I'm going to tell you a not-so-secret secret about buying sneakers: the whole experience sucks. Maybe you're not a sneakerhead, per se — I'm probably not either by current standards — and you're not hip to how it goes nowadays. Let me explain.
Say there's a forthcoming release generating a bit of interest. It's been picked up by the usual press and the brand responsible — for example's sake we'll go with Nike — has made its presence known on their social media channels. Then, until the day it drops, it sits on some sort of release calendar, a date-keeper for popular kicks, as the name implies.
There you can sign up to be notified once it's out or, if done via drawing, placed in a lottery for the chance to buy them. Most times you're required to enter your credit card information, a shipping address and an email all before you're at checkout. It's convenient, in theory, but only if you end up getting a pair — which, it seems, never happens.
The day of, a number of social media accounts count the minutes until it drops. Some promise a way in and at least an "add to cart." They're almost always gone by the time the page loads.
Many brands have committed to democratizing the purchasing process, while some have all but guaranteed they've eliminated bots, inventory-raiding resellers and back door buys. (Even Nike's faced a few problems. Did you read the news about a Nike exec rerouting shoes straight to their reseller son?) But what's really being done?
Some sites introduce riddles and other interactive gateways only humans can maneuver. Others block suspicious IPs or entire IP ranges as fit. URLs are altered to avoid mentioning a product by name, oftentimes eluding the automated system that's hunting them.
Sure, that's good news and all but what's the point? Shouldn't we ask that they address the real problem? Buying sneakers isn't fun anymore! And before you call me the old man yelling at the clouds — I'm 26, relax — I think we can all agree that things have gotten out of hand. Long lines once reserved for the city blocks surrounding stores like Supreme have since transitioned online and are growing with each passing week.
Demand far outnumbers supply, in most cases. Whether it be fear of a flop or frugality, brands capable of churning out more product simply choose not to, driving interest and resale prices through the roof. Those equipped with the technology or free time to acquire their desired pair become the select few wearing them (most times not) or full-on businesses profiting off of others trying to get theirs, too.
The entire ecosystem is a speeding train incapable of slowing down. Right now, there are 15 sneakers — not pairs but styles — with bids above $20,000 on StockX, one of the most popular reseller networks. 27 different styles on GOAT, another platform, are above that same ask. If Nike were to suddenly restock the Dior Jordan 1s — a style reselling for as much as $27,000 — no one would be mad. More people would buy them. Nike would make more money. It'd be the resellers that flounder. So, who does scarcity benefit?
It's not as if Nike takes a cut each time one of their sneakers is sold in the secondary market. Instead, intentional scarcity upholds a manufactured market —aka hype — designed to differentiate consumers and product classes from one another. It's this sort of division that creates a culture that admires an all-over, arguably ugly, patterned shoe (Ben and Jerry dunks) but trashes comfortable and fairly-priced footwear (the Nike Roshe One).
Sure, a simple mesh Nike might not be the most eye-catching option, but there are plenty of other general release sneakers worth wearing. Have you checked out the usual mall staples lately? Champ's, Footlocker, Journeys, Footaction? There are good sneakers there — and one's you don't have to shell out several hundred dollars for. See our picks from these popular retailers below. Be free from the burden of buying over-hyped sneakers!