How greed ruined sneaker culture

Air Jordan 1 shoes. (Photo: Zali Albertiri)

In 2020, the retail sneaker market was worth $100 billion globally. Currently, the worldwide resale market is valued at around $6 billion. Made up of private resellers and consignment stores, people all over the world are trying to make money off the inflation of sneakers.

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State of the sneaker market graph

StockX

Some believe the resale market has ruined what was once a flourishing community. When the craze first started, people camped out in line for hours or even days in front of stores to get their hands on the newest shoe from retailers.

Getting to know everyone in line with the same passion was just as fun as getting the actual shoe; it was part of the experience. While this is still commonplace today, several other methods are used to cop the freshest shoes of the week.

A widespread tool used to buy shoes online now is bots. A bot is computer software that is programmed to log into a website as up to hundreds of different ‘customers’ to have a greater chance at securing a pair.

Although decent bots come at a hefty price of around US$2000, it can be a long-term investment for many resellers. But for those who miss out, it creates an unfair advantage and prevents true fans from wearing the shoes for the enjoyment.

Jimmi Albertiri has been a sneakerhead since his teenage years. After buying a pair of Air Maxs in 1995, he fell in love with the culture and history of sneakers. Being a teenager of the ’90s, when Michael Jordan (a pioneer of the sneaker movement) was in his prime, Jimmi buys his shoes for nostalgic purposes.

“They have an attachment to the past or a player that I have watched growing up,” he said. “Bots take away the enjoyment of getting sneakers.“

“Now, it’s not about who gets them but who gets to make the most money from them.”

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Jimmi’s sneaker collection

Jimmi Albertiri

Jimmi believes that this outlook on sneakers, where everyone has to make their money’s worth, has ruined the culture that started it all.

“I find the value of the shoe outweighs the actual history of the shoe,” he said. “People will buy a sneaker not because it is cool or it has a history. They will buy it simply because it’s expensive and trending.”

“The culture used to be about making what you had cool. The resale culture has shown that following a trend is more valuable than creating a community.”

Someone who owns a sneaker reselling business will buy shoes when released for the retail price, wait until they sell out, then sell them for the new, higher, market price. Depending on the scarcity and ‘hype’ of the item, reselling prices can be up to a few thousand dollars over the retail price.

The Australian sneaker scene is very different from the American one. It is much harder to find a store that releases shoes for retail prices on release day, so it has opened up a market for private resellers and consignment stores across the country.

Consignment stores are popping up all over Sydney at the moment. Like private resellers, consignment stores buy shoes and sell them to the public at market price, yet their methods are different.

Consignment stores use resellers to sustain their inventory, selling their sneakers to reach a broader customer base, and have a higher likelihood of a sale.

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SECRET SNEAKER STORE

Westfield Australia

SECRET SNEAKER STORE is an Australian sneaker and streetwear consignment business with stores in both Melbourne and Sydney. While they do not use bots or employees to collect items, they do have the advantage of being one of the few physical high-end sneaker stores in Australia that keeps constant stock.

However, with this power, they can also charge a high price for their sneakers solely for the convenience of having a physical pair in hand after paying for them. With limited competition, SECRET SNEAKER STORE continues the reselling trend.

“We base our prices off of places like StockX and GOAT as well as Australian marketplaces like KICKSTAND,” said SECRET SNEAKER STORE employee Jaden, “then add a 20% markup to cover fees for the consignor.”

“I wouldn’t say it is unethical. I’d say it’s inevitable. There’s always going to be supply and demand. Big brands could eliminate reselling altogether by stocking more shoes, but I don’t think they ever will.”

“They profit from this. it’s what keeps their brand afloat because people want something that they can’t get and will make more people try and buy it. They thrive off of aftermarket sales.”

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