Interview: Jasmine Habbouchi Spots Fakes as a Pro Sneaker Authenticator
For an avid sneakerhead, there’s nothing more infuriating than copping a pair of fake kicks. Leading the way in the fight against fugazi footwear, global marketplace eBay has launched their Authenticity Guarantee program Down Under, giving locals never-before-seen peace of mind when copping new sneakers.
The Authenticity Guarantee runs in partnership with expert third-party authenticator Sneaker Con, which ensures your latest cop isn’t a counterfeit. Once sold on eBay, eligible sneakers are sent to a dedicated authentication centre in either New York or Las Vegas for a physical inspection. Genuine pairs are then shipped to the buyer with an Authenticity Guarantee tag fastened for good measure.
Looking to combat those in the fake-shoe business, Sneaker Con's Jasmine Habbouchi is one of eBay’s all-star Authenticators. Meticulously checking each sneaker before it makes its way to your door, Jasmine has a keen eye – and nose – for spotting even the most discreet signs of a counterfeit crep. We recently caught up with her to discuss what it’s like being on the frontline in the fight against fakes!
Hey Jasmine, what specific training did you go through to become a sneaker authenticator?
The training is very in-depth, and is something I’ve been doing for many months already, working with top Sneaker Con authenticators. It’s a technical process that requires thorough analysis of every shoe.
While I’m a sneakerhead and very familiar with sneakers, this role has opened my eyes to just how much there is to know across all of the many, many drops of sneakers over the years. The main thing I now understand is that I’ll never stop learning in this job – especially as fakes get more sophisticated. I aim to keep training an extra hour a day in addition to performing my role to stay on top of the latest changes and releases.
Talk us through a day in the life of a professional sneaker authenticator. What exactly does it involve?
Every day is a new day and we never know what to expect coming through our doors. It is very exciting to see all the various styles and brands that come through the authentication station. We see a lot of old school sneakers and new school styles.
I arrive at the authentication centre at around 9am and set up my station for authentication. The orders then start to fly in and the next few hours are spent systematically checking every pair of sneakers that comes in. Attention to detail is key in any role, but it’s at another level as an authenticator. We work closely together as a team and provide second opinions where needed.
It goes without saying we take our roles very seriously. We aim to provide a watertight authentication service with the help of our global operations.
What is the worst fake sneaker you’ve seen come through the eBay Authentication facility?
The worst fake sneaker I’ve seen is a fake adidas NMD. It was very poorly constructed which can be a key giveaway for sneakers – especially in new condition.
As soon as I felt the sneaker, I knew immediately it wasn’t the real deal and, thanks to eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee program, it never reached the buyer.
What’s the most expensive/rare Grail you’ve authenticated?
The most expensive sneaker I have authenticated was a Dior x Air Jordan 1. This was before my role at Sneaker Con. I am looking forward to one day seeing this sneaker come through the eBay Authenticity Guarantee service. It is an incredible shoe, and even better in the flesh!
Which models are the most common fakes going around?
It probably wouldn’t surprise many to hear that it’s popular silhouettes like the Air Jordan 1 Retro High and adidas Yeezy BOOST 350 V2 that tend to have the most fakes. The general rule of thumb is, the higher selling and more in-demand the shoe is, the more ripe they are for counterfeit. For those of us in the community, there are some fakes we can spot from a mile away, but the really good ones are tricky to spot unless you’ve been trained. Unfortunately, you can only truly avoid being duped by shopping with trusted sources, like the eBay Authenticity Guarantee program.
What are the obvious tell-tale signs of a fake sneaker?
This has been a big topic of discussion lately, and while I can’t give away all the details, we use a strict data-driven process to inspect various aspects of each sneaker sold on eBay, including logo placement, stitching, leather quality, and even smell.
The authentication process starts before you even open the shoe box. The colour and any printed patterns on it are some of the most difficult details for counterfeiters to match, so it’s a great place to start. Additionally, the box label itself has so much detail that is difficult to counterfeit, such as matching fonts and spacing perfectly, the cut on the edges of the label, and even the type of texture of the print. Counterfeiters often focus on the sneaker itself, and don’t put in the effort or resources to match the packaging exactly.
The smell of the sneaker is another tell-tale sign. If you smell enough authentic pairs, when a fake shows up you just know it. It’s that ‘brand new’ smell everyone knows. You might not be able to pinpoint a specific scent but you’ll know you like the smell of newly manufactured leather, suede, plastic, rubber, etc. Each shoe is made up of a mixture of materials that give it a unique smell. Counterfeiters often cut production costs by using cheaper materials on the interior parts of the shoe (places most buyers wouldn’t notice) like the glue for binding a sole to the upper of a shoe, the insoles, and/or the inner lining. This is what makes fake shoes smell so different from authentic ones.
I have held, smelled and examined enough sneakers to say confidently that I won’t be duped by a fake. And I will use my knowledge and experience to ensure that no one purchasing on eBay will be duped either.
What is your process for authenticating vintage sneakers?
There are some differences between authenticating older sneakers but the principles are largely the same. Anything prior to the year 2000 was actually pretty easy to authenticate because the sneaker resale market was still very young and the counterfeiters weren’t as invested in developing the newer, more sophisticated methods of manufacturing. The most important difference in the process is concerning ageing. Any shoe produced before 2005 is bound to have some sole separation, plastic parts cracking or paint chipping, so we handle them with the utmost care, holding them by the tongue and ankle collar (a secure area of the upper) and gently from the outsole (watching for separation and cracking). It is very important that the authentication process does not affect the integrity of the shoe.
In your mind, why is it so important to stamp out fakes from the sneaker market?
Sneakers are not just something you wear – they’re a form of art and often an investment. And just as you wouldn’t want fake gold jewellery or fake diamonds that are of poor quality or worthless, counterfeit sneakers are the same. From getting lucky in a raffle to finally landing a holy grail, so much of the fun of being part of the sneaker community is the thrill of discovery and being able to share that with others. And you don’t want that experience cheapened by someone trying to make a quick buck.
Unless you are buying from the retail locations authorised by the manufacturer, you can’t place 100 per cent of your trust in an item unless it’s authenticated by a credible source. And as fakes get more sophisticated, it’s important to seek out professional authentication.
We’re working with eBay to tackle the issue of fakes head on with eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee – giving sneakerheads peace of mind when shopping for sneakers in Australia.