The Viotech story first takes us back to the year 2001, in a pre ‘internet-sneakerhead’ time when dial-up was king and it wasn’t as easy as it is today to track down regional exclusive releases from abroad without travelling thousands of miles.
During this time, Nike’s Japanese Division was in the process of introducing their co.jp initiative, which created colourways only available in very select locations in the country. One of these was known as the Rainbow, which launched alongside a trio pack called the ‘Ugly Duckling’ pack.
The ‘Rainbow’ was the standout model of that time – a sneaker that featured a clash of colours that all bounced off of one another. The design just worked and subsequently, it’s now seen as an icon.
To celebrate the launch of the Nike Dunk Low ‘Viotech’ we thought we would take a trip down memory lane. We interviewed longtime sneakerhead, dunk collector and OG Footpatrol friend Tom MV, one of the editors of EU Kicks.
We sat down with Tom to talk about the Nike Dunk, Co.Jp, the ‘Viotech’ and where his love for the game came from.
Launching in-store (LONDON) on Tuesday 10th December, sizes range from UK3.5 – UK12, priced at £85.
Footpatrol: Tom, thank you for having us. Before we get into it tell us a little about yourself and where you love for sneakers came from? You’ve been collecting for quite a while if I’m not mistaken.
Tom: Not at all, thank you for taking the time to visit!
It’s really interesting how everything has evolved, for me it wasn’t a conscious collector thing, I’ve just always worn sneakers. The interest mainly began with early 80’s hip hop and basketball. Like so many of my generation, NY graffiti / street culture and the music that came from it, that whole street / basketball aesthetic was a big influence. That’s when I started to really notice the shoes, it was vibrant, rebellious, addictive!
Since I was old enough to earn pocket money, I’ve been buying sneakers. They were always worn and binned. End of. Lol.
FP: By looking at what’s around us you’re no doubt a big dunk fan. What was it about that shoe that got you hooked?
Tom: I was always aware of the dunk high model, it was probably from when kids used to really geek out in microscopic detail on sports magazines, shoe adverts or record sleeves, but it was never a shoe I had actually seen for sale in the beginning. All the 80’s classic basketball highs were staple go to’s, Legend Hi’s, Air Forces, Delta AC’s, Blazers, Sky Forces, Alpha Forces, Penetrators, Vandals, but no Dunks! Then in 1991, I was fortunate enough to visit Japan, I saw Dunks, which were totally un-affordable and presented with such reverence, almost of historical importance and not meant for wear. It was a real WTH moment. It was just staggering to experience how on it they were from the beginning really. Then when they started to retro Dunks in ’98, that was pretty much it lol.
FP: The Nike Dunk these days is more associated with SB. Before SB though they were a basketball shoe right?
Tom: Pretty much. Before the era of scientific analysis of athletic performance and textile advancements for footwear, the dunk was just a fairly basic, solid leather high top. It was a simple design that offered padded ankle/lace up support, perforated toe box for ventilation, and maybe just as importantly, it was very easy to colour to represent Basketball teams. It was tough, durable and very comfortable, which ticked all the right boxes back then.
FP: Some of the most sort after pairs are actually non-SB dunks too.
Tom: There’s an endless list of really great colour ways/models, especially as Nike products where very region specific during the original re-issue phase. So, it’s not just about exclusive samples or even F&F pairs. The Dunk retro’s were a very affordable shoe, easy to wear, everyday comforts.
So to find a good GR release say from Foot Action or JD Sports, that might have been once widely available, in new condition now is not an easy task at all. Pre-instagram, buying/collecting habits were somewhat different.
That’s what’s great about Dunks, their rarity isn’t always about market value.
FP: Tell us about some of your favourite pairs?
Tom: How much time have we got? Lol. Out of pairs I owned I just really like all of the 1998/00’ OG retros with the padded nylon tongues. I’m less of a stickler for production details nowadays, but those were really good, they were period correct, and the silhouette, leather and build quality was peak for a GR. I don’t think I’ve seen a bad pair of those at all, applying to any region / retailer release. The first Stussy Dunk High duo were a highlight of that era also. Stussy really delivered. Those were untouchable.
Non retail, the Deftones High. Massive, massive fan of the band, and obviously this pair is never going to happen again. I had my chance once and I slept. No Regrets haha.
FP: Now we are here to talk about a specific pair, that pair being Nikes 2019 retro of the Nike Dunk ‘Viotech’. This shoe originally released in 2002 and was what was known as a Co.Jp release. Is there any light you can shed on what Co.Jp means? We don’t hear that very often these days in the sneaker world.
Tom: There’s definitely a lot of mystery surrounding this, but from what I understood, it was simply a separate operation that was exclusive to the Japan region with very different consumer demands at the time. Just as there were Nike US and Euro specific releases that catered to their own unique, domestic markets. The Japanese consumers are incredibly well read, obsessively detail orientated and understand product very deeply and very well. As a result, Nike Concept Japan experimented and thrived with this relationship, elevating product and applying at first, subtle changes and colour way nuances that pushed away from sports function and paved the way for sportswear crossing into urban lifestyle/streetwear. It gained notoriety being only available in Japan undoubtedly, and Niketalk was THE place where connects were made to get this product lol. If I remember correctly Nike Co.JP was also the url for Nike online in Japan during this time.
FP: The original pair which was actually called the ‘Rainbow’ and now fetches a decent amount in the after market. What was it about about it being a Co.Jp that made it so sought after? Do you think the regional exclusivity aspect played a big part?
Tom: Yes to all of the above.
You have to remember during this time, it was pre Nike SB, and wild, exceptional colour ways on Dunks had not happened yet, I remember Dunks for the most part were mainly 2 coloured, based on the OG colour blocking on the ‘Be True’ college styles. As iterations of those colour ways reached their zenith in both high and low formats, adding a third colour on Dunks was a really big deal. I remember the Foot Action Dunk High Carolina’s causing meltdowns lol. The Rainbow suede’s were uniquely different, very colourful, and it was perfectly timed as it was what all the Dunk collectors were waiting for.
FP: Were there any other notable Co.Jp pairs that were released before the SB days began? I noticed in your collection you have a few pairs.
Tom: All the Japan Dunks were really unique, they released really good colour combinations like in their City Attack series which saw them also drop matching pairs in their reverse colour way. They came in colours like metallic black/purples, tonal greys, muted blues etc. They really took colour ways to a new level of sophistication.
FP: Now bearing in mind that these pairs you’ve mentioned were exclusive in Japan, how were you able to get you hands on any?
Tom: I often bought on travels and I had friends who would pick them up on their travels also. You could find them months sometimes years after release in sneaker stores and even though they were probably resold in these stores, they were often to be found for not too much above retail. Hong Kong/Asia was particularly good for having a lot of great Japanese Import sneaker stores, picking up pairs then for £60 or thereabouts.
FP: Without things like Instagram, Facebook pages and other social channels it must of been hard find a plug overseas to help out?
Tom: I’m very lucky I have family and friends out in Asia, who helped along the way and then there was also Niketalk. That was about it I think. Lifelong friends came out of that little forum.
FP: Bringing it back to the ‘Viotech’, what does it take to make a good retro?
Tom: It’s un-reasonable to expect exact period correct reproductions now with changing textiles and manufacturing supply challenges, but a well made shoe, is a well made shoe. If the materials are of good quality and build /execution is strong, I’d be happy enough with that. It’s more important for me to be able to buy and wear a long out of production sneaker classic, even if it is slightly different. And If you are buying it for the 1sttime, that for me is plenty enough.
FP: Are there any features on this release that you’re happy to see?
Tom: I don’t have the 2002 versions anymore, but I remember them getting all floppy and soft after a few wears, even though the suede was good, it didn’t hold shape too well. The 2019 looks solid and the colours seem very close to the original. If they hold their shape better then that’s got to be a huge plus! Maybe a retro box would be great, just for added nostalgia / emotional trauma lol.
FP: Well Tom, thank you again for having us you’ve dropped some crazy knowledge, before we go is there anything you want to say or shoutout?
Tom: Shouts definitely go to my Mrs & girls at home who put up with all this obsessive madness. And of course FP, where some of my favourite Dunk pairs go way back to the St. Anne’s Court store, so to be asked to discuss them here today has been a real honour and highlight.
Thanking you and all at Team FP for having me!