Searching for meaning in the queue for the new Yeezys
Is it more tragic to buy Yeezys for resale, or because you think they’re sick?
What is it about a pair of trainers that makes you want to queue up before the shops open? I wanted to discover just what the people who are “into” trainers are really like – so I headed down to Oxford Street to meet the young men queueing up for the new Yeezys.
The first guys I met were two young lads, no older than 17, who had originally travelled an hour to Bournemouth before being turned away by the store because they didn’t have the raffle ticket needed buy a pair of the Yeezy Boost 350 v2. Thus, they were redirected to London – another two hours of travel.
The plucky young lads were again unsuccessful, but seemed fairly content to wait another four hours before going online at 3pm to try and buy a pair: “There’s less chance online but it just depends on how many computers you have set up.”
Surely there must have been something to evoke such a strong response to a pair of shoes? “I just like trainers. I like shoes.”
Luckily, I soon found another guy who had a far less insipid explanation: “It’s just the hype. It’s different for everyone, but I just wanted a pair for my collection.
“I have 80 pairs but these are my first Yeezys as it’s really hard to cop them. I didn’t want to buy them on resale because it’s too expensive, I’m not about that life. It’s just luck, anyone can win through the app.”
Everyone kept on talking about “winning” the chance to buy the shoes, which was puzzling. The demand for Yeezys is high and the supply is low that Adidas have managed to gamify selling trainers. People feel like they have achieved a victory, being one of the lucky few allowed to spend £150 on a pair of trainers.
Obviously, the majority of the people who were happy to talk to me were the ones who were there out of love for the trainer, but a few were there because of the phenomenon of reselling limited edition trainers at an exorbitant price.
“I’m going to sell them for a high price like £1000 and I’m going to be buying them for £150,” one guy told me.
Another was a frequent reseller: “I bought these for £150 and I’m going to try and get £800 for them.
“It’s kind of a business, I do a lot of resale on Yeezys, I source them and then sell them on for profit. I’ve sold about six pairs so far but these ones I’m wearing I’ve kept for myself.”
It’s no surprise, really, that despite the easy money to be made, you have to be at least slightly interested in what you’re selling to be bothered to go to all the hassle of winning a raffle and then going along to a store to buy shoes to then return home to sell them online.
While most people didn’t really seem to mind whether people were queueing up for business or pleasure, some gave the impression that those who were there just to make money were slightly ruining the purity of their hobby – what made buying limited edition trainers special, perhaps.
“Without a doubt, 80% of people in queues are resellers, there are pros and cons to it,” one of them told me: “You’re going to get tons of people who just want the money and they fuck it up for everyone else but at the same time there are people that can’t get a specific size so they then swap their pair with someone.
“Then there’s ethical reselling, where they sell it on to get something or put it towards something. If it’s for a good cause fine, but if it’s just for the money they fuck up the whole thing and it’s really bad.”
“What makes a pair of trainers so special that people will queue up outside a shop to buy them?”
“I dunno. I just like them, so I thought I’d queue up and buy them. I’d imagine a lot of people are queueing up to sell them on because you can make a lot of money doing that but I’m not, I’m just queueing up to buy them because I like them.”
“How would you rate your trainers that you are currently wearing from zero to Yeezy?”
“I don’t know, I wouldn’t really rate shoes like that. I just see them as shoes, if I like them I like them, if I don’t I don’t.”
One kid, around 14 years old, had dragged his dad along. He had the look of suffering in his eyes that can only be caused by having to get up early on a Saturday morning to buy your son a pair of £150 trainers that he’s going to grow out of within the year.
“I’ve always wanted them for like a year. I haven’t decided yet if I’m buying them to wear or to sell on.”
“Would you give some of the profit to your Dad that has accompanied you?”
There were, of course, Kanye West fans here. One of the people working in the shop told me that it is Kanye West’s involvement alone that causes all this fuss.
“We do get people queueing up for other releases, but nothing like with the Yeezys. With Yeezys we have everyone queueing up, kids, adults, mums buying them for their sons.”
“They’re Kanye West’s, anything he releases I’ll probably get. What makes him such an icon? I like his music and all of his trainers so far. This will be my first pair, I’m buying them to keep. I think it’s fine to sell them on though.”
After a while, happy customers started emerging from the store, clutching their prized blue bags. Many people immediately changed into their new purchase. I asked people whether it seemed odd that they were using items that cost hundreds upon hundreds of pounds to protect their much less expensive feet from touching the dirty streets of central London.
“Are you not worried that walking down the street that someone could accost you and knick them off you? They’re worth quite a lot of money.”
“But you haven’t even done the laces up?”
“That’s how you’re supposed to wear them.”
“Should I stop tying the laces of my trainers up then?”
“That’s the Yeezy way of tying laces, that’s how Kanye West does it.”
As the last few customers were allowed into the shop after the arduous one in one out policy that was being employed, my Yeezy experience was coming to an end.
A few hours later I checked on eBay to see if these trainers were really going for the sums that the entrepreneurial young men had bragged about or whether it had all been posturing in order to hide the embarrassment over spending so much money on a pair of shoes.
A few people who had pleaded that they were buying the trainer and were going to wear it must have been fibbing, judging by the amount of Yeezys that were already available to purchase online.
Bids had already been made for nearly four times the shoe’s retail price. Who are these people so desperate to own this specific pair of trainers? When did trainer fetishism become so normal?
Who knows, maybe if I had my own pair of Yeezy Boost 350 v2s I’d feel differently.