The confessions of a Sneakerhead is finally here. Every Friday night when most adults are celebrating the weekend and enjoying the company of friends and bartenders some people are gearing up for a long night on the streets. This isn’t a piece about the homeless though; this is a choice and a lifestyle.
There is a group of people who wait on the streets patiently in single file line all night long in hopes of getting the newest pair of Air Jordans. These diehard individuals are known as “sneakerheads.” The level of devotion displayed by this cohort is on par with that of mailmen. Rain, sleet, snow or hail you may find them out on the streets waiting for the doors to open.
It is not uncommon to see kids sitting in chairs or even on the concrete waiting for the doors to open at Nike retailers like Extra Butter located in Rockville Centre, New York. Extra Butter has gained notoriety for their definitive movie styled theme and their ability to consistently have fair and safe releases. Co-owner Jason Faustino attributes the calm demeanor of their consumers to the strong following their boutique has garnered.
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“I think our customers realize how strong we are on the web,” said Faustino. “They know that if they were to act out we could just open up to web and phone orders they would sell out in two seconds and they’d all be out of luck.”
The Jordan brand continually drops the best and most iconic colorways around the holidays and that makes for lines that snake around city streets through frigid temperatures and arctic conditions. All for the hopes of spending anywhere from $160-$180 on a pair of retro basketball shoes. The most sought after of all 23 different models are Air Jordan 11s. These are the shoes that MJ wore throughout his comeback season where he led his Chicago Bulls to the best regular season record of all-time (72-10). Yes, the shoes have history, but when Jordan released the Air Jordan 11 “Concords” (which were the exact one worn throughout the historic season) all hell broke loose. Literally. Two days before Christmas, on Dec. 23, 2011 these shoes were the number one item on so many wishlists that grown men and women resorted to violence in an attempt to secure the coveted sneakers.
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One has to wonder how so many young kids get put on to these shoes, but in the age of the internet it’s not that strange for a youngster to see some of Jordan’s highlights and instantly idolize number 23.
Faustino realized that kids who may not even really know what Jordan’s are will see a pair of Jordan’s on a shelf and gravitate towards them (ya know back when they actually would sit on shelves).
“I think some kids see him [Jordan] on the Internet,” said Faustino. “But others may not even know what Jordan 3s or 4s or 5s are and they just gravitate towards them. I think the designs are timeless.”
The problem lies in the culture of these sneakers. It starts at the very top and trickles down but the blame and responsibility rests equally on everyone’s shoulders.
For starters, the Jordan brand only gives most retailers one set. That is only 18 pairs of shoes per store, one set for men, one for women and one for kids. If they only made the quantity greater then the demand would not mirror that of an angry mob. The frenzy of the masses is straight up dangerous and Nike and Jordan should do a better job of quelling this turmoil even it comes at the cost of making these shoes less rare.
Retailers are starting to take initiative in creating safer releases. Nike has led the pack by starting twitter RSVP’s by particular Niketown locations as well as raffles. One reason for this is to circumvent street violence associated with these releases but there is also another issue amongst these shoes adorned with the legendary jumpman: street value.
It is mind boggling to some and standard practice for others, but some people will buy a used shoe (Hey, don’t judge) for actually more money than its initial release. Then there are the resellers. Probably unnecessary to explain, but some people go and buy a slew of pairs just to hustle them for a quick payday. Now, everyone respects the desire to put food on the table, but these sneaker outages lead to the insanity that has cost some people their lives.
Perhaps the craziest part in all of this; the main age group that goes out to buy these shoes were barely alive to see Michael Jordan touch a basketball.