On my way to the library last week, I walked past a local sneaker store. Outside I saw a briskly moving half-block line of young people.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“We’re entering the drawing,” a tall Asian kid told me.
This interested me. I am pretty lucky when it comes to drawings. When I was nine years old, for instance, I won a home-baked cake in the cake walk at my elementary school’s annual carnival. More recently, in the years since I turned 18, my number has come up at least 25 times in drawings for jury duty.
So when I got to the front of the line, I found a couple of shoe store employees enrolling people in the drawing.
“What are you giving away?” I asked the store manager. I was thinking maybe I could score a new Prius or tickets to the next Lady Gaga performance.
I was wrong.
“We’re raffling chances to buy the new Kanye West sneaker,” I was told. “The drawing is Friday, and the sneakers go on sale Saturday.”
The sneaker, pictured above, is the latest iteration of the Yeezy Boost, this one in black and red, from Adidas. The price point is $220 for an adult pair and a more economical $140 for children’s sizes.
Name Brand Sneakers
This is an old, old trend. Nike kicked it up a notch in 1985 when it released its first Air Jordan basketball shoes, named for Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan. Over the years, the line ran to 30 models, many of which are now collectors’ items.
I read a couple years ago that Odell Beckham, the wide receiver for the New York Giants, had a collection of 200 pairs of sneakers, including a couple Nike Air Yeezy 2 “Red Octobers” that were valued at $5,000.
In fact, premium sneakers always have been expensive. The first Air Jordans were priced at 65. which was a lot of money 32 years ago. A pair of the current prominent basketball shoes, Nike LeBrons, will set you back $290.
Except for people making sneaker investments, these high-priced shoes are, and always have been, an effective wealth transfer from relatively less well-heeled young people to rich athletes and Kanye West, who is many things but not an athlete. To be fair, the buyers are not being coerced, and some are willing to stand in long lines just to get a chance to buy the shoes. People have priorities.
Two years ago, Kanye West moved his Yeezy line from Nike to Adidas — apparently his $4 million annual deal didn’t include royalties, and West wanted more. Adidas was willing to pay more, and it has positioned Yeezy models as anchors in its effort to establish itself as a premium athletic fashion brand.
A Fashion Tip
One of my stylish high school friends used to wear true retro sneakers, low-top Chuck Taylors, which originally were released in 1917. She just liked the way they looked.
The last time I saw her, several years ago and many shoes later, she told me she still favored Chucks for casual ensembles.
She looked great.
There is something to be said for consistency and not haring off after every shiny new thing.