The sneaker resale market is booming as collectors seek out rare and expensive editions. It seems that these days, they are not just a fashion item or piece of sportswear kit, but a form of wearable art. The global market is estimated to be worth $7bn (£5.5bn) a year, with fans prepared to pay over £1000 for a pair of trainers, or ‘sneakers’ as the Americans have it.
So what is that special quality that makes some sneakers so desirable? The most overriding factor, it seems, is the rarity value. Limited edition collections produced by mainstream sports brands in collaboration with hip stars such as Pharrell Williams are the most sought after, with demand outstripping supply.
Sometimes the brand will extend its celebrity partnerships beyond sports shoes, and bring out clothing lines, including hoodies, t-shirts and baseball caps. The customer base is predominately males in their teens and twenties, who help to fuel a UK market worth £200m. Some of these guys refer to themselves as ‘sneakerheads.’
The sneakerhead scene used to be part of the alternative street subculture, but the internet
and the power of social media marketing mean its influence has spread to the mainstream. The fashion, sport and music worlds are increasingly infiltrating each other, and gain huge audiences on platforms such as Instagram.
The athleisure trend also reflects the increasingly casual approach to dressing, which is being adopted by all generations and many workplaces. Ten years ago, for example, trainers were not acceptable footwear in many UK offices or even bars and clubs, but now they are a universal item which are worn on almost any occasion.
Footballers, supermodels, basketball stars, rappers and actors are all in on the act. The record producer Kanye West is a particularly huge influence in the sneaker market. His own range, Yeezy True Form, was only released in the EU, making them particularly sought after in the US and Asia.
Perhaps the most valuable example from the Adidas/Kanye West collaboration, however, is from the Yeezy Boost 350 V2 range. The collection is not rare in itself, but a special edition ‘Zebra’ design was stocked in only a very limited number of stores, turning them into a prize item.
Kanye West also collaborated with Nike to create two Yeezy collections, the Air Yeezy and Air Yeezy 2. Only 5,000 pairs of the latter were ever produced, because West fell out with Nike and moved on to Adidas. Consequently, the ‘Solar Red’ and “Pure Platinum’ Yeezy 2s are now very rare, and a valuable collector’s item.
The ‘Red October’ Nike Air Yeezy was an online only release, and sold out within seconds. With the end of the contract between West and Nike, there is no prospect of them being produced again. Therefore, they are one of the world’s most coveted sneakers.
Possibly the world’s most desirable sneaker, however, is the Nike MAG. These were the shoes worn by Marty McFly in the Back to the Future II film. A limited number were released in 2011, and also on October 21, 2015, which is the date that Marty and the Doc travelled to in the original 1989 film.
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