Concepts has no problem selling its soles, but when it comes to its collection of Nike SB Lobster Dunks—it’s no contest. In 2002, the Oregon-based sports giant revamped the ’80s basketball staple for its roster of pro skateboarders that’d soon include Paul Rodriguez. Six years later, Cambridge’s Concepts introduced its New England-born SB Dunks collaboration: sport red and pink clay kicks with a checkered picnic blanket-inspired lining, butter-colored laces and rubber bands wrapped around the toes. “Basing a shoe off seafood, it’s still silly no matter what way you’re playing it,” creative director Deon Point says of the all-in packaging that included shell crackers, wet naps, bibs and lobster trap boxes. “We just wanted to be in on the joke.”
A year later, the joke evolved for a blue colorway inspired by the one-in-a-couple-million species. “We went a little overboard with our marketing game plan,” Point says of the campaign with a six-minute video, Photoshopped posters and a fake Twitter account that focused on toxic crustaceans taking over local waters. “We ended up with some calls from the city, and people were actually becoming fearful that this was a real thing.” Those in the know formed a 650-person line a few days before the launch, including one sneakerhead who made two round trips from California after his girlfriend was hospitalized with a fractured pelvis. Still, that hype pales in comparison to the yellow fever around the third iteration, a friends-and-family version that has fetched up to $7,000 on the resale market.
On the 10th anniversary, the coveted shoe is back, with a purple drop that combines the two original colors. While the packaging doesn’t appear to come with the expected “bells and whistles,” Concepts is always trying to keep its customers on their toes. “Kids don’t love the sneakers as much as they love the lucrative aspect of it and how much money they can make,” Point says. While some may have made a little green on the resale market, they may be kicking themselves now. Days after the Dec. 14 release, proud new owners were prompted to scan the Concepts shoe box with their cellphones, launching a 10-second clip that revealed they were locked into an unannounced green Lobster. Says Point of those who sold the purple kicks: “They basically missed a golden opportunity.”
With the original pitch, “We knew it was make or break,” Point says. “If we didn’t do right by Nike, I’m not even sure we’d be having this conversation.” That meant putting in a hefty investment themselves. “We thought, ‘We’re probably not even gonna make a dime on this.’ ”
Though initial talks proposed a blue version, Point says, “The sophomore jinx was alive and well, and we felt the pressure.” Limited pairs were vacuum-sealed and bundled in a Styrofoam cooler and came with a T-shirt and skate deck.
After a Maine fisherman uncovered a yellow lobster—a one-in-a-30-million find—Nike gifted a few dozen pairs to its top sales execs, pro boarders and Concepts. When the Celtics took on the Cavs this February, Kyrie Irving paid homage to these iconic sneaks.
Before early birds were sent home because of the cold temps outside the Harvard Square shop, the frenzy started with fans trying to get their hands on purple cans of Narragansett Fresh Catch beer and a scavenger hunt that summoned Nike app users to the New England Aquarium.
Travis Scott debuted these unannounced sneakers on his Instagram before a surprise release in Shanghai. Ahead of the Cambridge family-and-friends sale, they’re already fetching upward of $2,000 online.