Last month, the Nike SB resurgence reached its fever pitch with the release of the “Chunky Dunky” SB Dunk Low. The official Ben & Jerry’s collab not only caught the attention of the sneaker community, but its mainstream appeal caused the hype to reach even higher levels that few releases are able to, despite how widespread of a hobby sneakers have become in recent years.
The pair was hard enough to get, but a few days before the launch news surfaced that select skate shops across the country would be selling a limited number of pairs that took the ice cream theme even further. They came packaged in a large container inspired by the Vermont-based ice cream purveyor’s signature pints. As you would expect, these pairs fetch even more on the resell market.
This “Chunky Dunky” packaging certainly isn’t the first time that a sneaker brand has gone above and beyond with special edition packaging for a collab. It got us thinking about some of the other instances over the years where brands have used an unorthodox box to make a sneaker that much more of a collector’s item. Check out some of our favorite limited edition sneaker packaging below.
Ben & Jerry's x Nike SB Dunk Low 'Chunky Dunky'
The sneaker that inspired this list, the “Chunky Dunky” Nike SB Dunk Low is 2020’s most hyped-up release. Its zany upper complete with a melting yellow Swoosh, tie-dye liner, and cow hair panels were enough, but an official tie to beloved ice cream purveyor Ben & Jerry’s even had your Skechers-wearing aunts and uncles talking about them. To mark such a big release, Nike SB upped the ante with a limited number of pairs coming in special packaging resembling Ben & Jerry’s’ signature ice cream pints available at select skate shops. We know this L still might sting a little. Luckily, it only costs about $6 for that pint of Phish Food to drown your sorrows. The sneaker counterpart and pint packaging, however, cost around $4,000. —Mike DeStefano
Skate Park of Tampa x Nike SB Dunk High 'Cigar City'
In 2011, Nike SB and Todd Bratrud decided to follow up their well-executed “Skunk” Dunk High to celebrate 4/20 with the marijuana adjacent “Cigar City” colorway to continue the smoking theme. This Dunk High was an official collab with Skatepark of Tampa and boasted an upper made to look like a cigar complete with a brown color palette and panels made to resemble a cigar leaf. A perfect complement to the special release was the cigar box that a limited amount of pairs came packaged in that were sold at SPoT. —Mike DeStefano
Concepts x Nike SB Dunk Low 'Blue Lobster'
Concepts has never been known to skimp on the special packaging for its slew of collaborations. There might be none more memorable than its special edition “Blue Lobster” Nike SB Dunk Low release in 2008. The commitment to storytelling for this particular pair even had Boston locals calling City Hall because they thought there were really hazardous blue lobsters lurking in New England’s waters. Only 200 pairs of the “Blue Lobster” came with this special packaging that saw the collab sealed in a plastic bag labeled “Danger” and encased in a white foam hazmat container. It was a fitting sequel to the original “Red Lobster” that saw 50 pairs bundled with themed accessories in a wooden lobster trap. —Mike DeStefano
A sneaker as legendary as the Nike Mag deserved packaging fitting of the grand release that accompanied it in 2011, when the shoe finally became a reality (albeit without auto-lacing capabilities) more than 20 years after it was conceived. While the standard packaging, which of course included a plug-in charger to keep the lights on, was still beyond the expected fare, the limited edition “Plutonium Case" was truly epic. The presentation took inspiration from the radioactive element in the movie Back to the Future Part II that was used to power the DeLorean’s time traveling ability. The box, which was limited to just 40 units, featured a pull-up chamber that displayed the shoes within a clear case. —Zac Dubasik
CLOT x Nike Air Force 1 '1World'
CLOT’s attention to detail over the years when it comes to its collaborations with Nike has been stuff of legend and truly separates them from the rest of the pack. Of course, Edison Chen’s brand finds its way onto this list because of the box that housed the Sport Red Air Force 1 from 2009’s 1World pack. In recent years we have seen CLOT add traditional patterns to a more traditional box, but back in ’09, these bright red AF1s sat in a hexagonal Chinese candy box. Accompanied by Chinese art around the outside and a matching red hue, the top layer of this box acted as a tray for six different lacing options. Limited upon its release, this CLOT collab fetches a lofty resale price in the $5,000 range, and I’m willing to bet a lot of that has to do with its box. —Ben Felderstein
Unheardof x Anonymous x Nike SB
Whether you grew up loving sports, Pokémon, or Magic the Gathering, there is a good chance you have experienced the joy of opening up a fresh pack of trading cards at least once. This nostalgic feeling is what Cincinnati’s Anonymous Skate Shop and Unheardof decided to channel for their pack of Nike SB collabs in 2015. Inspired by the 1990 World Series matchup, the pack consisted of a Dunk Low resembling the Reds uniforms and a green and yellow Dunk High made to look like the jerseys of the Oakland Athletics. Pairs sold at Unheardof and Anonymous came in boxes resembling those of baseball cards from brands like Topps and Fleer from the ’90s complete with giant baseball graphics and bright gradient lettering. —Mike DeStefano
A Bathing Ape x Marvel Bapestas
As a relatively big comic book nerd, this special sneaker packaging checks all the right boxes for me. It seems like every single time I look up the resale price of this sneaker, it’s more expensive than the last time I checked, and a lot of that is a testament to the “box” these Bapestas come in. Just like your favorite action figure, this sneaker comes housed in a plastic casing with a comic book strip piece of cardboard on the back. Numerous influential Marvel heroes come depicted as part of this collaboration including Iron Man, Spiderman, Captain America, the Silver Surfer, and more. While the packaging is indeed the real hero here, signature stamps on the lateral heel of each shoe add a clean and fitting finishing touch. —Ben Felderstein
Nike Air Force 1 'Year of the Rabbit'
Back in 2011, Nike's annual Chinese New Year collection was highlighted by this "Year of the Rabbit" Air Force 1 complete with mismatched chenille Swooshes, special branding hits, and a milky midsole. While the wider launch was still well received, the limited number of pairs that were released in a white acryllic box shaped like a candy wrapper are much more collectible. The special box was a nod to popular Shanghai candy company, White Rabbit, and even came complete with tissue paper made to resemble the paper that housed the chewy candies. —Mike DeStefano
'Star Wars' x Adidas (2009)
Long before Adidas was pumping out awful collaborations with Star Wars, they were making good ones. Shoes such as a ZX Boat inspired by Yoda, ZX 8000s for Darth Vader, and Micropacers printed with scenes from battles came complete with action figure-esque packaging. The shoes ticked the right boxes for Adidas connoisseurs and the themes and packaging was right for Stars Warsdiehards. Both parties were satisfied. —Matt Welty
Nike SB Blazer 'Milkcrate'
It doesn’t get much more on the nose than the “Milkcrate” (or “Milk Carton”) Nike SB Blazer Mid and its accompanying special packaging. As the legend goes, the shoes were created as a homage to owner of Shanghai skate shop Fly, Jeff Han, who previously worked at a milk factory. The sneakers themselves included a “Missing” portrait and description of Jeff on their heels and a strong mix of a white leather upper with blue and tan accents atop a gum sole. Released in 2007, some pairs received standard black/purple SB packaging, but a select number of units took the theme over the top with full-on milk carton packaging. Tracking down a pair of these in 2020 is hard enough, but finding them with their special packaging still in pristine condition is nearly unheard of. —Riley Jones
Nike Air Pressure
Nike wasn’t the first brand to market with shoes that could provide a customized fit through an inflatable air bladder system (Reebok’s The Pump launched prior to the introduction of the Air Pressure), but it did package the concept in a higher-tech presentation. The Air Pressure not only came in a translucent plastic case, it included a large hand pump to ensure the subtlety of inflating a shoe with simply a basketball-shaped button on the tongue wasn’t missed by any passerby. —Zac Dubasik
Ari Menthol 10s
Created by artist Ari Saal Forman, the Ari Menthol 10s were ahead of their time in many ways. The bootleg Air Force 1 flip managed to draw the ire of both Nike and cigarette brand Newport, whose spinnaker logo (or “upside-down Swoosh” for the uninitiated) and colors were used on the sneaker. The shoes themselves came packaged in an oversized “Newport” cigarette box complete with silver foil wrapping inside. Intended to bring awareness to the capitalistic ways of both brands, the shoes were deemed too close for comfort. Nike issued a cease and desist, while Newport’s then-parent company Lorillard took things a step further, suing Forman for the design and demanding that his stash of pairs be destroyed. —Riley Jones
Air Jordan XVII
One of the pioneers of the special packaging concept, the Air Jordan XVII debuted in 2002 and introduced a number of firsts to the legendary franchise. Not only was it the first model that Michael Jordan himself would lace up on an NBA court since the Air Jordan XIV, but it came in packaging that was unlike any Jordan before it. Befitting of MJ’s penchant for mixing luxury with sportswear, the shoes came housed in a padded metal briefcase—a detail which has sadly been absent from the Jordan XVII retros thus far. —Riley Jones
General Mills x Nike Kyrie 4 'Cereal Pack'
Nike helped Kyrie Irving celebrate his love for cereal back in 2018 with a special trio of Kyrie 4s in collaboration with General Mills inspired by favorites like Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and, for some reason, Kix. While each pair would get a widespread launch later, much more limited edition versions were distributed via House of Hoops pop-up trucks earlier that summer at New York’s legendary Rucker Park and Los Angeles’ Drew League. Each came in its own box mimicking that of its sugary inspiration, was sealed in a recognizable plastic bag, and came complete with a Kyrie-branded bowl and silver spoon for you to flex on your family at the breakfast table. —Mike DeStefano
Adidas Adicolor Lo
Some might say this packaging is better than the sneaker. The Adidas Adicolor Lo first released in 1983 and re-released in 2006 in a special package that came complete with a wooden box, seven different colors of paint, brushes, a palette, finishing lacquer, and multiple sets of laces. Try your hand at painting the shoes, or leave them white and crispy in awe of the packaging. —Matt Welty
Source: Destefano, M., Dubasik, Z., Welty, M., Jones, R. and Felderstein, B. 2020, The 15 best special edition sneaker boxes, Complex, viewed 18 June 2020, <https://www.complex.com/sneakers/best-sneaker-packaging>