James Whitner of Social Status set to release “Free Lunch” Nike Dunk with a deeper meaning

By Chase Whitney

September 6, 2021

Social Status, the sneaker and streetwear retailer founded by James Whitner is releasing a Nike Dunk sneaker collaboration called the “Free Lunch” on September 10.

Originally scheduled to drop on September 4, the brown “Chocolate Milk” edition of the Nike Dunk innovated and designed by Whitner will now be released on September 10 at 11:00 a.m. EST with a pink “Strawberry Milk” pair set to be released on September 18. SNKRS and Nike are slated to have the shoes at a later date and the original drop will be through Social Status’ website and in-store locations.

To accompany the sneakers, Social Status has also released a short film titled Free Lunch. Directed by The Turner Brothers and shot by Tyler Clark, the six-minute film (shot in Whitner’s childhood home and bedroom) gives a light-hearted look at how members of a community take care of one another.

“There’s this idea that the hustlers are trying to bait the youngins’ in [to crime] and in a lot of cases, that’s not true. In some cases it is, but more cases than not, the hustlers are trying to help the youngins’ not be them. They are trying to help them make better decisions so they can end up in a better spot,” Whitner said in his interview with Complex

This sentiment is often lost when communities like those in Free Lunch are portrayed in elements of media, but Whitner made it a central point of the film with the character OG Hustle being the one who provides the kids their new Dunks.

“The Turner Brothers came up with the characters. I just told the story… It’s a journey through your projects. And it’s talking about those relationships too, right. And I think a key relationship in any projects is the youngins’ and the hustlers,” Whitner told Complex

For many, such as LeBron James, the characters in the film reminded him of the friends he came up with and the experiences he had being a part of similar programs around the country.

Whitner, a native of Pittsburgh, was inspired to focus his Social Status Nike collaboration on free lunch programs because he himself remembers being served meals under the federal initiative created to provide for underserved children growing up. In the interview with Complex, he went into detail on where the idea came from:

“For Social Status, we always try to really focus on like the core kid who loves streetwear and sneaker culture. And I was just thinking… we need to talk about the entire day. And that’s when the idea of free lunch came up. Because that’s how you started your day. It wasn’t like you woke up and got breakfast. Free lunch was breakfast and lunch. So it was less about the place and more about the experience.” 

This isn’t the first time the Social Status in Charlotte has been featured in the national media. While on the campaign trail in 2020, now-Vice President Kamala Harris stopped by the Plaza Midwood shop to record an episode of Sneaker Shopping with Complex and discuss Whitner’s HBCU-backed sneaker collaboration with Converse and Nina Chanel Abney.

He moved to Charlotte after a life-changing incident spurred him to chase his dream of opening a streetwear store, and since has strengthened the brand of Social Status opening locations in Atlanta, Houston, Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Tampa carrying brands like COMME des GARCONS, Billionaire Boys Club and Nike Sportswear.

On top of this Social Status collaboration with Nike, Whitner’s clothing boutique, A Ma Maniere, released an Air Jordan 3 sneaker “Raised By Women” accompanied by a short film back in April. A snakeskin Air Jordan 1 High collaboration is also expected to be released this holiday season. 

Social Status “Free Lunch” Nike Dunk in “Chocolate Milk” and “Strawberry Milk.” Courtesy of Social Status

Those looking to purchase a pair of the “Free Lunch” Social Status Nike Dunks can book an appointment to enter the in-store raffle at the 1519 Central Avenue location in Plaza Midwood (all entries prior to the postponement of the original release on Sept. 4 remain valid). The branded box comes with a second pair of laces in a different color and a “Social Status School District Lunch Menu” folded inside.

Shoe box for the Social Status “Free Lunch” Nike Dunk. Courtesy of Social Status

“Every meaningful footwear drop has a strong story and a product that connects to that story,” Whitner added in his interview with Complex. “If we’ve done our job, people will be talking about the ‘Free Lunch’ Dunk 20 years from now.” 

Check out more photos of the Social Status “Free Lunch” Nike Dunks. Follow updates on the release and enter the in-store raffle.

Courtesy of Social Status
Courtesy of Social Status
“Social Status School District Lunch Menu” folded inside of the “Free Lunch” Nike Dunks. Courtesy of Social Status
Lunch tray inside of Social Status “Free Lunch” Nike Dunk shoe box. Courtesy of Social Status
Lace pouch for Social Status “Free Lunch” Nike Dunk. Courtesy of Social Status

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