Queuing for trainers: A survivors tale
With the latest colourway of the Yeezy Boost 750 about to drop I thought it would be fun to share some experiences I had regarding hype, greed and trainers. Well, actually two experiences!
Two experiences about doing the most committed thing a sneakerhead can do to gain possession of a rare pair of trainers. No, not re-mortgaging his Granny's house to buy them on eBay ( he could do that too ) but to camp outside the store days before the official in-store release day.
Crazy you say? Well, with sneaker hype for rare pairs going through the roof a night spent on the street can actually make sense money wise, with resellers being able to double and even triple their investment. Still perplexed? Well, check out this TED talk by Josh Luber, founder of Campless.com, who explains the situation to the uninitiated:
So anyway, are you with me now? GREAT!
The first time I stood outside a store before opening time must have been around 2005, back in the days when A Bathing Ape was heavy on their USA expansion and their London Store was going strong. Staff at BAPE were notoriously tight lipped about the release dates of popular items, a tradition now upheld by Supreme employees everywhere!
But one special day I got the heads up that a special hoody I had obsessed about was due to drop the following week. Wow!!! It was a hoody created in collaboration with the raising graffiti star KAWS featuring a very special reworked version of the famous Bape camo pattern.
I'd say a lot of the limited edition culture in streetwear was kicked off by this Japanese brand as it took a cue from high fashion and created extremely limited streetwear pieces for the few people in the know. Once the items sold out they were gone! It was even rumoured that the owner and designer of BAPE Nigo would burn left over stock and sales in the BAPE store were unheard of!
The collectable nature of the clothing created a tribal society where peeps wearing special pieces and rare items would get the most respect. A trained geek eye could spot a 1st Generation Shark Hoodie from miles away and would bestow the owner with praise, credibility and respect!
Never heard of A Bathing Ape? Have you been living under a rock? Even Jonathan Ross knows about Nigo and his empire!
Still no clue? Geez ok... then get ready for a little streetwear history lesson:
Are we back? Good...
I will never forget the look on my managers face when I told him that I needed half the day off to stand outside a store to buy an item of clothing.
I ended up at 9AM outside the store in a queue with a teenager who brought his grumpy dad along and two die hard BAPE Headz which were deep in conversation about camo patterns. I overheard that one of the guys came down all the way from Scotland for this, stayed over his sisters place last night and made his way to the store this morning to get lucky. Now that's dedication!
The giddy anticipation once the staff arrived and started to get out the items, the plastic of my credit card rubbing against the sweaty palm of my hand and the unbelievable rush to the head once I got the item in this big luscious bag with the ape head on it... I think I never handed over £175 quicker and happier in my life! Horrible I know but amazing nevertheless.
I know what you must think now: This was the event that hooked him! From then on he had to be addicted to the thrills of queueing up for artificially number restricted items!!!
Well, not really. But I definitely got hooked on the feeling of the pleasure and pain that comes with being a collector on the hunt!
Return to the planet of the (B)Apes
Fast forward 8 years and I am still in London, still hooked on collecting. A good friend of mine with similar obsessions stayed over for the weekend and with the release of A Bathing Ape x Adidas collaboration looming we joked how crazy it would be to queue for these kicks like the suckers we saw on blogs and websites. Camping in the rain in the bitter cold just for a pair of shoes... ha ha ha, what a stupid thought!
Image via Vice
As we already started drinking in Soho I suggested we could at least attend the release party at the Adidas No.6 store to get some free beers and check out the models of the collaboration that were about to get released the next day. They were nice, no doubt. And the beer was mighty tasty too.
As the time went towards 11PM and the store was about to close we suddenly got approached by a guy ( yep, there is a pattern here: queueing is mostly a dudes game! ) who asked us if we would queue tonight for the shoes. He was the keeper of the queuing list and could offer us a good spot if we would give our names and get in. "Which spot would we get?" I asked. "You guys would be the 10th in line" he responded. How grown up and organised... TEMPTING!
What can I say, 5min later I was outside the store, the door locking in front of us and my mate rushing to my place to get a camping chair, sleeping bags, water and more beers! And so should my first camp out in the middle of Soho begin.
The night went quicker than expected, there was a bigger queue outside the official BAPE Store a couple of streets away and time was wasted strolling through Soho at 5AM to get a coffee at Bar Italia, go for a pee in one of the side streets or having a chat with the other geeks waiting in line, all wrapped up in their camping chairs, fiddling with their iPhones or trying to sleep.
Ultimately we were actually even lucky the we stayed outside the Adidas Store as it opened a whole 2 hours before the BAPE store! So we left Soho each carrying three boxes of shoes containing the whole BAPE x Undftd x Adidas collaboration past the tired and grumpy stares from all the people still having to queue yet another two hours to get their hands on their pairs... What a camp out success!!!
Two years later: A SUPREMEly cold night
Whilst being at yet another launch of limited crap with free beers my good friend Alex from that first queueing experience fires me a screenshot about a very special shoe collaboration to be released.
As you can see another geek pattern emerges my dear reader: Collaborations! Being it Ronnie Fieg, Kanye West or Pharrell Williams: Collaborations make the hype world go around and sometimes even stand on it's head. A bit like in this case...
OMG the Jordan 5 x Supreme drops in less than 13 hours!!!
Now, Supreme and Jordan Brand are heavy hitters of streetwear and the hype game so this was big big news. Especially as Supreme London would be the only store doing an in-store release in the Western world and that crazy desert camo pattern on the Jordan 5 already caused me many sleepless nights when the project was originally announced. I was already quite drunk and had time on my hands on the following day. Damn...
So this was a no brainer really: Off I went, quickly gathering supplies and heading out towards Soho at 1AM for my second queueing experience!
And what a crazy night that was! The queue was already 200 people deep with BAPE hoodies and Supreme allover outfits out in force. Quite some people looked like they joined the queue in a hurry the second the news dropped as they sat on the sidewalk just wrapped in a thin jacket with no camping seat or sleeping bag... hardcore!
Me on the other hand didn't just pack my silly red Supreme thermos can which holds exactly one cup of hot tea, no I actually carried a whole hot water bottle with me which I happily shared with the freezing youngsters next to me. Good queueing karma and all that... Geek Grandpa knows!
When dawn arrived the crowd got moving and started packing up the camping gear to form an orderly queue. Another thing I learned that night: Chinese girls must really, really, REALLY love their boyfriends!
I can't believe how many young girls stood in the freezing cold the whole 13 hours just to get their boyfriend a pair of Supreme Jordans! My mind was spinning!!! If I would have proposed a similar thing to any girlfriend I ever had I would have got a slap whilst she laughed in my face for suggesting something such outrageous!
And very rightfully so!
After nearly 13 hours queueing we reached slowly the front of the store. People started to get unruly and there was a nervous tension in the air. Somehow it dawned on me how crazy it is to queue for such a long time just to get a pair of shoes. How good the marketing of Supreme is to inspire people to commit such acts of pure insanity!
Whilst I had a mini existential crisis amongst a weird mix of Supreme fanboys, Hypebeasts and greedy Resellers, some people kept cutting in and the atmosphere got more and more unpleasant and tense. There was a real thick cloud of greed in the air that stained the once peaceful vibe of a shared consumerist obsessional experience gone mad.
As it was way too late to get philosophical now I knew I just had to go Zen, ignore the pushing and shoving and concentrate on getting what I came here for: A pair of white Supreme x Jordans Size UK 8.5!
( I went for the white colorway in the end as the black and the white versions were Supreme only and would not get released by Nike as well like the desert camo colourway. See, I am clever after all... going for the rarest of the rare! *pads himself on the back* )
Of cause I told myself repeatedly: This is crazy but at least I can resell them for some extra money if I change my mind about owning them! Making a profit would be the sensible and grown up thing right? Well what can I say... I still have them. 13 hours of waiting kinda made me emotionally attached to these shoes. Weird...
My 5 top tips for correct queueing
1. Dress to impress
Never dress down when queueing! Put on every piece of limited edition Hypebeast crap you can find, you are not queueing for food stamps but expensive clothes after all. So you might as well just go all out for it !
2. Be smooth sleeping rough
Get your camping chair, get an umbrella, get your hoodie, hat, gloves and Supreme face mask on! Supreme is not releasing camping items and thermo cans for nothing! Plus nobody wants to see a dude frozen to death outside a store in a skimpy jacket and flip-flops!
3. Don't be a stranger!
When one is waiting in a queue like an idiot, despised and mocked by 99.95% of earths population passing by, you need all the bromance you can get to not get emotionally scarred for life! Share sneaker stories, offer to look after peoples place during urinal breaks and just chat shit.
4. Know the deal
Where is the 24/7 coffee place that can provide shelter, food and a toilet? When does the closest McDonalds open again in the morning? How many pairs are getting released and what's your number in the line?
and the most important one...
5. DON'T BE A DICKHEAD!
Pushing in front of people who waited in line for 12 hours straight might be tempting but is not cool at all. So isn't talking shit, stealing from peeps who are asleep or throwing attitude around. This is already horrible enough so nobody needs another sucker to cause more static.
So what's the gist of this story?!
Am I mad? Do I have any regrets? Yes and no. Yes because it feels horrible to be a pawn in a game of money, greed, hype and shameless consumerism. No because the experience was somehow weird and fun as well. Would I do this on a regular basis? HELL NO!
But would I GENERALLY queue again for a rare pair of kicks? Never say never...
So when and where are the next Yeezys dropping? I AM READY!