Nike SB is a dominant force in skateboarding but it hasn’t always been the influential, trendsetting brand it is today. Nike’s initial efforts to sell to skate shops in ‘97 played a major role in how it approached entering the industry for a second time in 2002 when it introduced Nike SB to the world with the release of the Nike SB Dunk Low. The retooled version of the popular basketball silhouette featured a padded tongue, collar, and a Zoom Air insole. While the shoe was slow to catch on, it’s gone on to be one of Nike SB’s most popular styles thanks to a forgiving design that looks good in just about every colorway combination a designer can think of along with a slew of successful collaborations. The Dunk SB has seen over a hundred different colorways, many of which have been collaborations like the near riot inciting “Pigeon” Dunk.
In 2005, Nike SB approached then rising NYC sneaker designer and store owner, Jeff Staple, to collab on a Dunk that would represent New York. The Staple Pigeon Dunk SB has been called one of the most hyped, if not the most hyped, shoes in sneaker history. The shoe’s design and limited availability had customers camping outside the Reed Space Boutique in hopes of securing 1 of the 20 pairs of Pigeon Dunks released. After braving riot-like conditions outside the store, those successful in copping a pair of Pigeon Dunks were escorted home by police as there were rumored gangs waiting outside the store trying to get their hands on the highly exclusive Nike SB Shoes.
The next big push came with the release of Nike SB team rider Paul Rodriguez’s (P-Rod) first signature model. Following that release was P-Rod’s first pro shoe, the Nike SB Paul Rodriguez Zoom Air Low, and Lance Mountain, a Nike SB spokesperson at the time, initiating a version of the popular 70s basketball shoe, the Nike Blazer, as a more skate specific shoe with a padded collar and Zoom Air Insoles. Mountain joined the team in 2007, the same year Nike SB released its second video, Nothing But The Truth.
At this point, Nike SB was steadily growing its influence and being sold globally, and thanks to a series of quick acquisitions, releases, and promotions in 2009, was about to cement itself as one of the dominant skate brands in the industry. First came the signing of Eric Koston to the team. Second was the release of Debacle, a video featuring Nike SB’s Amateur team. And finally, one of the most significant events in Nike SB’s history, Stefan Janoski’s signature shoe was released. At the time, Janoski was best known for his effortless style and seemingly endless bag of switch tricks, but all that was about to change. The Janoski has since gone on to be one of the best selling skateboard shoes in history, transcending well beyond the skateboard shoe market. The name Janoski is now practically a household name thanks to the popularity of the shoe’s design. The Nike Janoski continues to be one of our best sellers and has seen over 70 variations including a trainer inspired design, the Janoski Max, and a slip-on style, the Janoski Slip-On.
With the success of videos like Debacle and Nothing But The Truth and its video series The SB Chronicles, the popularity of the Janoski, the opening of the Nike SB Training Facility (a private indoor skatepark in Los Angeles, CA), and bringing on “scuba” Steve Chalme as the team’s manager, the SB team quickly escalated to its now juggernaut status. Big names like Sean Malto, Luan Oliveira, Brian Anderson, Shane O’Neill, Grant Taylor (who won Skater of The Year in 2011) and Ishod Wair (SOTY 2013) were added to the roster and with the influence and credibility of these names, Nike SB went from testing the waters with a limited release of Dunks to being one of the most influential brands in the industry in just over a decade.
Today, Nike SB continues to contribute to skateboarding in new and innovative ways. Its advertising, video production, and shoe construction is constantly being pushed to the next level. Perhaps the most notable aspect of Nike SB is its ability to isolate specific aspects of skateboarding and improve them. Its introduction of skateboard shoe technology like the Lunarlon sockliners, Hyperfeel and Hypervulc outsoles, and a breathable Flyknit collar are all as valuable as its ability to draw on Nike’s deep archive of shoe designs for inspiration. Nike SB’s use of Nike’s heritage silhouettes has helped to usher in a new era of skateboard shoe design, while its singular focus and aesthetic have given its ads and videos an instantly recognizable look and feel that’s 100% Nike SB.
If you’d like some more information about Nike SB there are loads of goodies out there, including Nike SB’s Wikipedia page, documentaries about Nike founders Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman, the latest news from Nike SB and stories about changes Nike underwent in 2016 and some work that Nike SB is doing with team riders Eric Koston and Guy Mariano.