I knew it was too good to be true. The Dunk restored to its hi-topped glory in the original classic college colours! I won’t even pretend I even saw them the first time around. A relative omitted to pick them up for me on a New York trip at the tail end of the Nineties. This, combined with a mistaken belief they’d remain on the hometown FL sale racks until I had the disposable income, ensured they slipped between my fingers. Finally, they’ll be mine. And they’re incorporating suede as well. Bonus.
But there’s a catch. They’re limited, and I have to participate in some kind of quest to find the colours I need, rather than simply popping into a shop at the weekend and handing over the funds. Plus a spot of queuing. I hate queuing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m dedicated to shoes, but waiting overnight seems like a degrading step too far. And I’m too old for Easter Egg hunts.
Consider it the tipping point. Like any other poor sap hooked on sneaks, my ears prick up when the words ‘limited’ and ‘edition’ combine. Half-arsed blogs treating the shoe as the next coming of Christ don’t help. Subsequently a crafty (intentional?) leak of fuzzy pictures is followed by twists and turns as tiny nuggets are revealed. It’s going to be widely available. Nope, it’s a limited edition: five thousand. Actually, make that five hundred. The embroidery is only on the hyperstrike, and there’s only twenty of them. The release date is next week. Actually, it’s next month. And the embroidery will be on all editions. Oh, and to justify the hassle there’ll be a free fucking sticker. Seriously, it’s beyond a joke.
Not even the most hardened shoe-liberal can pretend that they don’t want to turn heads. We all feel that pang of lust when we spot the latest crossover obscurity. The craving carries me until I realise what I’m expected to do just to nail a pair. The notion that I should feel privileged to buy a shoe is outrageous. Diehards braving all weather conditions to wait two days outside a store become a living, spending, PR stunt. Proof of exactly how far disciples will go to demonstrate their brand loyalty, following the overpriced, gaudy, faux-leather carrot dangled in their faces.
I concede this isn’t a recent phenomenon. Rare colourways are as intrinsic a part of sneaker folklore as the Dassler brothers’ rift. We all have bit of a fetish for what’s unattainable: as a youngster the Micropacer and Air Pressure took on an almost mythical status. Discussed, but never seen in the flesh, like the infamous Star Wars Death Star play set. But the playground hype seemed a lot less cynical and nowhere near as contrived as the current spate of queuing obligations.
The whole process is doubly exasperating if you aren’t a denizen of a capital city that participates in the limited edition goldrush. Can we all afford to take time away from work or family responsibilities to wait in the street like Dickensian urchins with a Japanese skatewear fixation? If we can’t make it, we’re doomed to fall into the hands of the buy-it-now crew, because demand far outweighs supply, and once again the bootleggers spy an opportunity to con more loyal fans of the brand.
We could all get hold of the shoes with enough contacts, but after the inevitable emailing, phonecalls and Paypal activity, the sheen has gone by the time the box arrives at the door, and I’m left wondering if it was worth the effort. Want them without the linkage or the camping trip? You can take a stand but it’ll cost more than twice the price. Can we rise above the instinct to follow the hype and still obtain the shoes? Doubtful. I’d like to think so, but seeing as I’m on this very page ranting about the matter proves I’m also a victim.
There’s no dignity in pursuing colourways like Pokemon. Take a few deep breaths after the initial need and it’s apparent that a majority of shoes that induce hyper-ventilation (no fancy wordplay intended) with their hard-to-find status wouldn’t turn heads if they were general releases. But there’s still a nagging sense that they’re slow- burners you’ll regret in the long-term if you don’t pick them up now.
Even if you’ve performed the most simple tasks to minimise the effort of obtaining the latest object of desire, like an early bird store phonecall to sweet-talk yourself a reservation, or a text message to a connected friend who owes you a favour, you’ve unwittingly boarded the hype train. Yeah, I’m sure by now you’re sick of my whinging, and I know the tired snooze and lose rhyme clichés are running through your mind, but, at the end of the day, I’m a sucker for hype too. The red mist only clouds my view when I see companies and retailers exploiting our excitement by making a shoe purchase into a sleepover. Somewhere inside the vast headquarters of your favourite mega-corporation, a youthful, cammo-clad footwear marketing exec is laughing so hard he’s knocked his vast collection of Japanese action figures based on inappropriate wannabe-cult movies flying from the desk. I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore. And all the free t-shirts, ‘special’ boxes and launch parties in the world won’t pacify me.
:: Gary Warnett
This article appreared in Issue 7 of Sneaker Freaker. Buy it here.