Nike and Supreme have a working relationship that does back some 30 years. Some could say that Supreme helped make Nike what it is today. In the early 1990s-2000s, Supreme was the brand with street cred. It's not that they don't anymore, it's just hard to rep the streets after Vanity Fair purchases your company for the price of an NFL Franchise.
For a long time, the brand from the Bowery was the darling of desire for every skater in America. They represented the gritty New York City streets but were coveted by A-List celebrities everywhere. Through it all Supreme has stayed true to who they are, a skateboard company. Every season we see a host of new decks, trucks, wheels, etc, and the apparel to go with it. Somewhere along the line, the streets stamped Supreme with the seal of approval and everything they produced saw demand skyrocket. Supreme was now not only a skateboard company but stood tall in the world of New York Streetwear with the likes of Union and Kith.
Around that same timeframe, Nike was mostly known for being a sporting goods company. Yes, the Air Jordan line transcended sport but it was nothing compared to what it is today. In those days Nike focused on mainstream sports like basketball, softball, football, and the like. It wasn’t until 2002 that the Nike SB line was actually formed and gave credence to skateboarders everywhere. While Nike and Supreme had been working together since the 90s, things hit a new level of success when Nike debut the SB Dunk in 2002.
A Street Legend Is Born
When the Swoosh joined forces with skateboard legends like Danny Supa and Reese Forbes to design the first 4 pack of SB Dunks they may not have known just what it would mean to sneaker culture. However, by the time the Supreme Cement Pack hit on September 1, 2002, there was no denying that they were sitting on a bomb. Decked out in the elephant print from the Air Jordan 3 you could say that this was the first J-Pack Dunk.
With Sandy Bodecker at the helm and the new-found street cred from the Supreme alliance, the Nike SB Dunk became one of the hottest silhouettes in Nike's catalog. The combination of its undaunted origins and collaborations with countless other brands and names launched the Nike SB Dunk into the stratosphere.
The launch of the Black Cement and White Cement Supreme x Nike SB Dunk Lows is still talked about in sneaker circles. Both pairs have solidified holy grail status, and honorary moniker passed on only the most coveted kicks.
Too Much Too Soon
After that was the 2003 release of the high-tops that paid tribute to the 1985 Dunk High Be True To Your School Pack. The Supreme Highs took the classic college colorways, outfitted them in premium alligator-like leather baptized them with gold stars on the medial panels. The release took place over three days and the shoes were available only at Supreme locations with one colorway dropping per day.
Despite the monstrous success of the highs, the Nike x Supreme partnership nearly ended right then and there. Not only did Nike SB have a hard time breaking through to reach the hardcore skaters who still viewed Nike as a basketball company but they hit a brick wall when they tried to release the third installment of the Supreme collaboration. After the success of the college-colored high tops, Supreme wanted to run it back with the low-top model. The lows were exact clones of the highs except for the gold stars on the medials being swapped for gold Nike logos. This was a bridge too far for top Nike brass and they not only scrapped the release but scrapped the entire partnership for nearly 10 years. To this day no one knows what they found so offensive but that was nearly the end of the historic partnership. Perhaps it was all moving too fast and they weren't ready to commit their beloved swoosh to skate culture.
Over the next 10 years, Nike SB took a foothold in the skateboarding world, thanks largely to a young skater named Paul Rodriguez. When he first signed on the Nike SB roster the Swoosh sent him a box full of kicks including the entire Supreme High pack. Despite many in the skate community still shunning the brand P-Rod didn’t give it much thought and pushed forward with his own designs of SB Dunks and eventually his own silhouette. P-Rod's success coupled with collaborations with other skaters and many other brands saw Nike SB claim a seat at the skate culture table. The only thing left to do was find dunks the same success in the mainstream sneaker world.
Back At It
Over time the Execs at Nike softened their stance and allowed Supreme back into the SB fold in hopes that they would ignite the mainstream flame. Que the 2012 Red Cement. The elephant print layer over top of the bright red leather was a surefire banger, an instant classic. The shoes help SB Dunks to start catching the attention of a handful of rappers. Before long the rappers such as Travis Scott, Frank Ocean, and A$AP Rocky were seen wearing various Supreme Dunks. In this day and age, once the rap world co-signs on a fashion statement, the masses are sure to follow and Supreme x Nike would be on deck to benefit.
Over the next few years, the World Famous and The Swoosh would knock out a handful of collabs on other silhouettes and Supreme found its way into every corner of America. They even reached the suburbs when Jersey Shore star Paula D routinely sported the label on their reality show. It was 2019 before the next Supreme SB Dunk was released and that release was misunderstood, to say the least.
Supreme Don't Care What You Think
The 2019 Nike SB x Supreme Jewel Swoosh Pack wasn’t well received. Many thought it was lazy and flashy for the sake of being flashy. The true genius of the design lies in the way it was first introduced. Supreme went public with the shoe in a skate video. A video showed real-life skateboard diehards in t-shirts and baggy chinos spinning their best tricks on the streets of NY. The soundtrack to that video was the song “Labels” by GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. The song speaks the moral of not trusting what you see on the surface and staying true to yourself. Big corporations can dress themselves up in all types of costumes but you have to read the label to know what they're all about. With that in mind, ask yourself…did Supreme become lazy just as they were gaining mass appeal or were they flipping a middle finger to everyone who thought they sold out and turned corporate?
Y'all Must Have Forgot
After a subtle reminder of just who Supreme really is it was time to remind the world what they were capable of. Que the return of the gold stars in March of 2021. This 4 piece pack was very similar to the scrapped project from 2003 but they swapped out the college colorways and ultimately used the gold stars instead of the Nike logos. This pack caused pandemonium in the sneaker world and Supremes website was virtually shut down for almost an hour. Long gone were the days of lining up in front of the store early in the morning to secure your pair. The low-top stars pack dropped at the height of the COVID Pandemic when all of the worlds was at home and the new breed of sneaker botters had taken over the game.
The gator-style leather was what skaters and sneakerheads were yearning for after a steady two years of inferior quality on the GR dunks. The colors were flashy enough to make a statement yet subtle enough to coordinate an outfit with.
By Any Means
Fresh off securing the $2.1 billion bag from VF Corp and a reignited fire compliment of the Gold Stars Supreme and Nike SB seems primed to take over the globe by all means necessary. In fact, they even made a shoe to tell everyone about it. The Supreme x Nike SB was a way of putting sneakerheads and skaters on notice. Albeit, the By Any Means High-Top Pack isn't their most sought-after design but as we already know...Supreme don't care what you think. Using just basic colorways smooth-grain leather these shoes make their mark in words. The brash "By Any Means" script across the heel and the "No Love" symbol tells all the story you need.
While the world-famous Supreme and Nike SB partnership has yielded some historic pieces that will forever be part of sneaker folklore, the best may be yet to come. 2023 brings us the Rammellzee pack. The release date is still unknown but the two plan to bring an SB Dunk High and Low to the masses clad in the artwork of the late, great, NYC artist Rammellzee. Both pairs feature the artwork strewn across the uppers and no doubt have the holy grail feel to them before they ever release. Whenever this pack does release, you can be sure it will be nothing short of remarkable.
Who knows what the future holds for Supreme and Nike SB? For all we know the Rammellzee pack could be the end of the road. Then again, there could already be another 20 designs in the pipeline. Regardless, it's fair to say that the stars aligned just right for the two brands to achieve such notoriety. With Nike's help, Supreme reached a level of global appeal previously unseen for a skateboard company and launched into the realm of mega-stardom. On the other side of that coin, Supreme gave Nike the street cred it needed to reach down to the sidewalks and curbs where legends are born.
The collaboration between Nike SB and Supreme is seemingly a gift from the sneaker gods. The two are perfect for each other and just what sneaker culture needs.
Images via GOAT