Brendan Dunne: 400 pairs of sneakers and a profession later

Dunne seen laughing happily with a portion of his collection behind him

When you walk into Brendan Dunne’s New York apartment, various pairs of Yeezy slides await you to wear and roam comfortably. His passion for sneakers and the influence they carry in his life have helped shape who he is and his professional career.

Dunne began as a News Writer in 2011 at Sneaker News where he worked for three years. Currently, he is the general manager (sole collector) at Complex Networks in New York where he has been ascending since 2014.

Between both positions, he has amassed experience as a news editor, deputy editor and managing director.

Prior to his professional experience, Dunne became passionate about sneakers in the mid-2000s, toward the end of his high-school career in northern Idaho. He entered the niche scene primarily on NikeTalk, an early discussion platform on all things sneakers. This was the beginning of acquiring a unique knowledge of sneakers and the history attached to them.

“The first Nike SB I ever bought was the Nike SB Zoom FS Barcelona at Ross for 40$,” Dunne said. “Later on, I got the “North Philly” Air Force One and thought I was really cool. The Nike Sb Dunk low “Border Blue” was another I had toward the beginning. I still have some of the shoes from high school.”

After high school, Dunne studied at the University of Oregon and received his bachelor’s degree in linguistics, learning to navigate language and appreciate its narrative.

While in Oregon, Dunne was exposed to the rich history of sneakers and athletics throughout Eugene where Blue Ribbon Sports was co-founded in 1964 by Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman. It is better known today as Nike.

“My freshman year at Oregon, I went to Pre’s Rock,” Dunne said. “It’s a memorial to Steve Prefontaine, a famous Oregon runner who died tragically young. He meant a lot to Eugene and a lot to Nike as a company. Phil Knight called him ‘the sole of the company.’ I connected with it early on.”

Before graduating from the University of Oregon, Dunne sought opportunities and began to freelance for Sneaker News writing articles in his extra time during his senior year.

As Dunne fine-tuned his writing and editing skills, he took a position with Complex as a full-time news editor for three years. His main focus was maintaining a steady stream of blog posts. He also covered any leaked sneakers, colorways, release announcements or the occasional shift in a release day so content was available for readers.

His purpose was simply to provide as much coverage as possible on the homepage.

“My study of linguistics really informed the way I think and the way I write,” Dunne said. “I’m happy to have spent years in college mapping out syntactic structure. Those are tools not a lot of writers are familiar with and it helps structure. It’s helpful to understand what clauses live within each other.”

As time progressed, so did the sneaker scene in America. One such aspect was the growing field of professional writing Dunne became a part of. The cultural community behind sneakers began to translate from niche to broad and growing cognoscenti.

“The transition from a niche sneaker community to mainstream has had a neutral impact on me,” Dunne said. “It’s helped me in my career and I’m happy that there are more people than ever who care about this stuff. I just hope they invest themselves into the history.”

In January 2018, Dunne took on the role of deputy editor. Responsibilities increased as it was the first time Dunne was charged to lead a team. He forged navigation skills and learned to overcome the challenge of directing workflows, including achieving efficiency on a daily basis.

Following his time as deputy editor, Dunne advanced to Complex’s managing editor. He stayed on the same team but expectations grew. Responsibilities began to escalate as he was now over company designers who created visuals around the work produced by his original team.

“We try to be explicit here,” Dunne said. “But also be sure to be fluent in what we’re talking about and why.”

While operating in his role as managing editor in November of 2019, Complex launched The Complex Sneakers Podcast hosted by Joe La Puma, Matt Welty and Dunne. Throughout the weekly podcast, the trio of sneakerheads keep things conversational and embrace a natural, unscripted flow for listeners to relate to.

The podcast has enjoyed many different guests such as Stan Smith, DJ Clark Kent, Paul Rodriguez, Ronnie Fieg, Marcus Jordan, Jeff Staple and Reebok CEO Todd Krinsky.

“When it comes to sneaker news, Complex is the biggest platform in the world,” Dunne said. “The Complex Sneaker Podcast plays a massive part transitioning sneakers from a niche to mainstream but, while doing so, really educates the people. They learn about Tinker Hatfield, the Nike Air Yeezy, the Pigeon Dunk or anything else we discuss.”

As Dunne has gained traction in the field of sneaker journalism and podcasting, he has lived by the commitment to translate the importance of sneakers to a wider pop-culture audience. It all comes from a place where people eat, sleep and breathe sneakers, but the creators at Complex seek to make their stories understandable for an audience who doesn’t come from that world.

“That’s a duty we take very seriously,” Dunne said. “I think about it when we write a story, start the podcast or upload a video. The process is constantly figuring out how to best explain why we really care about these things.”

In 2020, Dunne reached the position of general manager where he has been learning ever since. At this stage, responsibilities and expectations to nourish the business collectively as a whole surpassed editorial work. Among those responsibilities were growing media relations and working with sales teams to continue creating memorable sneaker work.

Brendan Dunne poses in front of his Reebok collection announcing partnership with esteemed sneaker brand
Brendan Dunne poses in front of his Reebok collection announcing partnership with esteemed sneaker brand

Dunne has imposed a quota to consistently write in hopes of producing something special.

“I hope to continue to grow and create memorable sneaker work,” Dunne said. “This is the biggest leadership position within the company in terms of sneakers specifically and with respect to that, I’m very happy here.”

Beyond the job, Dunne has enjoyed a heightened relationship with running over the years, he ran a marathon after college and continues to run often.

“It’s important in terms of discipline and feeling like I’m accomplishing something,” Dunne said. “Being in Eugene planted a sort of distant romantic seed in my subconscious. I’d always see images and hear stories of running from Steve Prefontaine and I think it had an effect on me.”