Front and center in the Nike SB Dunk Low Grateful Dead is the band’s most lovable symbol, the dancing bears, which first appear on the back cover of the group’s 1973 LP “History of the Grateful Dead, Volume 1 (Bear’s Choice).” Set in three colorways, the shoe playfully features bear-inspired detailing, such as a faux-fur and suede upper, a frayed Nike Swoosh mimicking the bears’ collars and an image of the bear on the tongue. (Another iconic Grateful Dead logo, the Steal Your Face skull, is printed on the underside of the sockliner.)
The community-rich bond among Dead Heads is even more inviting thanks to the band’s fun, furry ambassadors. While the bears may not have influenced the music itself, the man behind the bears — an enigmatic audio engineer nicknamed Bear, who helped develop the group’s Wall of Sound system as well as the cartoon symbol — certainly did, and his work brought a resounding impact to the Grateful Dead’s legacy, much like Nike SB founder Sandy Bodecker’s impact on the Dunk and skate culture.
“As the band’s benefactor, Bear was an incredibly huge part of the Grateful Dead’s ability to become who they were,” says David Lemieux, the band’s archivist and legacy manager. “They were talented musicians, but they would not have had the financial freedom to forgo jobs, move to Los Angeles and practice for 14 hours a day. The band wouldn’t become what it is today without Bear’s innovations and contributions. The same fiercely independent spirit from Bodecker helped create that authenticity within the skate community.”