Why Nike SB and The Grateful Dead Are a Match Made in Sneaker Heaven

Why Nike SB and The Grateful Dead Are a Match Made in Sneaker Heaven

On Saturday, the Nike SB renaissance usually takes an additional excellent leap forward. Right after scoring a surprise smash in May perhaps with Ben & Jerry’s hallucinatory “Chunky Dunky” collab, the Swoosh’s skateboarding division is readying its kookiest late-period fall yet: a trio of SB Dunk Lows manufactured in collaboration with The Grateful Dead. Enveloped in panels of shaggy fur and doused in screeching neons, they are a nod to both equally the Dead’s legendary Dancing Bear mascots, as effectively as Nike’s own 2006 “Three Bears” pack, possibly the most divisive and promptly recognizable Dunks from SB’s mid-aughts heyday. In functioning with the Lifeless, SB is tapping into a historical past of fervent, tradition-making fandom deeper even than its personal no-extended-cult subsequent.

Escalating up in Ottawa in the ‘80s, David Lemieux purchased his first Grateful Dead document at 13. “It was Workingman’s Lifeless,” he remembers vividly now, at 49. “I place the file on the turntable at my mom’s dwelling, and not even 30 seconds in, I understood: ‘This music is for me.’” By 14, he was deep into the tape-trading scene, sending cassettes of stay sets back and forth close to the globe with other Deadheads. By 16, he was driving and flying hundreds of miles throughout the continent to go to Dead displays alone. “My mother and father hardly ever experienced any trouble with that,” he suggests, “because they knew I was likely to be in a neighborhood that was unquestionably no threat—a local community that would get treatment of me if I ran into trouble or essential to borrow $50 bucks to get residence.” Just about a 10 years later, Lemieux built the best motivation to the band: signing on as the Dead’s comprehensive-time archivist, a function he’s now held for around 20 years.

Work apart, Lemieux’s story is not all that unusual. “It’s an enveloping culture,” he says of his brethren, some of whom he’s been seeing yet again and once more at hundreds of exhibits for nearly 40 a long time now. “For most Deadheads, currently being a Deadhead is one thing they’d issue to as a single of their massive identifiers, as who they are. It starts with loving the tunes, of class, but then you come across the group at Grateful Lifeless shows—18,000 other type, compassionate, open up-minded, non-judgmental people—and you promptly experience at property.”

Nobody would at any time accuse sneakerheads of staying open up-minded and non-judgmental, but collectors of a selected age will see the parallels concerning Deadheads and Dunk fans all the exact same. Back again at the flip of the millennium, Nike SB—then a fledgling sideshow at the sportswear goliath—tried to turn the Nike Dunk into a skate shoe, hoping its echoes of the Air Jordan 1 (common with skaters like Tony Hawk) would make it a hit. Rather, it tanked, and it appeared like however another Nike-led skateboarding venture was dead on arrival. And then the hoopla intervened. Nike SB let Supreme have a crack at its new flagship sneaker, and the downtown legends flipped it in reference to the Air Jordan 3, with its iconic cement print. When the sneakers dropped in September 2002, it turned out to be a star-earning moment for equally sides of the collab: the SB Dunk Low was officially one particular of the most popular silhouettes in sneakers, and Supreme became Supreme. “One hundred percent, the Nike Dunk adjusted the store,” Jamie Story, a former graphic designer for the brand, advised Advanced lately. “That sneaker… mentioned that we’re in this article. Which is when the Lafayette retail outlet received hefty with lines and when James [Jebbia] started off to get definitely strict about who can be in the store and who just cannot.”

From that issue on, Nike SB exploded. For the following number of a long time, the SB Dunk went on a in the vicinity of-unparalleled run of glorious colorways, an outlandish jumble of big collaborations and deep pop cultural references. There was the unofficial “Heineken” Dunk that landed SB in scorching water with the beer company the Diamond Provide Co. “Tiffany” Dunk that’s now well worth more than a whole lot of the jewelry at its namesake the Staple Design and style “Pigeon” Dunk that triggered riots overnight in the Decreased East Aspect. They gave Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis his possess gleaming silver sneaker, put out a Mork & Mindy significant-best more than two decades right after the sitcom went off the air, and built significantly goofy resourceful alternatives like a kiltie’d-out “Golf” Dunk and a “Red Lobster” Dunk total with a rubber band all over the toe box. Somehow, it all worked.

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