20 Years Of Nike SB Exhibition

Last week, along with our good pals at Focus, Flatspot and Note, we were invited to the opening of the '20 Years of Nike SB' Exhibition.

The exhibition itself was one of the largest displays of Nike SB product and associated ephemera ever assembled in a single location. Fortunately it was broken down in to various catagories in order to make it palatable and the good folk at Nike SB also put together a handy guide in the form of a zine to provide the backstories. The words below are lifted directly from that zine, originally penned by Anthony Poppalardo(no, not that one).

The photos were all taken by us on the night, sorry for the dubious quality(the beer was free)...



Twenty years ago skateboarding was hitting a generational boom. More than a single trick, event, or moment, the culture of skateboarding was resonating past its roots. Nike saw a way to push that progression further. The goals were clear but skateboarding’s always skeptical of anyone on the “outside”. The specter of the Schimp, Snak, and Choad from a short-lived program in the mid-'90s lingered. If it wasn't different, it wasn't going to work. Nike SB was formed in 2002. Larger than making the best possible shoes for skateboarding, SB and Sandy Bodecker sought to understand the landscape, the eco-system, and the personalities driving it. The shops, the spots, the diehards, the sessions, the collaborations, the collectors, and the creatives, that made it unique. SB's mission began with a tight-knit team of skateboarders and creatives led by innovation, a lot of listening, and thinking outside the box. From tech, inspiration, or homage, any idea was fair game and over-the-top. For the first time, skateboarders were given the keys and the tools to make their version of skateboarding. The result was two middle fingers up, and hundreds of products that became sought after, essential, and iconic. "20 Years of SB" is a capsule of that journey. From concept to execution, the exhibit chronicles the stories, personalities, and milestones of Nike SB as we look to the future of skateboarding.


01 SPECIAL DAY - It's a Celebration, Stitches.

Embracing the ethos that any day is worth celebrating, SB flipped that idea and started timing releases around major and sometimes, invented holidays. April's significant numerology turned high honor to tradition, with a string of always anticipated 4/20 Dunks along with celebrations of Mexican heritage, Hallmark Holidays, and even Pagan celebrations of Samhain. Year after year as the releases stacked up, the SB design team and its co-conspirators have used shoes and dates to master the art of anticipation.

02 CITIES - If You Can Make It Here.

In the wake of mass concrete park closures in the late -'70s, backyards became vital to its landscape. Empty pools due to massive droughts, janky wooden structures, and for the privileged, wide towering half pipes were the entry point. No ramp, no dice, but thankfully, it pushed skating to the streets and out of the burbs. The '90s saw the rise of cities as not only the premier place to localize but as global, must-skate destinations. San Francisco, Philly, New York, Paris, Barcelona, Tokyo, London, Sao Paulo, and more not only grew skateboarding but continue to showcase skateboarding's diversity, culture, and personality. Through shoe and product collaborations and large-scale initiatives such as Go Skateboarding Day, Nike SB's been able to give these essential hubs their shine.

03 TOKYO - Glory Delayed, History Made.

Even before skateboarding officially was introduced to the Olympics in 2020 (actually 2021 due to a global pandemic delay), camps were split on its inclusion. Still, even the most staunch critics were curious, especially when everyone realized this meant skateboarding would have an official uniform. What? With Nike SB at the helm, they partnered with Piet Parra to create federation kits for four countries, leveraging Parra's graphic style and creative color palette, making a splash before the torch was lit. With the games officially a go sans audience in the summer of 2021, debate was tabled and all eyes were on skateboarding's debut. While the cheers were missed, the games packed drama with Nike SB rider Yuto Horigome taking a Gold Medal in Men's Street in a pair of unreleased Janoskis and former fairy, Rayssa Leal and Sky Brown medalling in Women's Street and Park respectively, all making history in the process.


04 COLLECTORS - What the Dunk.

By 2007 the SB Dunk had not only become a new icon in skateboarding and sneaker culture but design-wise, the creative use of materials, embroidery, applications, and accoutrement, were off the charts. To coincide with their first full-length video, Nothing But the Truth, SB looked to itself for inspiration with a goal to create the "Dunk to end all Dunks". Pulling from 31 of the most creative Dunks in the quiver, the What the Dunk? was born with only a single pair ever becoming available to the public. And it didn't stop there. SB's idea sparked a movement within Nike, resulting in shoes from several top-tier athletes receiving a "What The?" treatment, and to bring it full circle, a What the P-Rod Dunk culled from Paul Rodriguez's greatest hits was released in 2021.

05 THE SB DUNK - Believe the Hype.

If there's one touchpoint that illustrates Nike SB's approach to skateboarding it's the reintroduction of the Dunk. Like the Air Jordan 1, the original Dunk became skateboarding's secret weapon in the mid-'80s due to its construction and often below retail pricepoint due to overproduction. And all the icons wore them. Instead of coming in hot with tech, SB's design team worked with the riders to retool the Dunk into something more skateable while maintaining its classic look and lines. In 2002, original team riders Reese Forbes, Gino lannucci, Richard Mulder, and Danny Supa were all given the green light to customize the Dunk Low Pro SB to their specs, resulting in the sought after "Colors By" series, bringing the Dunk back to skateboarding's collective consciousness.


06 ART - Objectively Open For Interpretation.

Is skateboarding art? Maybe. The conversation's become tired but for SB, skateboarding's rich visual history was a place to get inspired. By the 2000s the art world was sniffing around skateboarding and suddenly the underachievers were given gallery shows and were selling at prestigious festivals worldwide. That's great but none of it captures the magic of skateboard graphics - the handmade images that give skateboarding its personality. Nike SB's worked with artists central to skateboarding's graphic identity to not only use shoes as a canvas but to recreate iconic ideas in completely new and unexpected ways.

07 BEER - Brew Crew.

Craftsmanship, quality, and taste - the hallmarks of a good shoe and a good brew. Like anyone, skaters enjoy adult beverages but unlike most "athletes", they don't care to hide it. In 2003 Nike SB leaned into the trope, creating the Dunk Low Pro SB "Classic Green" inspired by a beloved Dutch lager. From can-inspired aesthetics to movies (about guys who drink beer), more imports, domestics, and homages would follow and become an SB tradition.


08 BOXES - What Are You Packing?

The definition of thinking outside the box, Nike SB packaging has become as coveted as the sneakers inside. Though the original SB boxes didn't bear the iconic SB logo, subsequent releases went bold and have defined eras of the program. Even the patterned wood designed paper wrapped around each SB has its on cult of personality. Along with changes to box colorways over the years, SB packaging has become its own platform for designers and collaborations to transform, customize, and another medium to push.

09 FOOTBALL - Kicking Off a New Era.

Skaters have always flirted with football shoes for their low profile and slim design and that makes sense. Both are foot-driven sports that put a lot of miles and wear on your sneakers. But there's more. As skateboarding was growing globally, so was soccer and the aesthetics were changing. Visible tattoos, wild hair, and plenty of flair, SB and Sandy Bodecker saw the synergy and developed shoes, kits, and concepts that drew the two worlds closer together, adding a new dynamic to SB's core.

10 ORIGINS - Start At the Beginning.

As far back as the 1970s skateboarders were searching shoe racks for shoes that offered the grip, support, and protection needed as things moved from sidewalks to backyard pools. Highs, lows, mids, tennis, basketball, football-anything was fair game for a test drive. Unlike any other category, the development of Nike SB shoes has become a unique conversation between the design team and riders, mixing heritage and tech to match their demands. Along with leveraging technology, SB's created new silhouettes inspired by the archives, as well as retooling Nike shoes skaters have run for decades under the hood to keep things classic.


11 SIGNATURE - Don't Look Up.

The longer you ride a skateboard, the more particular you get. Constantly looking down makes you a critic. Twisted laces, slipped axles, flat spots, or stray rocks have caused countless focuses. Shoes are no exception to madness, in fact, they're central to it. Whether it's Stefan digging his heels in for his signature shoe, P-Rod being the first to the Ten Club, or Yuto getting gold in a never-released slip, it's about process as much as the podium. For 20 years SB's been able to leverage tech, design, and insight to get it just right for those who driven by the details.


12 MUSIC - Rhythm and Shoes.

From classic rock to its own brand of skate rock, music's been central to defining skateboarding's aesthetic. During the advent of video in the '80s and '90s, the soundtrack to skateboarding became even more essential, often turning a video part into a watershed moment by stitching the right tricks with the right songs together. For Nike SB it was another avenue to explore and more dots to connect. Spanning genres, artists, and influences it's been 20 years of celebrating the sounds of skateboarding.


13 SHOPS - At Its Core.

Whether is buying grip or talking shit, your local is essential. Nike SB launched in select shops across the world in 2002 as a way to support the shops supporting the culture of skateboarding. There's only so much space on the wall, so curation is key to launching new brands and keeping the go-tos in stock-every spot is precious because the shop sets the tone. Along with exclusive drops, shop collaborations evolved as a way to bring even more shine to the hubs that keep it all moving.



Much of skateboarding's history has been lived not documented and some of its most iconic moments were never captured. No big, that only fuels the legends, and makes all the more sacred. Through its riders, friends, artists, creatives, and collaborators, Nike SB's used shoes as a way to canonize those stores in the most imaginative ways possible to honor and elevate skateboarding's roots. Most of all, anything is on the table and any anecdote can find it's way to an SB and often, the most random, the better.


15 COLLABORATIONS - Out Of the Box, From Day One.

Before collab was a colloquial term, Nike SB and cohorts were digging everywhere for sparks that would become grails. More than creative partners, SB collabs were and are permission to get weird, often done with zero permission.

More than materials or colorways, SB collabs became the gold standard of how far you can push an idea and where you could mine for the next reference or homage. Obscure and iconic graphics, legendary spots, greatest misses, heroes and villains, all found their way to a shoe and completely changed the nature of collabs along the way.

16 TECH, SUSTAINABILITY & RECREATION - On and Off-Board Considerations.

Performance needs always drive innovation and along with the technology that's central to Nike SB's design process, sustainability, and even off-board comfort have become crucial avenues to explore. Leveraging materials such as Flyleather and Nike Grind into shoe design marked a more sustainable future for the program as much as creating silhouettes suitable for a post-session cooldown that you could also skate in... or not. Drilling down into that deeper, from Koston to Janoski, several team riders expressed their love for taking in 18 holes, resulting in signature golf models for both.


17 THE NEW WAVE - Omnipresent and Absolutely Essential.

The contributions of women and the LGBTQ+ community have shaped skateboarding's history from the start. Through product development, video projects, and bolstering the SB squad, Nike's sought to support those who shape the past, present, and future of skateboarding. In 2019, Nike SB released its first all women's skate video, filmed over a year and named "Gizmo," after team rider Elissa Steamer's childhood nickname. Using insights and input from the team, the Verona Slip has emerged as a go-to silhouette and collaborative space to create and celebrate.


18 CARS - Always On the Move.

Let's face it, as much as we romanticize pushing around a new city, no one turns down a free ride. And when going spot-to-spot via public transport, sometimes it comes at a price but it's a means to an end. Cars, buses, and subway trains have all found their way into SB's design lexicon, giving nods to transportation design aesthetics, luxury whips, luxe interiors, and even the dreaded Muni. Is bus really short for "busted?".