5 Weirdly Stressful Aspects of America's Sneaker Obsession
Hey, Cracked reader! I have one question for you ... WHAT ARE THOSE? By the time you read this, that meme will have been run deep into the ground, as it so often goes with anything even moderately fun or entertaining on the Internet.
The appropriate reply is, "They're the new deez ..."
There is a reason that meme exists, though, and it's because shoes are a huge obsession among my people. And by "my people," of course, I mean "male 20-somethings who spend a lot of time online." What did you think I meant?
It doesn't matter. What's important is that if you've ever wondered how shoes came to be such a huge obsession with the youth of this nation and, more importantly, why it stresses people out as much as it does, I have the answers. Here goes ...
There Are Conventions For Shoes, Just Like Comic Books
I suppose this isn't that surprising, considering there are entire groups of adult men who gather en masse to gush over a pony cartoon aimed at young girls. Cosplay is somehow still a thing. Etc., etc., etc. -- I'm not here to shit on your stupid hobbies, though; I'm here to shit on mine. Besides, I definitely don't want beef with an adult male who has enough free time to conceptualize and create a pony costume.
However, if you guys ever want to step up your horseshoe game, just say the word.
What I'm getting at is that once the Internet latches onto something at obsessive levels, they reach the highest levels imaginable, up to and including renting out huge convention spaces to house hundreds (sometimes thousands) of like-minded shoe enthusiasts.
In terms of size, sneaker conventions run the gamut from small gatherings consisting mostly of local sellers in your area to huge blowouts such as Sneaker Con, a massive convention that travels around the country and includes hundreds of vendors. People might not show up in Dominique Wilkins cosplay or anything, but, rest assured, it's every bit as serious as any comic book convention.
Though this costume is damn sure easier to pull off than whatever fully-working Iron Man bullshit that Comic Con guys do.
Everyone has his or her reasons for going. Most show up to buy, sell, or trade shoes, obviously. Sometimes, it's just to network for their blogs (yep, lots of shoe blogs out there, too). Or, maybe people who might not have hundreds of dollars to throw around go just to get a close-up glimpse at an impossible-to-find pair of sneakers that rarely leave the comfort of their owner's temperature-controlled storage box.
Such as this unassuming pair of Air Jordans that cost as much as a new car.
If you think this is a lot of hoopla over sneakers, you're right. People cherish sneakers the way gearheads value a classic car or comic fans value that time Spiderman teamed up with the Incredible Hulk Hogan to save a bus full of Jedis (I don't really fuck with comics, sorry).
But, the biggest draw is the chance to maybe get a pair of sneakers that no one else in your city or state has ever owned or has even seen in person before. If you were wondering what's so stressful about the fact that sneaker conventions exist, there it is. Sometimes, your only option for finding the pair you want is to shell out ticket money for a convention and then just kind of hope someone is selling them at a price you can afford. In fact, let's talk about that next.
Some Pairs Are Impossible To Get, Even If You Can Afford Them
Do you hold Kanye West and overpriced Adidas in equally high regard? If so, shoes designed specifically for your odd combo of passions absolutely exist, and the chances of you ever owning them are slim to none. They're called the Kanye West x Adidas Yeezy Boost 750, and, if you weren't following Adidas on Twitter at the exact moment their release was announced, you were already too late. Moments after that announcement happened, eager customers snatched them up so quickly the influx of traffic to the Adidas website crashed their servers. They were gone in minutes.
503s & Heartbreak
No worries, though, if you absolutely must own a pair of basketball shoes tied to a rapper who would probably lose a game of one-on-one to the benchwarming-est player on your local junior college team, there still might be some hope. Your favorite Canadian rapper/former Degrassi High cast member, Drake, has his own signature shoe with the cream of the crop brand, Jordan. They're called the OVO Retro 10. Maybe you've seen them in pictures online at some point.
Don't be fooled by the backdrop, by the way -- there's as much of a chance of someone ever wearing
these into a dirty auto shop as there is of a pair falling out of the sky and hitting you in the head.
If not, enjoy the one above, because that picture is probably as close to actually seeing these shoes as you'll ever get. Not only did they sell out in less than a day online, there were some entire states that never even got them in stores. If you did find them, the owner wouldn't even let you buy them unless you put them on right there on the spot and walked out of the store with them on your feet in some cases. That was a deal breaker for a lot of people, because who the fuck is buying shoes like that just to wear them in public?
Still, no problem, December is right around the corner, and that means the annual Jordan Retro 11 releases are, too. Boom, now you're in Foot Locker, you have your debit card, you have your dreams, and you have ... a raffle ticket? That's right, even when a pair of sneakers appear to be readily available, the deluge of people who descend on any given store sometimes gets so out of hand that they have to take phone numbers from customers, draw those numbers from a hat, and then call the people who "won" so they can come back and make their purchase.
All the thrill of winning a contest but without any of that pesky free stuff.
Remember when adult males all across the country lost their shit because some stores didn't have every single item from the recent release of Star Wars action figures in stock? It's the same thing except, in this case, you know it's going to happen every time, and complaining about it would just make you look dumb because it's so incredibly common of an occurrence.
But, hey, at least there's always resellers!
Resellers Make Things Even Harder
After consistently striking out in your attempt to get the exact pair of basketball shoes you want (sorry for mixing metaphors there), you decide to go for the nuclear option ... you contact a reseller. Ah, the reseller. Depending on who you ask, he is either a selfish sleazeball who somehow managed to get 15 pairs of the shoe you wanted and has marked the price up to some exorbitant amount that makes hedge fund AIDS drugs seem reasonably priced, or he's just a guy who was able to get a couple pairs and wants to sell them to make enough to feed his sick mother. The only person who would ever make the second of those two arguments is the reseller himself, and you should never believe him. But, whatever, you've met now, and it's time to talk price. Honestly, how bad could it really be?
Wait, gimme a second -- couldn't get to the end of that sentence with a straight face.
Well, let's take those Yeezy Boost 350s as an example. They originally retailed for $200. If you're seeking a pair on the reseller market, be prepared to pay anywhere from $800 on the low end of things and all the way up to $1,250. Granted, every shoe doesn't get that same kind of markup, but it happens more than anyone living paycheck to paycheck would like.
It's not completely hopeless, though. Depending on the popularity of a shoe, if you pay $190 before tax, you can expect to resell it for about $240-270. That's not completely unreasonable, and the abundance of resellers can be a good thing if you missed out on getting the shoes you wanted through more traditional means.
If entering a raffle for the privilege of shelling out $200 could ever be called "traditional."
That said, it still all comes down to supply and demand shit that shoemakers could fix at least a little if they would just spread the wealth around a bit. What I said previously about some areas not getting some shoes in stores at all never applies to places such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston. Those are big markets with a lot of potential customers, and it's those areas that allow the reseller market to thrive the way it does currently. Sure, there are lots of reputable resellers in existence, but, even then, it might not help because ...
The Rarest Shoes Sell for Courtside Seat Money
OK, fuck it, you hustle hard, and, goddammit, you're ready to spend some of that ill-gotten cash on shoes you'll be too afraid to wear outside of a hermetically-sealed environment. Realistically, how bad can the markup really be?
Sorry, thought I could get through it without laughing that time.
Here's hoping you're at the head of your criminal empire and not just a foot soldier in someone else's, because for some shoes, nothing less than top 1-percent money will get them on your feet. You like Jordans? Of course you do, you're reading this article, after all. So, how about translating your recent financial windfall into a pair of the super-hard-to-find Jordan Tokyo 5s. They were released in 2011, but only in Japan. If you're looking to get a pair here in the United States, expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000.
Oh, that's not a neighborhood you're comfortable visiting? Sorry, it could be worse. If you were one of the people who absolutely had to get their hands on those Eminem x Jordan Encore 4s, such as Major League Baseball player Cecil Fielder, expect to pay something closer to $10,000. Unless you can get Eminem to just trade you a pair for a couple of signed bats or something.
So, fine, maybe you can't afford to wear a pair of rare Jordans; it's not like those are the only shoes people wear. How about a pair of Foamposites, instead? A pair of Nike Air Foamposite One ParaNormans (yes, like the movie) will set you back a mere $3,250. A small price to pay when you consider that they glow in the goddamn dark.
Speaking of movie shoes, if you're a Back To The Future fan and still have your heart set on owning a pair of "Marty McFlys" (science calls them Nike Air Mags), I have the worst news possible. They were only released on EBay as part of a charity auction, making the resale value more than you can even probably afford to read about. Case in point: British rapper Tinie Tempah paid $37,500 for his. You could probably build a working hoverboard for less.
Whether they stick to the movie and announce "Your bank account is now dry!" is unclear, but you've gotta assume.
You know what? Maybe you should think less about the future and look for something retro, instead. Except, if you do, you'll be surprised to learn that ...
A Slight Change Could Mean A Huge Difference In Price
OK, stay with me here. I'll try to make this as easy to understand as possible. Remember that time when you were a kid and all you wanted out of life was an Optimus Prime toy, but your mom came home with a stupid GoBot instead? To her untrained eye, a robot that turns into something else is a robot that turns into something else. What's the difference?
It's a huge difference, mom! You can't realistically expect her to know that, though, and the exact same thing happens with sneakers. Take the original Jordans, for example. They were first released in 1985, before Michael Jordan was Air Jordan. Shoe contracts weren't really a thing in the NBA at the time, so the league had some trouble adjusting. In fact, every time MJ wore the version we've now come to know as BRED 1s, he was fined $5,000. Every time. Nike picked up the tab, of course, so it mostly just amounted to good publicity and increased sales.
Back when Nike engaged in the questionable business practice of "Making enough of a popular product to fill demand."
Nike has re-released that shoe several times over the years, but, a few years back, they released a "banned" version. And, boy, will they set you back some cash. How are they different from all of the other versions that have hit shelves over the years? This ...
Don't blink, or else you'll miss it.
That's all. There's an "X" where the Jumpman would normally be. No other changes whatsoever. That one design change, though, means that on the resale market, you'll pay anywhere from $600-900, compared to just $300 for any other version.
Weirdly enough, paying that kind of money because of a stupid "X" is borderline blasphemy to a true Jordan purist. For them, the only shoes that matter are the Jordan 1s to Jordan 13s. Why? Because he didn't actually play in any of his signature shoes past those. Everything since has just been another way for a man who wants all the money (he once successfully sued a grocery store for $8.9 million for putting his jersey on a flyer promoting a sale on steaks) to come closer to achieving that dream. But, just like having Amazing Fantasy issue #1 and Ultimate Spiderman #1 isn't the same, neither is having a pair of Jordan Flights and a pair of Retro 7s. They might look identical, but one holds memories of Jordan in the playoffs and breaking records, while the other is just a cash grab to catch ignorant mothers off guard.
That might seem like a minor detail to you, but, for a sneakerhead, it makes all the difference in the world.
Jawn doesn't read comments so send your hate mail on Twitter @JawnLouis.
You can get shot over a pair of sneakers. See how a pair of Jordans turned a shopping center into an episode of "The Wire" in 4 People Who Went Insane Waiting In Line To Buy Stuff, and take a look at a pair of Reeboks you have to buy based on the name alone in The 8 Most Ill-Conceived Product Names Of All Time.
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