In August of 1985, Nike launched their ‘College Colors’ program with the now-iconic tagline, ‘Be True to Your School’ (BTTYS). The campaign, celebrating the introduction of the Nike Dunk, included seven original colorways that paid tribute to some of the nation’s best college basketball teams. Kentucky, Michigan, UNLV, Syracuse, St. John’s, Villanova and Iowa were each honored with a signature shoe, kicking off a beloved tradition. Today, college-themed sneakers, from Dunks to Air Jordans, offer fans the perfect opportunity to support their teams from head-to-toe. These 8 college sneakers, hand-selected by our Streetwear and Modern Collectibles team, are sure to make a statement on and off the court.
Nike Dunk High Michigan 1998
These college-themed shoes, in the University of Michigan’s iconic yellow and navy color scheme, pay homage to the team’s inclusion in the memorable 1985 campaign. The Quickstrike Dunk Highs, released in 1998, take inspiration from the original two-tone colorways that helped popularize the Nike Dunk silhouette.
Nike Dunk High Syracuse 1998
Nike honored Syracuse, another original BTTYS school, in 1998 with these college team sneakers. Dressed in Syracuse Orange and white, the limited edition vintage Dunk Highs are the perfect way to show your school spirit.
Nike Dunk Low Carolina Blue 2001
This Dunk Low from 2001 celebrates the North Carolina Tar Heels in an eye-catching patent leather build. Capturing the spirit of Tar Heel Nation, these college-themed sneakers feature white uppers with Carolina Blue overlays. A white midsole and Caroline Blue outsole complete the look.
Nike Dunk High Retro Spartan Green 2020
Michigan State’s signature Spartan Green and white define the look of these Dunk High Retros from 2020. An extension of Nike’s original BTTYS pack, the high-top college sneakers feature a mesh tongue accented with a woven Nike tag for an OG aesthetic. The Spartan Dunks launched in stores less than a week before the ‘Michigan’ Dunk, nodding to the well-known intrastate rivalry between the two schools.
Nike Dunk Low Retro SP St. John’s 2020
Also from 2020, this Dunk Low Retro Special Projects release dresses the 80’s basketball classic in the signature colors of St. John’s. White leather uppers are accented with red leather overlays, while a white midsole, red outsole and classic Nike branding complete the design of this college-themed shoe.
Nike Dunk Low UNLV 2021
In 2021, Nike reissued yet more OG colorways. These college-themed sneakers pay tribute to the University of Las Vegas’s athletic department. Crafted in the school’s unmistakable University Red and Soft Grey, the Dunks recreate the original 1985 shoe, this time in a low-top silhouette.
Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro High UNC 2015
Dunks aren’t the only college sneakers on the scene — Jordans are just as coveted. This UNC Air Jordan 1 pays homage to one of the silhouette’s original 1985 colorways. Released as part of Jordan Brand’s Holiday 2015 Retro Pack, the powder blue and white palette pays tribute to the alma mater of MJ himself. Signature branding, including the Nike Air logo at the tongue and Jordan Wings on the collar, complete the classic look.
Nike Air Jordan 5 Retro SE Oregon 2020
The University of Oregon colorway also has a special significance in Nike history: the company was founded by former ‘Oregon Ducks’ track athlete Phil Knight and coach Bill Bowerman. These Air Jordan 5 special edition college-themed sneakers feature Apple Green uppers with contrasting black eyelets, tongues and mesh. Midsoles are accented with signature shark tooth detailing in Yellow Strike.