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The Popularity, And Controversy, Of The Nike Dunk Panda

The Nike Dunk is currently one of the hottest shoes on the market. The versatility and simplicity of the Dunk has made it a must for those who are looking for stylish casual shoes. Possibly the hottest iteration, and perhaps the most controversial, is the Nike Dunk “Panda.”

Made For The Court

The Nike Dunk High was released in 1985. It was originally crafted as a high-top basketball sneaker. The Nike Dunk High was similar to other Nike designs of the era – like the Air Force 1 and the Air Jordan 1. The marketing behind the Dunk High was unique for Nike. Nike used the slogan “Be True To Your School” for advertisements. The Dunk was conceived conceptually as a shoe that could be worn by college basketball teams and their fans. Nike had deals in place at the time with the University of Iowa, University of Kentucky, University of Michigan, Georgetown, St. John’s, UNLV, and Syracuse. These collegiate powerhouse schools all embraced the Nike Dunk as its team shoes. Each school received a pair of Nike Dunks that utilized their team colors.

Nike Dunk Be True To Your School

Embraced For Skate

Skaters fell in love with the Nike Dunk High as soon as the public fell out of love with them. The rebellious nature of skaters, especially in the 1990s, kept them from embracing the popular or trendy Nike sneakers. In the early 90s skaters could pick up a pair of Nike Dunks for cheap. The shoes also offered the support and durability skaters were looking for. The fact that most consumers were no longer interested in Nike Dunks, was a major appeal to skateboarders.

Nike Dunk Be True To Your School

The Panda

The Nike Dunk Low is everywhere today. Casual shoe wearers, both young and old, have embraced the Nike Dunk, especially the Nike Dunk Low Panda. Everyone either has a pair of the Pandas or has an opinion on them. If you do not own a pair, and have an opinion, it is most likely negative. The internet is a negative place, but the dislike for the Panda, by those who consider themselves sneakerheads, is especially negative.


The Nike Dunk Low in the Panda colorway launched in 2021. It is seemingly an inoffensive shoe. It is a Nike Dunk Low in the most basic of colorways, black and white. But, it isn’t the shoe, the colors, or design that people take offense to, it is the popularity. Everyone is wearing the Panda, and this has been the case since 2021, when the model debuted.

Nike Dunk panda

Exclusive Club

Sneakerheads view sneakers as an art, as an exclusive club of sorts. The Panda appeals to people who are not traditionally into the culture, it brings other people to the Nike Dunk party, and those that cherish the silhouette the most, are not okay with that. Snobby fans out there think individuality is an important part of the culture. They seem to forget though that while the Panda is out there in abundance, so are Air Jordan silhouettes, even the most desirable and exclusive ones, like the Travis Scott collabs. The Nike Dunk is a favorite in the community. Its hardcore fans feel like the Panda is allowing outsiders to hijack the shoe from them.

Here To Stay

The Panda has the chance to become a modern-day Chuck Taylor or adidas Superstar. It is a simple shoe that can be worn with nearly anything. The anger towards it feels unnecessary. It is an easy shoe to ignore, because of its simplicity. However you feel about the shoe, you cannot argue the impact the Nike Dunk Panda has had.


- Adam C. Better