An icon of streetwear and skateboarding, the Nike SB Dunk is one of the most covetable silhouettes on the market today. Following the launch of the Nike SB in 2002, one of the first Nike SB collaborations was a pair of Dunk Low SB sneakers with Supreme, at the time a small independent New York skate store with a cult following.
In 2003, the release of a trio of Supreme Nike Dunk High SB sneakers in classic “Be True To Your School” colorways became an instant phenomenon. With crocodile embossed leather uppers, oversized stuffed tongue, gold Supreme-branded lace lock and an eye-catching quarter panel covered in gold stars – the bold ostentatious design epitomized Supreme’s distinctive brand aesthetic – and twenty years later, are still regarded as one of the greatest Nike SB shoes of all time.
Years after the initial release, a grainy image of three Supreme Nike SB Dunk Low prototypes from 2003 surfaced in a copy of a Japanese magazine, along with the words: “Rejected for Legal Issues March 2003.” The prototypes had very similar colorways, materials and accessories to the general release Supreme Nike Dunk High SB 2003 sneakers, however the mid quarter panel was different: in lieu of a cluster of gold stars, the rejected sample featured a gold Nike Swoosh logo repeated within the section, much like the monogram pattern of a luxury fashion house.
Undeterred by rumors that the prototypes had been destroyed, or that the photographs had been doctored and the SB’s had never actually existed to begin with – one dedicated collector, Ryan Chang (Chief Curator of Applied Arts, New York City), made it his personal quest to track down the elusive prototypes, unearthing one of the rarest sneaker grails of all time, and the only three pairs believed to be in existence.
Chang is considered to be one of the top sneaker collectors in the world. He has handled some of the rarest sneakers of all time, including exclusive friends and family collaborations with Futura Laboratories, Wu Tang Clan and Kanye West, and broken and then reset a number of records in the category.
“These shoes are cultural artifacts, physical representations of the rebellion and anti-authority culture that resonated so deeply with the skateboarding community and youth in general in the ‘90s and ‘00s” reflects Chang on the significance of the Supreme Nike Dunk High SB prototypes and his relentless determination to locate them. “Finding all of them together 20 years after they were produced was as close to impossible as it gets… For years, I was under the impression that these shoes could never be reunited as pairs, let alone as a full set, but I’m thrilled that they’re all together now as they should be.”