Nike has taken on a newly aggressive stance against customs, doling out cease-and-desist orders and lawsuits like never before. Designers like John Geiger and Warren Lotas have been targeted alongside smaller creators customizing Air Force 1s as the Swoosh defends its intellectual property.
Still, Nike claims “it has no desire to limit the individual expression of creatives and artisans, many of whom are some of [the brand’s] biggest fans,” and it’s doubling down on its message with a new sneaker meant to be customized. Clearly, the brand doesn’t want to limit the personalization of its shoes — so long as they’re purchased straight from the source.
Monopolizing customs — A Nike SB Dunk High, cheekily dubbed “Unbleached,” serves as a blank canvas for sneakerheads. Made of raw and uncolored canvas with white leather overlays, the shoe is meant to be dip-dyed, painted, or altered to the wearer’s liking.
Inspiration for the “Unbleached” sneaker may have derived from the recent customizations of Nike’s Off-White Dunks, as seen highlighted throughout social media. Submissions of personalized Dunk Lows have been encouraged by Off-White despite its collaborator’s crackdown on customs.
Yet what Nike takes issue with is the sale of its altered sneakers, not the alteration itself. Once the brand profits from its shoes, it doesn’t care what happens to its product. Nike’s biggest lawsuit motivator — other than protecting its copyrighted designs — is money, and with the “Unbleached” Dunk High and personalized Off-White Dunk Lows, there’s none to be made. Only when a customizer decides to sell their altered shoe will the Swoosh step in.
More demand than supply — With how popular Nike’s customization programs have been in the past — one “By You” personalization initiative severely impacted the brand’s website — Nike SB’s “Unbleached” Dunk High won’t be around for long. A release date has yet to be announced for the blank sneaker, although its orange tongue tag means it’ll be part of an upcoming Orange Label release available exclusively at Nike SB retailers.
If you have the chance to purchase the model, do it — with Nike continuing to crack down on homages, bootlegs, and customs, your options for one-of-a-kind sneakers are slimmer than ever.