Time was, people bought sneakers just to wear them, and did so until they wore them out. But a new generation of sneaker aficionados recommend a different approach: flex and flip.
Flex, in this context, means to show off your fresh kicks, either on your Instagram page or in real life. But not too many times, lest you ruin their resale value with a scuff or a crease. Then, once you’ve flexed, you flip the shoes, often for a tidy profit.
Sneakers have become “modern-day baseball cards,” shoe collector Connor Crabtree said. Their value rises and falls, and if you have the right shoe at the right time, you can make a lot of money.
Crabtree was one of hundreds of sneaker lovers gathered at the Vancouver Convention Centre Saturday for the Ultimate Sneaker Show, a marketplace for serious shoe collectors to buy, sell and trade their best kicks, as well as network with other “sneakerheads”, as they call themselves.
“We all use it as a way to supplement our incomes, but I would treat it as a hobby,” Crabtree said. “It’s so much fun to do this stuff.”
Crabtree, 19, became a sneakerhead only a year and a half ago. But the young entrepreneur spoke about sneakers released long before he was born with an encyclopedic knowledge — something you need if you want to be part of the hustle. Otherwise, you’re bound to get scammed.
“If you make a bad play and you buy fakes, you’re out of money,” he said. “There’s a kid a couple months ago who was buying a couple thousand dollars worth of stuff. He got it shipped to him from a seller. The guy, as soon as he shipped it, blocked him and deleted his Facebook and he lost about $5000 in fake items.”
That’s a nightmare scenario, as shoe collectors aren’t rich, despite dealing with some obscenely expensive sneakers. (Popular shoe styles, such as Ultra Boosts or Yeezys from Adidas, were being sold Saturday for upwards of $500. One booth was selling a T-shirt for $10,000. And last year, a pair of self-lacing Nike MAG: 89s sold for over $100,000 in an online auction.)
The flex and flip approach allows savvy sneaker and streetwear enthusiasts to make back their money in a hurry. Crabtree was wearing a Supreme sweatshirt, for instance, that originally retailed for $48, but set him back $1000. And provided he doesn’t spill ketchup on it, he plans to resell it for $1,500 once he’s done with it.
The sneakerhead community has been around since the 1990s, when Michael Jordan paved the way with his iconic Air Jordans. But in the last five years, the community has exploded.
Part of that, said Jason Kurtz, a co-host on the sneaker culture podcast Sneakerphiles, is due to the expanded “influencer realm”.
“It used to be only athlete-driven,” he said. “And now we’re seeing music, we’re seeing entertainment, we’re seeing other areas or other influencers affected, and social media has really changed the landscape of how people can influence and be involved.”
In addition, the internet allows what were once small, niche communities of shoe aficionados to organize into something larger. (The Vancouver Streetwear Community Facebook page, for example, boasts 22,000 members.) Where once shoe collectors had to go out of their way to track down the kicks they desired, and look even harder for a buyer on the resale market, the whole thing can be done online now with minimal effort.
“The majority of the sales that go on in streetwear are online,” Crabtree said. This is a very limited event, once a year, and we all prep for this, but I do 95 per cent of my sales online. Some people say it’s because of media hype. I think it’s because of access — the ability to ship stuff that was bought in New York all the way to Hong Kong, and then somebody wears it in Hong Kong for three days and ships it to L.A. or something, and then ships it to rural Missouri because someone wanted it there.”
As the sneaker community grows, and demand with it, Crabtree says many people are unaware of how valuable their old sneakers may have become.
“People don’t know what they have. They’ll be walking around with $300 or $500 shoes that they’ve just had for a long time, that on the street would go for a lot of money.”