Shortly after his son Lonzo declared himself eligible for the NBA draft in March, LaVar Ball positioned himself in front of television cameras seeking the next lucrative sneaker collab.
Though the 10-year, $1 billion price tag he pressed Nike for was rejected, the pitch was far from an air ball for a company that reported $8.2 billion in earnings the previous year. (It was, however, far more than the seven-year, $100 million deal LeBron James signed as a rookie in 2003.) Just a month removed from being the nation’s best freshman basketball player, Lonzo was taking that next step towards a successful professional career. Nike started that game more than 30 years ago, when it signed Michael Jordan to a five-year deal worth $7 million. The Air Jordan 1 reached consumers with a $65 price tag, paired with a marketing strategy involving Spike Lee uttering the now ubiquitous phrase, “It’s gotta be the shoes.”
The generation that grew up with Jordan called them high tops, and likely wore their last pair in high school. Today, the shoes define the man. It’s a fashion accessory. More than that. Sneakers are often the focal point upon which the entire outfit is based. Before you step out for the night, the shirt, the hat and everything up top needs to match the shoes. The fashion world is aware. Louis Vuitton and Gucci, two of the biggest names on 7th Avenue produce high end sneakers. We continue to call them sneakers to differentiate from dress shoes; however, they are priced just as high and are sought after with equal intent — to impress.
“I think people are really into fashion, and into sneakers, and it makes a name for themselves to wear high-end stuff,” said David Ravida, an employee of Laced Up, a retail store in Crossgates Mall that sells new and previously owned shoes.
These shoes garner a lot of money on the second-hand market, where the asking price on a pair of kicks can be 10 times that of its original market value. Nevermind that someone previously wore them. If they still look good, and the demand is there, those shoes still retain value. Collectors emerged and with that an entire new market place was established. Solecollector.com was started in 2003. It’s a web magazine covering all aspects of footwear fashion, from rumored releases to collector trends. The RealReal out of San Francisco is a consignment store that started in 2011. It’s online portal is another place collectors to go to get a handle on the next hottest trend. There are also sneaker cons throughout the country, New York City is among the largest, and as one would expect, it’s a place collectors go to trade, sell and buy their next pair.
“They’re looking for limited edition sneakers — Air Jordans — things that are hard to get and in high demand,” said Ravida, who has been collecting shoes for ten years. “The crown jewel of sneakers right now is the Adidas Yeezys made by Kanye West.” The collaboration from West and Adidas produces a shoe that hits the streets at $220. The demand for the shoes makes them difficult to obtain in the primary market. “So, the resale value can go double, to triple that,” said Ravida. “If they come out for $220, they might range from $550 to $1,000. He even has payers that go for $3,000, $4,000.”
People selling second-hand products through the internet can sometimes create dangerous situations for themselves. In July, a Latham teenager advertised the sale of a pair of shoes. According to Colonie Police, the buyer arrived with four friends. An argument reportedly ensued. The victim told police he was jumped, hit in the head with a gun and stabbed in the back. Police Sgt. George Thomaides said, “It’s out of hand for something that cost $12 to make in China.”
The victim was transported to Albany Medical Center for non-life threatening injuries. The buyer later reported to police.
Colonie Police encourage people selling second-hand goods to have the buyer meet them at The Town of Colonie Public Safety Center on Wolf Road. Thomaides said transactions can be done right in the parking lot, and many other police agencies do the same.
Stores like Laced Up provide a safe alternative for shoe collectors to buy products. Outside of making purchases over the internet, customers can see the shoe in person, and the store is staffed by fellow collectors who know what they are looking at.
“My favorite pair I ever had were the Red October Yeezy 2s,” said Ryan Bartolomeo, another collector at Laced Up. “Yeah, they’re the most expensive.” Barolomeo said the Red October Yeezy 2s can fetch up to $3,500. He bought his pair at a shoecon in Brooklyn, but only after trading in several pairs of shoes from his collection. They were the shoes he said he always wanted. But, they didn’t stay in his collection long.
“I had them for a little bit, and then I sat and realized, at the time I was 16-years old with $3,000 shoes. I can’t afford that,” he said. “I let them go and did something better with the money.”
At 16-years-old, he was likely looking at a car.
“Yes, exactly,” said Bartolomeo, laughing. “That’s what wound up happening.”