From Retail to Bots: The Sneaker Game
Vintage clothing and sneakers have become a phenomenon over the last few years, creating an opportunity for people to not only express themselves through different colorways and patterns, but to also welcome a new opportunity for young people to make a living out of a passion.
Twenty-four-year-old Carlos Reyes, who resides in Tracy, California, grew up in Oakland alongside his family. Due to a lack of money, Reyes was introduced to the idea of thrift shopping from a young age, as he spent his back-to-school shopping money at secondhand shops with his family. At shops with racks of endless clothing, varying in sizes and patterns resembling different generations, Reyes developed a love for finding hidden treasures. As he went through his four years of high school and his first few years in college, his love for shopping at thrift stores only grew.
“It got to the point where I had huge containers of clothing taking up space in my room,” Reyes says. “I had to start selling off all these clothes and that’s what got me into reselling.”
Vital Vintage Goods is a private boutique, carrying only vintage and streetwear in Tracy. Carrying an assortment of items ranging from ‘90s band tees to the latest items on the market from trendy brands such as Supreme and Bape, the shop is open by appointment only and can be booked from their Instagram @vitalvintagegoods. Inspired by his childhood and inspiration from clothing, Reyes opened his boutique nearly a year ago.
“Vintage will always be where the heart is,” Reyes says. “I always keep the younger version of me with no money in the back of my head. I try to become the store I wish I had when I was young and where I could get dope clothes at affordable prices.”
Earlier this year, The New York Times published a piece on the expense of shoes in the reseller market and how prices can exceed those at stores such as at Footlocker or Champs by hundreds of dollars. Vintage shops have shaped the way young people shop, as many people are on a tight budget as they juggle college expenses and working more than one job to be able to afford their lifestyle.
So what exactly impacts what people who consider as overpriced shoes? Well, thanks to the internet, fans of shoes and popular brands such as Supreme can use sites such as Stock X to calculate the predetermined value of an item, and push them to set their alarms at four in the morning to wait in the electronic line. In the real world, between Fairfax and Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, many kids and even adults line their field chairs up a day prior, in hopes of catching drops from Supreme every Thursday morning.
“Depending on what is releasing, and what we can get our hands on, my brother and I will normally purchase five to ten pairs of shoes a month,” says Eric Smith.
Alongside his brother, Smith uses apps such as StockX and GOAT to help determine what shoes people are in search for, as well as just how much they are willing to pay. These apps merge large brands such as Nike and Adidas and allow people to not only resell and purchase, but also to bid on items.
The question then becomes why exactly would someone waste their time sitting on the computer waiting in line in order to make a few bucks? The answer is bots. Bots are essentially a form of software used to automate the purchasing process. The software not only fights for a better place in line, but also completes the checkout process. These bot programs can themselves be purchased, usually for around a couple hundred dollars.
“It is really hard to purchase even though you have bots, especially when the sneaker community is getting ten times bigger than before,” explains Isaac Zhao, a student at San Francisco State University who resells sneakers on the side.
Despite the reselling trend, there are many apps and websites that exist to help people who are actually searching to buy the sneaker and t-shirt for themselves. Flight Club, Stock X, and GOAT are some of those places with hidden treasures. On these sites, the inventory is organized by popular demand, prices, and brands, allowing people to find exactly what they are looking for and compare prices within each site.
“Deciding what to buy and knowing the market is helpful,” Smith says. “The StockX app is very useful creating a platform for buyers and sellers to display ask prices and live bids. GOAT also helps forecast what shoes people want and how much they are willing to pay for.”
Sneakers have long been a big part of the entertainment industry.. With Nike partnering with models such as Bella Hadid to advertise their infamous Cortez, and Travis Scott collaborating with Jordan, the popular demand to dress like one’s favorite celebrity has grown. Adidas, for example has even taken it so far as to create a collection based on the popular anime “Dragon Ball Z.” Puma, similar to Adidas has brought the culture of childhood into their designs with a Barbie collection as well as Hot Wheels, released earlier this month.
Alongside the sneaker community, streetwear has become prevalent in the fashion industry and has sparked an experience when it comes to not only purchasing, but also reselling. Brands such as Supreme and Bape have created side jobs for kids to stand in line, only to later sell a released item for double the price.
The market has created an opportunity for people like Reyes to create a living out of a passion. Although sneakers are one of the items impacting the fashion industry heavily today, clothes continues to play a large role as it provides a larger variety of pieces for one to play with. With the very same desire to find hidden treasures in the clothing racks at a young age, Reyes takes in larger inventory in clothing at his shop to get a customer’s money worth and keep them happy as they walk out the door, reminiscing on the feeling he felt when he finished shopping.
“I love the community aspect of the resell game and all the friendships I’ve created along the way,” Reyes says. “There’s some people who only care about the money, and those are the people who don’t last. I’m not so much about the money, money comes and goes. I do it for the customers I get to meet, their stories I get to hear, and the young kids I get to leave a positive impression on. That means more to me than a pair of shoes or a piece of clothing ever will.”
As the popularity of fashion continues to expand, especially in large cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, the demand for brands and pieces continues to growth. Through inspiration and desire to have the latest items, people seek a newly found love for shopping from boutique retail shops to online.
Illustrations and multimedia by Ingrid Mera.