For the past 31 years, millions of teens and young adults have been seen lining the streets, sometimes over night for one thing: sneakers. When asked if this is a bit excessive, they reply that its simply the life of a sneakerhead. Welcome to their world.
But what is a sneakerhead? According to Javier Perez, a New York native and longtime sneaker collector, a sneakerhead is someone who “lives, breathes, and sleeps sneaker culture. They don’t go to a store and buy any pair of sneakers. They understand the significance of the shoe, study its history, line up, and appreciate the shoe as a form of wearable art.
Because that’s what a sneaker is, “art that you wear on your feet.” But with the rise of the popularity of sneakers, came a new breed of sneakerhead. These entrepreneurship minded collectors have carved out the ultimate niche for themselves becoming best friends with the likes of musicians such as the Migos or DJ Khalid. There known as “resellers” and this new breed of entrepreneur is hungry, smart, and most of them can’t even buy alcohol yet.
“Copping sneakers isn’t as easy as it looks, man. There’s so much legwork and connections that go into it. That goes into the resale price of the shoe,” explains Matt Appice. a 17-year-old that has been in the sneaker reselling business since he was 14.
However, after numerous instances of hectic sneaker releases and even violence surrounding sneaker releases, sneaker retailers and manufacturers developed new methods to make their wares available to the masses, such as raffles and online-only releases.
The sneaker resellers were not deterred. “We found ways around it. We would get our friends to come with us to get as many names in raffles as possible so we could win ‘em, and we wrote programs that would work against the websites, called bots, to get the shoes in our carts before anyone else could. It was pretty ingenious, but a little messed up, too”, Donte Fearrington, 18, confesses with a trace of smile.
And he’s not the only one. Thousands have taken to reselling sneakers to make a couple bucks on the side, or even become their primary source of income. Fearrington states that you should never underestimate the hunger for sneakers. “No matter how high the supply is, the demand for rare sneakers is always going to be greater.” Getting the sneakers is the hard part. Selling them though, is easy.
The methods sneaker resellers have to hawk their wares is almost endless. Many immediately go to online websites such as eBay to compete with other resellers to “flip” their sneakers. To sell their sneakers for a higher price than they retail sticker price or go to conventions. Others go to conventions such as SneakerCon, to buy, sell, or trade with other sneakerheads to get their desired pairs. The more efficient resellers create social media pages. If you are trying to resell sneakers, the best place to go is Instagram, many sneakerheads will claim.
Marlon Brown, a 16 year old junior in high school speaks on the ease of Instagram, stating, “It’s the easiest way to sell sneakers. I take a photo of the shoes I’m selling with a caption saying the price and what sizes I have. [Then] give them the right hashtags, and all I have to do is sit back and let the orders flood in. If you do good business your customers may refer you to other customers. Then your business keeps growing.” he says as he checks his Instagram for orders.
Today, he posted that he’s selling his Nike Air Jordan 1 “Royals” in a full size range for $260. He’s already received 15 orders. When asked how much he makes off of sneaker reselling in a year, he doesn’t give an exact figure but answers that its “somewhere in the $7,000 range”. This type of profit margin isn’t surprising to many analysts who claim that sneaker reselling as a whole can generate around 600 million dollars a year as a business.
Not everyone is in love with sneaker resellers, though. There has been a long-standing conflict between sneaker resellers, and sneaker fans that want to buy the shoes at a reasonable price. That being the retail sticker price. Many sneakerheads feel that resellers are taking advantage of those in the sneaker community making a profit off other people’s passion. None feel as strongly about the conflict as Zach Marlowe, a veteran sneaker enthusiast. “They are a cancer to the culture. The prices they sell at, the bots, the kids they get lining up to make a quick buck for them. It’s all wrong. They’re what’s wrong with the sneaker game as it stands,” he says with a noticeable look of disgust. He isn’t alone in this feeling. Even retailers such as Foot Locker have unofficially started barring known resellers.
When asked does he think this will slow down business, Brown cracks a smirk and says no. “I sell at prices that I know people are willing to buy. People will pay whatever if they want it bad enough, so I set the price where the market will sustain it. If I can keep doing that, I can keep business as good as its been the past couple of years.”
Judging by the sheer number of orders he has received in one day, he most likely has nothing to worry about.