Dunks are all the rage these days. Since making their return in 2020, practically every single pair of Dunks, be it the high top or low top, are always sold out and fetch a good amount of money in the resell market. This even applies to pairs that were released this year, and that trend is not going to fade even if the market is saturated and that the quality control is more of a hit-or-miss affair.

It has been YEARS since I last bought a pair of Dunks brand new.

While I did manage to snag the Dunk Low in Hyper Cobalt for a decent price (still resell, but at least not priced insanely), something piqued my curiosity: what if I just went on to buy a vintage (aka old) pair? That started my quest to find a pair of vintage Dunk Low or High.

The quest to find a good vintage pair

Finding a good vintage pair is a challenge, especially if you are new to it. Luckily enough, I’ve met a number of people who have good knowledge about vintage Dunks, and Swoosh Effects is one of them. Being one of the more known sellers of vintage Dunks in the Philippines, I check his listings once in a while until I found a pair that caught my eye: a vintage 2003 Dunk High Light Graphite Cloud that happens to be in my size.

If you happen to find this 2003 pair in wearable, deadstock condition, you are one lucky guy.

Given that Nike has yet to retro this particular colorway, it is very hard to find a deadstock pair. StockX market values show that this pair would sell at around Php 10k-again, that’s IF you manage to find a deadstock one for this 18-year old pair.

I talked to Swoosh Effects over Instagram, asking for more photos of the pair. To my surprise, they actually look good for one that is already 18 years old. In fact, he said that they are wearable, and given his asking price, I could not give up a really good deal.

The transaction was a breeze. I paid him through GCash, then he sent the pair to me for delivery. A few days later, it has arrived on my doorstep.

The vintage pair in person

Like a kid that is excited to unbox, I immediately opened the package, and I was stunned to see an 18-year old Dunk High look very decent despite its vintage condition. The soles have a good grip and are not heavily worn, while the upper has that nice weathered vibe that gives character to the sneaker.

The soles may have yellowed out due to their age, but I’m impressed at how the outsoles still have decent grip and are not heavily worn out–most likely the previous owner of this pair took good care of it.

The smooth leather panels on the upper have those creases that give them a nice, well-worn look, while the cracking on the Swoosh, heel tab, and ankle collar further gives this Dunk High a nice vintage character–something that brands–Nike included–actually dp on new pairs (and yes, those actually get sold out too).

The padding on the sockliner and the tongue is oh-so-generous given its age, and there’s really something about the older Nike tongue tags–they don’t make them like they used to.

The sneaker’s overall color motif is a mix of different shades of grey, paired with a worn-out baby blue for the Swoosh, making it a versatile colorway for a variety of outfits.

The old vs the new

While my 2021 Hyper Cobalt Dunk Low is also made in Vietnam like this 2003 Light Graphite Cloud Dunk High, my next question is: how has Nike’s quality control changed through the years?

With 2021 Dunks being notorious for quality control issues (it is much controlled for 2020 pairs), the Hyper Cobalt Low is one of those underrated colorways that have decent leather quality for the uppers. However, the overall quality does pale in comparison to the Light Graphite Cloud High, which has a more plush leather and a more premium sockliner despite its age.

How about cushioning, you ask? To my surprise, this 18-year old pair’s midsole cushioning is just as good as the 2021 pair. I don’t know how is that possible, but perhaps it’s a testament to the durability of older Nike sneakers that do not have Air Max tech. I’d be real: you’ll be hard-pressed to find any Nike or Jordan pair with Air Max cushioning that is more than a decade old AND is wearable without worrying about crumbling midsoles.

The Hyper Cobalt Low does have retro branded on its actual model name, and it does stay true to form as the toe box shape of the 2021 pair is closely identical to the 2003 pair. Only time will tell if my Hyper Cobalt Low will age well like the Light Graphite Cloud High, but as the saying goes: they don’t make them like they used to.

Should you go for vintage pairs?

That’s one question that is very hard to answer. Save for the likes of Air Force 1s, Dunks, Air Jordan 1s, and other sneakers with similar construction, it is hard to find a decent vintage pair that you can actually wear (Carlo’s 6-year old Yeezy Boost 350s suffered a tragic fate). On top of that, there are many things to factor in on how wearable an old pair is.

While there are some shops that can replace midsoles (I’m actually considering that to resurrect some old Dunks and Air Force 1s I have at home), shopping for a vintage sneaker (or anything vintage for that matter, ie. clothes) is a challenge. However, there’s a joy in finding old pairs that have yet seen a retro rerun, and actually wear them.

18 years later…and they are still wearable.

Overall, I do get the reason why there are people who are into anything vintage: aside from being usually more affordable, vintage pieces usually stand out because they are so unique that you have very little odds of bumping into anyone who has the same piece with the same condition.

And this brings me to one request to Nike: could they stop recycling and rehashing colorways for the Dunks AND instead go deeper into their archive and rerelease those colorways instead?

If it is not for enthusiasts like Swoosh Effects, little will people know that there are hundreds of Dunk colorways–including this vintage pair I recently picked up–that are waiting for a proper retro.

That being said: Nike, please stay true to your tagline and Just Do It. 

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