Photos have surfaced of a new Grateful Dead-inspired Nike SB Dunk Low design that will appeal to deadheads and sneakerheads alike. Featuring a bright green upper made of suede and a fuzzy faux fur material, the shoe is inspired by the band’s iconic dancing bear imagery, evident both in the use of fuzz, and the blue jagged-edged Nike swoosh on the side. The shoe also appears to feature a zippered “stash pocket” on the tongue, an apparent nod to the kinds of recreational activities with which Deadheads are often associated.
The bold colors match classic depictions of the dancing bears, and the prominent Nike “swoosh” logo is lined in a jagged pattern not unlike their cravat-like collars, or another piece of Grateful Dead iconology, the 13-point lightning bolt. Possible orange and yellow colorways are rumored to be on the way as well. The unusual choice of materials is reminiscent of the equally fuzzy dunks released in the Goldilocks-inspired “Three Bears Pack” in 2006. These shoes are likely to become collectors’ items, even if they are hard to wear unless you’re dressed up like a fuzzy dancing bear (which isn’t totally out of the question among fans of the Dead). For reference, the “Papa Bear” Dunk Highs, “Mama Bear” Dunk Mids, and “Baby Bear” Dunk Lows from 2006 now resell for over $1K a pair.
The sneakerhead and Deadhead subcultures have both grown large enough to influence mainstream pop culture, and the frequency of collaborations between musical artists and sneaker brands is at an all-time high. Add to this the fact that John Mayer, one of the world’s most notable sneakerheads and major Nike supporter, now plays guitar with the Dead almost exclusively in Nike sneakers, and it becomes clear why the Nike x Grateful Dead collab was so predictable.
Also predictable were the mixed reactions that the outlandish design has received. Given deadheads’ rich tradition of textile dyeing and handmade crafts, it seems Nike may have missed an opportunity to offer a more bohemian or psychedelic design, which might have had a broader appeal than the cartoonish fuzzy dunks. It is unclear whether John Mayer had any hand in the design process, but it would not be out of step with his previous unofficial Nike collab, the Rick and Morty-inspired “Pickle Ricks,” which also had a wild, cartoon-inspired color scheme.
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I don’t have many words. Just a deep feeling of love, and of belonging somewhere in this world. Thank you all for building a ladder to this place we never thought we’d see. Until next time… “And if my words don’t come together/ Listen to the melody/ ‘Cause my love is in there hiding…” -Leon Russell (📷: @jayblakesberg)
Nike has not yet announced an official release date, but it is likely that multiple colors will be released as a pack, with rumors of a California exclusive colorway to be included.
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