How Can a Pair of Kicks Be Worth So Much?
I honestly didn’t know about the high-fashion designer world until I started PnS. That’s partly why PreachersNSneakers created such a stir, because unsuspecting followers of these leaders of the faith were getting a first look at what this stuff was actually worth and were forced to wrestle with how they felt about it and why they felt that way. I imagine a lot of you just thought that these guys were trying to look “hip,” and you never gave much thought to the price tag. “How could a pair of sneakers be worth so much?” you may ask now. Well, I’m about to tell you about one of my favorite hobbies. Be careful: you might just get hooked too.
The retail sneaker market worldwide was valued at more than $58 billion in 2018.3 That’s retail only.
Sneakerheads have created an entirely different footwear economy: resale. The resale market is projected to be more than $6 billion globally by 2025.4 The thing about sneakers is that some pairs are more limited in quantity, harder to find, or limited regionally, which drives up the demand and, concurrently, the amount owners are willing to accept to part with the sought-after kicks.
On average, most new pairs of sneakers come out as a general release in “full family sizing.” Basically, the company creates thousands of pairs in every size so that whoever wants to buy the sneakers can (in theory). There are other sneakers, however, that are more revered and sought after, of which the manufacturer will only make a limited number. Michael Jordan’s original set of Player Exclusive “PE” shoes will get rereleased in different color combinations (colorways) that will often generate a different amount of hype depending on how rare or attractive that specific shoe is. Pair a new colorway with a collaboration with a current artist, brand, or athlete, and that drives up the anticipation and demand for the kicks even more. Some examples are Pharrell Williams’s collaboration with Adidas and Supreme’s with Nike. And, of course, Kanye West and Adidas created the billion-dollar Yeezy brand. The esteemed rapper Travis Scott has recently released numerous pairs of Nikes with his own specific designs that have instantly sold out online and in stores, causing the price to spike in the resale market.
Because you had to get lucky or stand in line for days to be able to purchase these limited sneaks, true sneaker fanatics and “hypebeasts” (basically people who want to be seen wearing the most coveted fashion/streetwear pieces) are willing to pay a premium to buy and wear them. Travis has even made certain pairs only available to friends and family (F&F), which skyrockets their market value.
On a recent trip to New York to interview Pastor David Nasser, I stopped into one of the most well-known sneaker boutiques in the world, Stadium Goods. Their whole business is to buy, consign, and sell limited-edition sneakers at a premium to those looking for the most exclusive kicks in the game. They’re also somewhat of a free museum of sneakers that most people would never be able to see in their everyday lives. While I was there, they had one pair of purple F&F Jordan 4s that were designed by Travis Scott — super-rare. Their list price was $27,500. They also had a pair of the sought-after Eminem x Carhartt x Air Jordan 4s going for $20,000.
Eventually I got to see, arguably, the grail of all grails: the Nike Air Mags, modeled after the famous self-lacing kicks Marty McFly wore in the film Back to the Future Part II. Their price? Fifty. Thousand. Dollars. For a pair of shoes!
Not only is the resale market itself blowing up, but the events surrounding sneakers are massive as well. Sneaker Con, for example, is a colossal gathering of fellow sneaker fanatics that happens in major cities across the world.
Celebrities, sneaker brands, and fans all come together and interact for a couple of days to buy, trade, and flex the most hyped-up kicks. Often these events, where literally millions of dollars change hands, attract more than ten thousand people.5 There are even celebrities within the sneaker resale culture — because why not? These include guys like Jaysse Lopez (Two Js Kicks), who once was homeless and now runs an almost $25 million sneaker resale shop in Vegas called Urban Necessities.6 He’s famous for a lot of things, but on YouTube, he has scores of videos of walking around Sneaker Con events and spending hundreds of thousands in cash on sneakers for him, his wife, and his store. Then there are other more content-focused players in the sneaker world who are celebrities in their own right. Guys like Jacques Slade, Seth Fowler, and my personal favorite, Brad Hall. These guys make a living off of literally unboxing and reviewing sneakers on YouTube.
For the Normal McNormalsons, outside of Sneaker Con and similar events, like ComplexCon, those in search of limited sneaks use platforms like StockX, GOAT, and eBay to buy/sell their prized possessions. StockX and GOAT are essentially stock markets of things where buyers set a bid price and sellers set an ask. You can either pay the price of someone’s ask or set a bid if you’re only willing to buy at a certain price. Once there is a match between buyer and seller, the seller sends the unworn kicks and box to a verification facility, and the buyer sends funds to escrow. Once the kicks are verified as authentic and sent to the buyer, the transaction is complete — all for a transaction fee. At scale, this quite literally creates a stock market–type environment for footwear, designer clothing, and other collectibles. eBay is still a heavily used option, but the purchase is riskier because you don’t get to verify the kicks before buying. To date, StockX is where I have sourced most of my market data for the shoes the pastors wear.
Some of the most popular shoes featured on PreachersNSneakers are the Off-White collaboration with Jordan Brand. Off-White is a brand founded by the Illinois-born designer Virgil Abloh, who has an immense following in the fashion and streetwear world. He may be most well known for creating the minimalist branding that uses quotations and basic descriptors on clothing and furniture. Basically, he puts the words hat on a hat and shirt on a shirt and charges $300 for the apparel. Yes, it’s an insane amount, but people pay it. Back to Jordan Brand: Virgil did a collaboration with the company to bring his signature style to ten of the most iconic Nike and Jordan shoes. He used his signature quotation branding and also redesigned the kicks to look deconstructed, with some elements of the shoes barely hanging on by a thread. He also added a plastic hang tag that still draws debate about whether you’re supposed to keep it on or not, much like the sticker on New Era 59FIFTY hats.
This first set of ten sneakers dropped on a single day in 2018 with extremely limited quantities and immediately sold out. I distinctly remember sitting in my office at my miserable corporate property management job, refreshing the Nike SNKRS app in hopes of securing just one pair. By some divine sneaker miracle, I actually got lucky and was able to buy the Off-White x Air Jordan 1s in the iconic Chicago (red and white) colorway. I paid $190 for them, plus shipping. The next week, I sold those same sneakers for more than $1,300 on StockX. This felt almost like free money. I quite literally lifted a single finger to buy and sell these shoes and made an almost 700 percent return. It was a double-edged sword looking back, though, because had I held on to those shoes, they’d now attract around a $4,000 to $5,000 price tag. After I realized that I could make real money on kicks, I was hooked on buying and reselling. It seemed like a no-brainer.
The immense hype and huge resale prices in the sneaker game have, in turn, created a great entrepreneurial activity for those of us who try to work side hustles. You can look up Benjamin Kickz, who got überfamous for being a teenager making a fortune from reselling sneakers to celebrities.7 He was consistently featured in DJ Khaled’s Snapchat as his exclusive “sneaker plug” — basically a connection for rare sneakers. There are big bucks to be made selling these shoes if you pay attention to the market, get lucky, and have your fulfillment logistics in order.
I realize this was a lot of information you probably didn’t ask for, and I am by no means an expert, nor have I ever claimed to be, but having a little context makes it easier to understand my platform. For passersby, it can look like I am implying that the pastors actually paid the listed amount for the shoes.
I have from the beginning never claimed to know how these guys and girls acquired the kicks; all I can show is what they are worth today.
Some of my critics have a problem with me posting the resale value, saying, “pOSt ThE rEtAIl PrICE. tHiS is FaKE nEWz.” But this brings up a fair question: Is something worth what someone else paid for it or what someone else is willing to pay for it?
If you have a new pair of shoes that someone is willing to pay $1,000 for today and you instead choose to wear those shoes, forgoing the $1,000 cash, are you out $1,000 or just the $160 you paid for them retail? In my opinion, the answer is the former. From a cash-flow standpoint, yes, you are technically out only the $160. But with markets like StockX and GOAT, where you can sell your shoes today for the resale value, then if you say that you would rather wear the shoes, you are essentially wearing $1,000 shoes, a frivolous act to many.
What about if someone gave you a mint-condition, first-edition holographic Charizard Pokémon card — can’t believe I’m mentioning freaking Pokémon again — and you saw that someone else was willing to pay you the $55,000 that it’s going for (look it up; this is a real thing), yet you decided to keep the card and play with it. Was that card a $55,000 card or just worth the $5 that the pack cost you at the store?8 Many people — myself included — see sneakers through this lens. You’re giving up actual market value in order to wear them. Or in a more extreme case, if you were selling your house, would you sell it at the same price you paid for it? Hopefully not, because there is a market for houses. So if you bought your house in Austin for $300,000 twenty years ago, and now that house has appreciated in value to $1.2 million because it’s in a desirable area and because the Austin housing market is insane to begin with, do you have a house worth $300,000 or $1.2 million? It’s no different for sneakers, especially now that you know the market exists.
I’m a yuge fan of sneakers. I think they are one of the coolest hobbies right now because so much history, creativity, and technology goes into the culture. I’m no exception either — there’s a reason the retail and resale markets are growing year over year. Many others love this world too. I get why churchgoers and their pastors are into it and absolutely don’t denounce anyone for being interested in and devoting dollars to buying kicks. Understanding this world allows you to further appreciate the PreachersNSneakers discussion because there are meaningful dollar signs attached to the sneakers.
I do think it’s worth discussing what our footwear and appearance — as well as our overall obsession with things as a Christian culture — communicate to others. Hobbies and interests aren’t bad, obviously, but when a hobby or interest progressively becomes your god or causes others to envy you or feel less than, it’s time to die to yourself and ask tough questions about its place in your heart. I have to do this constantly and am always at risk of propping up things as a god. Time after time — shocker alert — they are an incredibly miserable god to follow.
Excerpted with permission from Preachers N Sneakers by Ben Kirby, copyright Benjamin Kirby.
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What’s your stance on Christians owning sneakers worth more than the retail price? Does it matter?