How To Survive the Sneakerhead Economy with DJ Greg Street
Last Friday, Netflix premiered a new comedy series called “Sneakerheads,” created by Atlanta native Jay Longino. Reviews are a little mixed, but the show made it into Netflix’s Top 10 shows over the weekend, which means that, much like actual sneakers, the series may not be for everybody but sometimes hype is enough.
The fact that Netflix has a show about people who ball out on shoes is a testament to sneakers standing their ground, even in a shaky U.S. economy. “Ultimately, I think that the culture finally got so big that what we were hoping to do was undeniable,” Longino said in an exclusive statement to The Churn.
The Money Runs
It does appear that sneakers are a durable economic force. Nike stock recently spiked after better-than-expected earnings reports last week, and reseller marketplaces StockX and GOAT have both crossed into unicorn territory, with valuations higher than $1 billion.
Obviously COVID-19 made the sustainability of the sneaker market a reasonable question. But once the numbers started coming out back in July, it was clear that folks not only kept purchasing wearable feet art, but they were somehow willing and able to spend a lot more.
In Atlanta, revered apparel and sneaker shop Wish ATL reopened mid-summer with a “remixed” design that includes 10,000 books lining a staircase leading downstairs to a vault of displayed dunks, mids, high-tops and more. After scheduled and limited VIP shopping events, the shop opened to the public with lines going down the block, into the heart of the city’s Little 5 Points neighborhood.
All of this suggests it’s a good time to talk about America’s casual footwear obsession with someone who understands both the culture and business sides, from retail to underground resellers.
Rumor has it, legendary DJ and radio personality Greg Street has an entire second house, just for sneakers he doesn’t have room to store where he actually lives. Much like hip-hop itself, Street’s been watching as sneakers have gone from an underground way of life to a reliable area of profit for the apparel industry.
We asked Street to define the term “sneakerhead,” and his answer was simple enough. “Just somebody who loves sneakers,” he said. “They drip from the shoes up. They get stuff to match their shoes, instead of buying clothes and matching them. Real sneaker people are really about what they personally like. It’s not really even about the hype.”
That may be true, but hype, all truth being told, is a big factor in the sneakerhead economy, particularly the secondary market.
If you’ve ever seen the kinds of prices people pay on StockX for rare, limited-run, hard-to-find and out-of-production kicks, you’re aware that it’s a bit much. Street says some of those shoes have indeed become overrated, particularly re-releases like the original metallic blue Air Jordan 1s.
“I have a pair of the original ones from 1986. It’s a holy grail for some people, but a couple years ago they put them back out and nobody cared; nobody was excited. It kinda hurt the value.”
Street says it’s nothing special for the entire inventory of 50 to 100 pairs of the latest hot sneaker to sell out at $220, and a few minutes later someone has to spend $1,000 or more.
“That happens every weekend when a new release comes out,” he said. “You’ve got people all over the country that have connects in different stores, because they’re not just buying the hot releases — they’re buying the other stuff too.”
Those relationships with retailers allow for a bit of leniency, and help resellers get multiple pairs of shoes when others can’t, he said.
“Before you know it, you’ve got 30 pair. If you can spend $200 and sell them for a thousand, you just made an $800 profit. And you get 40 or 50 pairs of shoes, and you sell all of them in two or three days?”
Then there’s the other concern: counterfeits. “Oh that shit’s real big,” he said. “Companies like Nike don’t own any of the plants that make their shoes. So if you work at a plant that’s making these Jordans, and you know they’re going to be hot, it’s nothing for you to make some variants and ship them to the States.”
Add grimier elements like internet bots, and resellers’ willingness to pay homeless people to camp out in line at stores that limit how many pairs one person can buy, and it gets even more capitalistic/grimy.
So what’s a kick junkie to do?
Street suggests joining online raffles to avoid the jux. Developing relationships with retailers is another way to get ahead of the lines.
He also says consulting with heads in other cities that don’t shop where you operate can provide info to keep you from being victimized. Street says Atlanta has long been a well-known sneaker-shopper’s city, yet he suggests ATLiens talk to folks in Portland, Miami, Vegas or elsewhere.
The strategy: People in your city would rather sell to you than help you find those Js. Again, #capitalism.
On the “at least we can dream” side of things, we asked Street to name the most ATL sneaker. Don’t worry — it’s nothing too rare to actually cop.
“I would probably say the Air Force 1,” he says when asked to name the city’s favorite, although he’s careful to hedge that Jordans aren’t getting any less popular, and that the popularity of sneaker styles generally depends less on where you’re at than where you’re from.
“It’s kinda hard for a city like Atlanta because it’s a gumbo pot of people from everywhere. Atlanta’s comprised of so much different shit. People in Atlanta are from the northeast, New York, Phillly, New Orleans, Texas, and the West Coast. In the different regions, people like different things.”
- Pattern Air Max (Redwood) (Amsterdam)
- Collect New Balance from Paris (red and polka dot)
- Public Enemy Vans
- Supreme dunks (which they’re bringing back out, but as a Jordan 1 mid, with the same look)
- Air Jordan Union 1 and Union 4
- Adidas 35
- Rocafella shell toes
- Diddy/Bad Boy shell toes
- RHCP shell toes
- Jay-Z Lebrons
- 3rd Kobe MVP shoes
- Wu Tang Dunks
- Eminem Jordans
- Pharrell * Chad NERD
- Big Sean Adidas
- Clark Kent 112 pack
- Air Jordan 3s