The DUNKLE series of shoes was a collaboration between Nike and James Lavelle which took several Futura like design elements used by UNKLE and put them on a Nike SB Dunk. The shoe was available in Hi and Lo variations, and has been used as inpiration by custom shoe designers such as the SBTG x Unkle Dunk Lo and akaLAZY's Lazy DUNKLE.
Nike SB Dunk Hi DUNKLE
In 2004 James Lavelle and Nike collaborated to create the Nike SB Dunk Hi DUNKLE, a pink shoe featuring artwork from UNKLE's Never Never Land album. The shoe is known simply as the DUNKLE to fans.
While many credit the shoes design to Futura, and therefore the shoe as a Nike/UNKLE/Futura collaboration, in the 2005 documentary Sneakerheadz Futura reveals that he had no input in the shoe, telling the documentary the following:
"The Dunkle, which everybody goes crazy over, I see a posting of a Dunkle daily on Instagram, it’s a shoe which is pretty much like a Futura “shoe”, with the UNKLE characters that I created for Mo’ Wax Records in the ‘90s. And I never really liked it. I don’t want to blow up the spot and say it was completely unathorised, but it was a little bit like “Oh…oh you’re doing it? Oh ok.” Y’know, thanks for asking me."
Futura did have his own Nike SB shoe released in 2003 which notably features none of the illustrations associated with him, whereas the DUNKLE features not only the UNKLE Pointmen, but Futura swirl designs.
The shoe was released in September 2004, and was followed by the Nike Dunk SB Low – Unkle Pro SB in 2005.
Nike SB (Nike Skateboarding) began in 2002, initially with four Nike SB Dunk shoe designs. The shoe design itself was based on the 1986 Nike Dunk basketball shoe, with the Nike SB Dunk featuring alterations to make the shoe a better fit for skateboarders. Many of the Nike SB Dunk designs have gone on to become collectors items, including the Dunkle.
Nike SB Dunk Low DUNKLE
Reportedly only five pairs of the Nike Dunk Low Pro SB Unkle were made, and were given to James Lavelle and his friends in 2005, which has caused the value to go upwards of $4,000. The inside of the shoe contains the words "Sample", suggesting these were at one time considered for mass-production.
These were eventually followed in 2014 with the Nike X Mo'Wax Blazer Hi shoe in Black and Olive, released as part of the Nike X Mo’ Wax Build and Destroy Collection.
SBTG x UNKLE Nike Dunk Hi
An image circulated online in 2006 reported as a sample of the original Dunkle, featuring a slightly different design and colours. Many presumed it to be a bootleg, but it was actually a custom job by Mark Ong aka SBTG.
In 2005 SBTG created the SBTG x UNKLE Nike Dunk Hi and SBTG x UNKLE Nike Dunk Low for James Lavelle, with only 24 created of each. 12 of the Hi were made available to purchase from the Surrender store in Singapore, while an unknown amount of the Low were available at the Surrender store in London.
James Lavelle Interview
In 2014 Gwarizm posted the following interview with James Lavelle regarding the Converse collaboration.
As far as the relationship between Nike and Mo’ Wax, how did that begin? I recall a CD back in early 1997…
Yeah, yeah, the running thing that we did. That was weird. I can’t remember what the hell was going on there — that was a really strange project that was. It really did not connect — I wouldn’t connect the dots between that project and creating a sneaker. To be honest with you, that Nike project, and if my memory serves me right because it was a fucking long time ago, it was done through a marketing company — an ad agency. We were always interested in doing things like that — I think the mad thing with that was that it had to be all new music and there couldn’t be any samples. That’s why it ended up being Richard File and Ils doing it.
How did the real Nike relationship begin?
At the beginning we all went out for dinner with Sandy [Bodecker], Mark [Parker] and various others — it was me, Michael Kopelman, Fraser, Giorgio and the guys from Nike. I remember that I had to leave very quickly because I was going to a Queens of the Stone Age gig. I was like, “Hi, nice to meet you!” And they were like, “What would you do?” and I just said, “An UNKLE shoe or something like that…” and it just seemed to happen. So Fraser and I met them at the same time —he wasn’t working with Nike then. Fraser was at Footpatrol then — that’s when the collaborations with them started.
James Lavelle discussing DUNKLE in 2020
In May 2020 Size released an interview with James Lavelle where he discussed the DUNKLE:
Moving onto some of the different footwear projects you’ve worked on over the years, are there any real particular favourites from the releases with Converse, Bape, and obviously Nike SB as well?
I love the ‘Dunkle’. I think it’s interesting how it’s lasted the test of time, because during that era doing something pink, and the garishness, outlandish style of the shoe. It’s had a recent resurgence and seems to be up there in the top Dunk collaborations, so I’m pretty proud of that. And the low top is also really interesting.
Everything you do collaboratively has a different story to it, so its always interesting because it’s a moment in time. Everything that I’ve worked on has that kind of value to it, but I think with doing that Dunk, you’ve got to understand at the time, there’d never been anything like that before.
Nike didn’t make sneakers for bands or artists, they only made sneakers for sports stars. And they also made a few maybe for some movies. Then they did a couple of shoes, including one with Haze, and that sort of opened the doors.
I managed to get a meeting with Mark Parker and Sandy Bodecker who helped set up the Nike SB program. So me and Frazer and Michael were introduced to them by Stash, and they came to London to meet us! And they were just like, ‘so what do you want to do?‘ and I was quite, I don’t know.
I was a bit sort of ambitious at the time, and I said ‘I want to make my own fuckin’ sneaker man! Come on, give me an UNKLE sneaker!‘, and they sort of laughed and then said ‘Okay, let’s do it!‘ and that was a bit of a moment. Are you kidding me? I’m going to make my own Nike? In those days, to make things was really hard. You couldn’t go to a factory and get them to make 100 of something, they weren’t interested, they didn’t want to do that and didn’t have the function to do it. So to go and make a bespoke sneaker, or a toy for that matter was really difficult.
The first toys that we made were vinyl because they were easy and cheaper to produce, and easy to prototype. The first UNKLE toys that were made were actually resin, so they’ll break. You couldn’t get plastic moulded toys made unless you wanted to put £50,000 down on a mould. The same applies to sneakers.
In the world we live in now, the technologies there where you can make 10 of something, or 1000, or 2 million exists. So you can make this amazing array of editions and everything But at the time just to be able to make something, like I was saying with the early days of Bathing Ape, to make a baseball jacket with that amount of detail on it was like ‘Fuck!’ That was what Pop Stars did, or if you were in a crew or you were like a film star you got one.
The simplicity of things was so amazing, and just to be able to make that sneaker, to get it a and hold it in your hands and be like: ‘I have my own Nike sneaker. I’m 29 years old, I live in London, I’m some kid that did a Label, and I just did a Nike sneaker‘.
Nowadays it’s not so crazy. There’s so much stuff that doesn’t have the same meaning in many ways to me. But at the time just to see that happen and be part of it was mental. It wasn’t about business, you know it didn’t make any money, it was just this creative desire, and also this egotistical desire I suppose!
Ha! You always wanted your own thing, I was into making my own shit, I wanted to go into town and DJ, and I was out every night of the week, you were going to ‘Cuts’ every Saturday to get your hair cut, you were in that phase in your life. Every night you want to be the person that walks into the dance, and you’ve got your own unique jacket and sneakers, that was like some next level shit.”
Can you remember how long it took you to make the Dunkle from start to finish?
“It probably went on from about 6 months to a year maybe? I can’t exactly remember.”
Was the Low F&F version always on the table from the start as well or did that kind of come a bit further down the line? That was only 25 pairs in the end, wasn’t it?
“So the original designs were actually for a Low, and they were different.
Ben Drury was involved at the beginning of the design process and submitted some versions, but those didn’t end up happening. If memory serves correct, I think Sandy suggested that he wanted to do a High version because it was kind of different to everything else happening at that time.
This was at a time when they were going to introduce the new ‘Pink Box,’ so he was like: ‘Let’s do a High top, but we’ll also do 25 Low’s for you and your crew to get.’
I wanted to really push it with the highs and use every material that we possibly could, so they was a ‘sampling’ kind of collage effect to the shoe. He was talking about the pink box, and I thought if we did something in pink that could be pretty fuckin’ insane, but it was a bit of a risk. There was definitely an element of anarchy going on in that process at the time.
We went back and forth a bit on the design process of more of what the shoe was going to be made out of. I wanted it to be quite garish in a certain way? But how to have something garish but it not be like, colourfully over the top. So we were trying to find that sort of middle ground.
Eventually, I got the prototype and it was mental, you hadn’t seen a sneaker like that before.”
Were there a few different versions of the sample that you got to keep when you were doing it then?
“I have a sample of a low I think that was slightly different, and I kind of remember it having a camo insole, which they didn’t end up doing on those, so it was sort of a Mo’ Wax Camo, it might have been slightly more embossed as well? I think it was a slightly off-green, it wasn’t the nicest looking colour. Unfortunately, there are a few things I’d like to send some pictures of but all my things are stuck in storage!”
Was the Futura artwork featured on the Dunkles from one of the paintings in your collection?
“Yeah the artwork comes from the piece made for the ‘Never, Never Land; album, and I did have it but I don’t have it anymore.”