By Mari Foote
This week I took four L’s on the SNKRs app. It was a personal record, one that I am not proud of, and in this moment of failure, I began to remember when times were simpler. When I could camp outside of a Footlocker and get the sneakers I wanted or when a robot couldn’t copp every pair of Dunks before I could even get into the app. This time was only a few years ago but feels a lifetime away.
Sneaker culture has seen its highs and lows through the years with various sneakers peaking in popularity then plummeting in sales. Subsequently, as technology evolved, so did the shoe game.
Believe it or not, there was a time where people couldn’t imagine waiting hours for sneakers. But it all quickly changed with the release of the Air Jordan’s. The signature sneaker is named after Michael Jordan, who is arguably the best basketball player in history, but definitely the most popular. Though he hadn’t reached his peak at the time, the hype surrounding his name had reached unprecedented numbers. Just a year before the first Jordan release, Nike Owner Phil Knight said that it was a “rough year” for the company as they fell in comparison to its competitors. However, the dry spell didn’t last too long with the release of the first pair of Jordans in 199. According to The Ringer, the company expected to sell 100,000 but ended up shipping over 1 million in less than two months.
This hype surrounding sneakers was one that had not been seen before but would continue to be seen for ages. Fast-forward and it is not just the athletes that make sneaker collaborations, artists like Travis Scott have seen success in the sneaker business.
It is also important to note that what has and will continue to drive sneaker culture was Black culture. When my dad was younger, it was RUN DMC and their Adidas. When I was really young, it was Nelly’s Air Forces. Now, it’s the DMV’s push for New Balance’s. Before last year, I would never imagine the “dad shoe” gaining so much popularity but it did. WIth one colorway being resold for over 1,000 dollars according to Complex. While we may not be the big buyers in the resell market, we are the ones creating the hype for it to be resold.
Dwight from NBC’s The Office, describes it perfectly “You gotta get the Black people to do it to get the white people to do it.”
Some would even argue that this new form of sneaker culture is exclusive to the Black people that gave it, its name. Dallas Penn was quoted saying, “Sneaker culture has been colonized and the valuable resource which was authentic style and presentation has been extracted like diamonds from a mine in Rwanda.”
This is true. As sneaker culture has evolved it has become less about style and a form of expression and more of just another example of class and privilege. Despite this, Black people still find ways to control what’s in and what’s out. You can buy as many sneakers from GOAT as you want, but you can’t buy drip.
Nonetheless, with so many more people from all walks of life trying to get their hands on a pair of sneakers, it creates more hype, which then causes resell prices to skyrocket. This is great for the brand because it creates more exclusivity, which drives the consumer to purchase. For the buyer, it means that there is a lot more competition. Sneaker lovers are not just fighting amongst each other, they are also fighting with resellers trying to make a quick buck.
The reselling game began in the early 2000s when Nike began re-releasing Jordans. Since the concept of a re-release of a “Retro” sneaker was new it did not immediately stick, but eventually became every sneakerhead’s dream. Then, it was all about getting rare and limited sneakers and keeping them in pristine condition. The hope was that they would appreciate in value over the years and you could make a fortune.
However, with the introduction of the internet, people are reselling anything. If you were to tell someone 30 years ago that people were bidding on Post Malone Crocs for a hundred dollars they would call you crazy.
Websites like StockX and GOAT, give you the opportunity to make up for lost draws or setting the wrong alarm clock. As long as you have a few hundred, or thousand, dollars to spare. For people like me who don’t have that money, we are suffering. However, pleasing the consumer with the money is much more lucrative than pleasing someone like me who has to save for every drop.
This is why the reselling business is projected to reach 30 billion dollars in the next ten years according to Yahoo Finance. Which means now is a great time to get into the business while you can if money is your goal. However, if you are interested in expanding your collection or just getting some cute sneakers for your boo, it means you need to get your bread up quickly.
Although the sneaker game has definitely changed, it isn’t going anywhere. One thing for sure is that it’s going to work to serve whoever has the most to offer.