike Dunk Low Retro “White Black Panda”

Buy Here : $202

Why is Nike Dunk Low so popular?

Nike Dunk Low “UCLA”

Buy Here : $163

Why is Nike Dunk Low so popular?

Nike Dunk Low “Coconut Milk”

Buy Here : $153

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"Are we past the Panda hate?" asks Complex Sneakers Podcast co-host Joe La Puma. He isn't talking about endangered wild animals or an animated movie character — or even 2016's smash hit single, "Panda" by Desiigner. He's talking about Nike's popular Panda Dunks, or the Dunk Low Retro, as they call it. "It's a good-looking sneaker," he adds.

His cohort, Brendan Dunne, the General Manager of Sole Collector, another sneaker outlet, agrees. "It's such a basic sneaker. That's the point of the shoe: It's a black and white Nike Dunk Low — how could you ever be mad at there being a million pairs out there?" he asks.

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They went back and forth debating the ubiquity of Nike's well-known lifestyle sneaker, which first debuted in March 2021 for a fair $100. And even though they're hard to buy now, and now $110, Nike has re-released them several times, flooding the market with Panda-colored kicks. Just look on TikTok or Twitter, where videos of like-minded shoppers go viral: "NYC is a pandaemic," one caption reads.

Culturally, they're "rinsed," many would argue, or as Urban Dictionary puts its: overplayed, like a good song that gets played too many times on the radio. The Dunk is a good sneaker, and it's been around since 1985, when they first debuted in a team-specific colorway for the University of Miami. They've grown more popular as of late, with editions done by the late Virgil Abloh, Union and others. The Pandas, however, are a general release, not a collab, which makes them more readily available.

And that annoys snotty sneakerheads, who feel these first-time "hype" sneaker buyers are making sneaker collecting, if you will, even more mainstream. They're the ones who are making Dunk Lows harder to buy for everyone else; they're the ones that make all-white Air Force 1s hard to find; in comparison to real estate, they're gentrification foreshadowing.

But they can't be the only ones buying Dunks. According to GOAT, an online sneaker resale platform (that just bought Grailed), Nike Dunks accounted for only 3.64 percent of all Nike sales on its platforms in 2020. In 2021, that percentage rose to 29.73 percent. In 2022, Dunks have dominated. Its share of Nike sales has spiked to 49.44 percent.

Nike Dunk Low Retro (Panda)

Across the board, Nike sales are up, even at retail. Year over year, total revenue rose by 4 percent, Nike's latest quarterly report revealed. Time will tell if its investments in NFTs and Web3 pay off, but competitors are clearing a path for prolonged positive growth.

Tom Nikic, Senior VP of Equity Research at Wedbush Securities, told Insider Adidas's dropped deal with designer Kanye West will send one-time Adidas devotees straight to Nike's door. "If all of a sudden that customer who was buying a couple pairs of Yeezys every year now finds themselves with a few 100 extra dollars in their budget every year, the most likely direction they're going to go with that money is Nike: the Jordans and the Dunks."

Expect the "Panda-emic" to continue, as the above TikTok called it. Nike hasn't saturated the market quite yet, and if there really is an excess of ex-Yeezy wearers searching for new favorite sneakers, the brand might see the Panda Dunk as the perfect solution.

Since making its debut in 2002, the Nike SB Dunk has become one of the most iconic sneaker styles of all time, and a blank canvas for design inspiration. Boasting hypeworthy collabs and an effortlessly cool aesthetic, Nike SB Dunks rank among the most sought-after silhouettes on the market.
Its simple look makes the shoe ubiquitous and wearable. It's simple, and it's got a big Swoosh, so you know it's a Nike. That means it's got a ton of appeal for unboxings and Insta 'fit pics.
No shoe is more popular right now than the Nike Dunk. This once-forgotten silhouette has made the comeback of the ages. Many years ago they could be found on clearance shelves and in Nike outlet stores across the country.
The Nike Dunk debuted in 1985 and was originally a basketball shoe geared toward college athletes, but that began to change in the late '90s and early '00s when Nike SB adopted the silhouette and made it its own.