When I was growing up, I had an astounding fascination with sneakers, as most kids back then and especially today do. My problem was, I could never afford them. I wasn’t gifted an allowance. Sure, I had chores like every child should, but I didn’t earn more than a roof over my head and food on my plate for it. To me, seeing $100 pair of shoes was no different than seeing a $100,000 car in the sense that, both were unobtainable and mere figures of my imagination at that point. Throughout my childhood I was given an average of one pair of new shoes every year and since I had been playing basketball in a league since I was eight years old, they were always basketball shoes. Last years’ shoes became play shoes and on some rare occasions, I was given hand-me-downs from my brother when I finally grew into them. If I ever had the guts to ask my dad for a new pair and it wasn’t my birthday or basketball season he would say something in the realm of, “Why do you need a $100 pair of shoes? Are the ones on your feet not good enough for you?” and put an end to that thought real quick.
My love for shoes was there, but my motivation to learn about them from the technology to the history of them never developed until about a year ago. And why should it? I couldn’t afford them. Why should I spend my time ogling objects that I couldn’t have? When I finally had a job and a steady income, I started looking into shoes once again. The problem was that now, years later, the market had shifted gradually and prices had begun to rise. The shoes that I used to see for $100 had climbed up to $120-$150,pending the shoe. I would think to myself, “how the hell can anyone really be paying that much for shoes?” in disbelief, only to turn the news on and see people literally dying to get their hands on pairs of Jordan’s. It was stupid to me then and still is today. No life is worth a pair of shoes, yet people would continue to assault each other for them.
The market for sneakers hit a turning point around the time of the Air Jordan XI “Concord” release in December of 2011, a mere two days before Christmas, when riots and altercations broke out across the country for the shoe, in effort of trying to get a pair. One instance specifically, at Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis, stood out over many others as consumers literally popped the doors off their hinges and trampled others while running through the mall to get their pair.
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Of course, this wasn’t the sole reason that further action was taken on sneaker launches, such as Twitter RSVP sneakerheads have come to hate, but it was a wakeup call. A wakeup call to not only retailers, but resellers as well. People looked at those mobs and thought, “Wow, people really want shoes THAT bad? I think I know how I can make some money.” This wasn’t, of course, the birth of the reseller, but it began that there were more of them showing up at campouts and hustling shoes in anyway they could. The market for shoes had shifted and prices almost became unbearable for most people if you didn’t manage to snag a pair at retail price. But in the end, we, as sneakerheads, support it. And why shouldn’t we? We hate the reseller, but we want our shoes. I have coworkers who have shamelessly paid over $1,000 for a pair of shoes that weren’t Yeezy’s or classic, hard to find Jordan’s. I’ve also talked to others who I’ve seen in pairs of the MVP LeBron X and the LeBron X Championship Pack and asked out of curiosity how much they paid for them to which they replied, “I’m way too embarrassed to tell you.” Yes, those were very exclusive launches that we don’t see everyday, but that just makes it so much better for resellers. Why should they have a regular 9-5 job when they could camp for a week or so for a pair of shoes they can sell for the price of rent, gas, groceries and enough to put some into their savings account?
Retailers are also where the game is getting out of control. Prices for retro Jordan’s have climbed up to $160 and are set to rise again in 2014 to $170. But what’s an extra $10 when you’re already paying $160? That’s what people said the last time the price went up. Meanwhile, Foamposites are sitting pretty in the mid $200 range and many people don’t seem to have a problem with it. Hell, I even waited in line for the Barkley Posite Max “Area 72’s” back in February and paid $270 for them. I almost vomited as I swiped my card in disbelief that I was really paying that for a shoe. And that’s far from the worst of it. I’m sure many of you laughed as you read my reaction to a shoe priced at $270. That’s potentially a drop in the bucket for anyone who owns a pair of Air Yeezy II’s. Granted, that release was far more limited, it’s staggering to see what people will do for a pair of shoes. At Shoe Palace inside Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas, they made people show up at certain times for a check-in by showing their ID every so often for the Yeezy II’s (this process was due to the policy of consumers aren’t allowed to camp in the mall). If you missed a check-in, it was to the bottom of the list you went and at that point, you had no chance at all. Pairs were awarded to the first thirteen people on that list for the retail price of $250… along with an additional purchase of $400 worth of clothing you had to buy from there in order to buy the kicks and that didn’t include accessories or even socks. SHIEKH in San Francisco, a shop located on a street, welcomed all campers for a week and a half as they lined up. Those so lucky to get a pair of Kanye’s latest shoe only had to pay $1,000 for it, a markup of 400%. I’m sure more retailers made consumers jump through hoops to get theirs, too.
Moving forward, it’s only going to get worst for your wallet. The demand for signature shoes is at an all-time high and we’re willing to pay almost any price for a retro Jordan made with cheaper materials than the original. KD’s just moved up in price to $135 with the release of the KD VI and Kobe 8’s are steady at $140. Then there’s the king himself, LeBron James. James’ eleventh signature shoe, set to drop next month, is priced at; $200 for men’s sizes, $140 for grades school, $70 for preschool and a crisp $50 for toddlers. Meaning, if your child will be showing up to 3rd grade in a pair of LeBron XI’s, it’s going to cost you the price of Kobe 8’s and almost a retro Jordan in an adult size for a shoe with a non-marking sole he will probably never truly appreciate.
There really is no end to the rise in price in sneakers. The market’s fantastic right now as violence is steadily at a low-point for releases, thanks to online launches and Twitter RSVP, so retailers are not in fear in losing consumers or even parts of their store due to riots. EBay is still booming and new color ways and retros are always dropping, keeping us excited for what more there is to come. The real question is, when will you say, “enough,” and stop buying shoes? Will that day ever come, or will you continue to buy no matter what?