Real Talk: It’s Time to Make Copping Hyped Sneakers Fair Again!
With bot-slinging resellers ambushing every new release, the modern sneaker landscape has become more akin to the Wild West – it’s every sneakerhead for themselves out there.
While copping has never been more difficult, and the sneaker community is crying out for change, it seems that little is being done to give the everyday consumer a fighting chance in these frenzied release-day duels. Hell, even if you have the fastest fingers in the sneakersphere, it’s likely the secondary market has already ‘acquired’ pairs before the drop, leaving your quick-draw prowess basically redundant.
If the recent Trophy Room and Ann Hebert controversies have taught us anything, it’s that something needs to be done to level-out the playing field.
It seems like a distant past when the in-store first-come-first-served approach was the archetypal sneaker acquisition method. And while that practice may occasionally throw up the odd squabble (no one appreciates a conga line of ‘ghost’ chairs), it did foster a sense of community, which many agree is being lost amid the new age of hype. Widely regarded as one of the fairest ways to release sneakers, the art of the line-up may be lost forever due to the residual effects of the pandemic. We can’t see retailers welcoming mass campouts anytime soon.
As a result, online FCFS and raffles have become the sneaker game’s ‘new normal’, whether that’s via apps such as ,SNKRS, or via retailer’s own portals. While the term ‘raffle’ suggests winners are being drawn at random, it's often questioned whether it's actually the case. The secondary market is sniping pairs faster than you can say ‘got ‘em’, low stock numbers aren’t catering for demand, and retail staff continue to get ‘first dibs’ – frankly, the everyday consumer is bringing their fingers to a bot fight.
We’ve reached a palpable tipping point in 2021, a year that’s already served up two of the most controversial scandals in contemporary sneakerdom. The first, of course, involves the release of the Trophy Room x Air Jordan 1. Owner – and son of the GOAT – Marcus Jordan had expressed displeasure at pairs of the hyped collaboration leaking prior to the drop date, tracing the early pairs back to a Nike distribution centre. However, it all may have been a smokescreen, after accusations surfaced claiming he’d made thousands from backdooring pairs to resellers and friends. Consequently, the pair has become a symbol of the seedy handling of hyped sneakers, one that was obnoxiously paraded on all our social feeds.
Perhaps even more shocking was the resignation of Nike’s vice president and general manager of North America, Ann Hebert, following reports linking her to her son’s reseller business. It was revealed that the now-infamous Joe Hebert had used his mother’s credit card to purchase $132,000 worth of sneakers for his resell company, West Coast Streetwear. Consequently, many of you will also recall the story of multiple pairs of Nike Air Mags being ‘found’ in an abandoned storage unit back in early 2020. The individual who made the discovery? You guessed it: Joe. Despite the recent reports, Joe insists he had never received inside information from his mother while she was at Nike.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
So, how do we make copping sneakers fair again? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as simple as: ‘make more sneakers!’ While the community implores brands to increase stock numbers on hyped drops, the industry is very much trending in the opposite direction, implementing more sustainable manufacturing practices and striving for less waste. And rightly so. It would be irresponsible to un-do the great work of initiatives such as Nike’s ‘Move to Zero’ and adidas’ ‘Own The Game’ have already put in place, even if it means getting that ever-elusive cop.
That said, both brands and retailers need to look for new and creative ways to rollout their latest releases. Augmented reality (AR) is currently revolutionising the sneaker industry, and it’s not only making copping sneakers more enjoyable – but also more fair. Back in 2017, the Momofuku x Nike SB Dunk High collaboration kick-started the concept, with SNKRS users instructed to open the in-app camera over an image of the Fuku menu or special posters outside Momofuku locations, giving users the option to purchase it. Meanwhile, more recently, retailer giants Foot Locker and GOAT have conducted AR sneaker scavenger hunts to promote launches and sales events, while Salehe Bembury and New Balance scattered pairs of the New Balance Test Run Project 3.0 ‘Finders Keepers’ around Los Angeles for fans to hunt down. Good luck, botters!
In another eyebrow-raising move, Nike have just announced Refurbished, an initiative to restore and resell used sneakers – for under retail, of course. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right?
Either way, things do appear to be looking up for sneakerheads who aren’t versed in the dark arts of the resell game. We’re not suggesting you’ll stumble across an abandoned room filled with Air Mags anytime soon, but we’re hoping most will be able to ride into the sunset with a prized pair on their feet.