Still Turning Heads 15 Years Later: Nike SB “What The” Dunk
A look back at the original “What The” colorway on its 15th anniversary and its huge influence on sneaker culture since.
A lot has changed since the Nike SB Dunk Low “What The” was released in October 2007. But 15 years later, the shoe still looks as crazy as it did back in the day. To celebrate the colorway’s birthday, we’ve put together a little background its origins, and how its legacy remains as strong as ever thanks to the many shoes it has inspired.
The Nike SB Dunk was destined to be different. When Nike SB debuted in 2002, it set out to make good on its past failed attempts to connect with the skate community by giving respected skaters and skate shops free rein to design colorways of its new flagship shoe: the SB Dunk. Many early SB Dunk colorways were created by Nike SB team riders including Reese Forbes and Danny Supa, and skate shops like Supreme. This trend continued well into the mid-aughts. By 2007, everyone wanted the Dunk.
Nike SB “What the” Dunk Low
But with so few pairs to go around, it was impossible to meet demand. This gave James Arizumi, a Nike SB footwear designer, the idea to create a colorway that featured many of the Dunk’s most prized designs on one shoe, thus birthing the wackiest design theme in the history of footwear: the “What The” colorway.
Nicknamed after the reaction someone may have after looking at a pair on your feet, the “What The” colorway was created from 31 previous SB Dunks. The goal, according to Nike SB, was to design the “Dunk to end all Dunks” in celebration of the release of Nike SB’s new “Nothing But the Truth” full-length skate video. And that it was.
Among the colorways featured across the “What The’s” mismatched design are the “Huf,” “Pigeon,” Tiffany,” “Rayguns,” and many more. To say that this totally off the wall colorway looked unlike anything anyone had ever seen before would be a massive understatement. Naturally, when photos of the “What The” leaked online, everyone wanted a pair. Also naturally, when skate shops got pairs in stock, they sold out instantly. This left many in the cold. But all hope was not lost. This wouldn’t be the last time a “What The” shoe would be released.
Over the years, the “What The” colorway has jumped from the Nike SB Dunk collection to Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant’s signature lines with Nike Basketball, to the Nike Air Presto, Air Jordan 5, and back to the Nike SB Dunk on the “What the P-Rod” honoring longtime Nike SB rider Paul Rodriguez. Like the original SB Dunk, each succeeding “What The” has pulled inspiration from a particular shoe’s top colorways, and given sneaker collectors the chance to wear something totally different from anything else anyone is likely to be wearing.
Because at the end of the day, that was the whole point of the “What The” theme: to make unsuspecting people turn their head and ask, “What the… are those?”
Sho All Nike SB Dunks at Sneaker Marketplace