NEW YORK -- A pair of Nike releases had sneakerheads lined up in front of a Finish Line store a block away from Madison Square Garden last Sunday. The same could be said at a Foot Locker store in Harlem as a few dozen were waiting to get their names on a list.
Some just wanted to get a ticket that would allow them to purchase Friday's Air Jordan Retro IV in the black/cement/red colorway that was originally released back in 1989 --when most of those in line were not even born. Others were looking to scoop up the pink and silver Air Foamposite One that dropped Wednesday morning, the ones Boston's Rajon Rondo wore during the Celtics' first game of the year in Miami.
Waiting in line for sneakers is hard to comprehend. About four years ago, I braved a few cold hours in SoHo waiting in line for blocks, only to give up, go home and then take a cab back to the store to purchase the Nike “Black Friday” Air Force One that was a collaboration between Nike and DJ Clark Kent. The end result: A cold that took weeks to go away. I did line up another time, but the wait was a lot shorter.
Some of the patrons at a neighborhood store were wondering whether they will still be lining up as they get older, especially on a cold day. One was thinking about abandoning the idea of waiting in line and just paying extra for the shoes.
One option for buyers: Nike banned the trouble-plagued midnight releases, and introduced a new system in which buyers can RSVP to purchase shoes at a Nike store via direct message on Twitter. But our crowd wasn't sure this was the solution, either.
Val Bonsy recalled the days when he would just get up in the morning and hit up the famous mom-and-pop shop, KP Original Sporting Goods in Harlem, for the Air Jordans at the top of his wish list. The 38-year-old made it inside the Foot Locker store (while keeping an eye on his car that was stationed near a bus stop) and reserved his size 10.5 Foamposites.
“When I was growing up, you could walk in the store at whatever time, 12 o'clock until 10 o'clock at night and walk in to just get your pair,” Bonsy said. “Now you can't even get a pair. It's hard to get them now.”
One reseller was looking to spend about $1,000 to $2,000 for both releases, which he said was the average in order for him to “flip” or resell the sneakers. He estimated having made between $14,000 to $20,000 this year alone. He said that he knew others that did it full-time, making up to $100,000 a year while keeping inventories at sneaker consignment stores like Flight Club, and operating their own eBay stores, keeping a shoe inventory between 100 and 200 pairs on a consistent basis.
“The Nike supply of sneakers has not met the demand for the popular shoes, therefore creating a resale market and spawning stores like Flight Club,” the reseller said, asking to withold his name due to his direct connection with the footwear company.
Although resellers believe they're providing a service, they are detested by those who want the sneaker for its true essence: to be worn.
“It's corrupted the experience of going out and buying sneakers you want right now,” said Bonsy, who claims to have more than 2,000 pairs of sneakers among his home, and his mother's and sister's houses.
“For certain Kevin Durants, I'm not going to pay $300 for no $95 sneaker. I'm not with it," Deshaun Gales, of the Bronx, said. "If other people would stop doing it, too, then resellers would not have a job. They wouldn't resell. If people would stop beasting to pay that extra money, they wouldn't be reselling.”
Gales, a sneaker aficionado, said he may even abandon his allegiance to Nike, and instead just splurge for high-end sneakers from Louis Vuitton.
“It's hype. The hypebeasts just hype it up and make it more than it is,” Gales said. “Back in the day I would get in a little line or pay a little extra. You would pay an extra $30, $40 extra. If I wanted to get these now without lining up, people would be charging $400, and I am not paying $400."
It would be hard for the hype to die down. The cost of production has increased, and the appetite will always be there because of the laws of supply and demand for Air Jordans and other sought-after sneakers.
In a few weeks, there will be a couple of hundred buyers lining up again, patiently waiting for some retro MJ's.
For me, it's not worth catching a cold.