Over the years, Jake Danklefs, the creative mind and machine behind Dank & Co., has had his share of hits. Whether turning high top Kobes into convertible low tops or lacing the likes of LeBron James and Matt Bonner with their own 1-of-1s, Dank has had his share of both critical and commercial success, pushing the envelope and raising the profile of his clients.
Ironically, his biggest viral hit has came with little enveloping pushing and an unofficial client. Furthermore, it’s came twice. The “Whataburger” Dunks, originally made in 2012, have blown up once again on the internet and far further, making a splash across the Lone Star State this week. We caught up with Dank to hear the story behind the shoe that’s sparked a fast food frenzy.
Jake Danklefs: We used to make fun of my buddy Fred. He had a women’s Dunk in his size that were orange and we always called it the “Whataburger” Dunk. JD Beltran and I were digging around in his closet one day and pulled those out. Fred was like, “Let’s really make it a Whataburger shoe.” I took it home and went to town on it.
That was right when I made the conversion of like, “Ok, I’m a customizer now.” I still had a full-time job at that time I think, but it was the conversion of I’m not just some guy painting shoes now, I actually am customizing and being know for it. So, I went to town on it as if it was a customer’s shoe even though it was just a buddy’s shoe that I probably traded for Chinese food lunches. [Laughs] Basically, all I did to the shoe was add white stripes and a ‘W’ — that was it. The shoe was already there looking like a Whataburger shoe. [Laughs] So, it was very simple.
That was three plus years ago. I remember being in the hospital with my father and I saw Whataburger followed me on Instagram. Back then I had hardly any followers so it was easy to see who was in your feed. I went to their page and sure enough they posted a picture of the shoes on their Instagram. Now for whatever reason it’s been deleted, but they did that back then.
So on Monday, somebody sent me a screen grab of the shoe on their Twitter where it said, “What are those?” That was cool, but they didn’t shout me out or tag me so it was whatever. On Tuesday, I wake to a whole bunch of emails and text messages from people all over the state sending me screen grabs telling me it was on the morning news in Houston and in Austin. I had emails from the CW33 in Dallas, I had emails from the San Antonio Express News, it had hit the San Antonio Current, it had hit a couple of the new stations, sites and papers around the states. It had went viral again, but for whatever reason Whataburger deleted it again. Today I’ll be meeting up at the Spurs pep rally for Miles in the Morning for an interview about the shoe. It’s funny how it works.
I haven’t heard anything directly from Whataburger. There’s people asking for the Whataburger shoe. They’ll email me and literally just write “Whataburger Shoe” in the title. [Laughs] Back when I originally did the shoe and Whataburger posted it, I had a store manager inquire about getting his entire staff shoes. He probably expected them to be like $75, but when I gave him a $500 ticket he was like, “Aw, hell no!” [Laughs] I hope they hit me up, man. I could use some free lunch for life. [Laughs]