Written by Nick Schonberger ()

Confession: I don’t skate, but I’ve bought Nike SBs.

In my time as a sneaker collector, I’ve also bought representative footwear from Adios, DC, Etnies, Globe, and Vans- well, from any brand producing shoes I felt had any cultural merit. I’ve bought these shoes from boutiques, mom-and-pops, and core skate shops. Most of the time, transactions have been amiable.

COUNTERPOINT: Skate Shops Should Sell Nike SBs for As Much As They Can

Tomorrow, Nike will release a high-cut version of the famed Diamond Supply Co. collaboration, the “Tiffany” Dunk. When it initially launched in 2005, it created a perfect storm of cross-consumer interest. The Nike SB Diamond Dunk low, with its robin egg blue contrasted against a tough embossed reptilian black, ignited the passions of skaters and sneaker collectors alike. It was the jewel of the "Manager's Series," a collection of Nike SB footwear designed by the team managers of several top-flight skateboard teams. When Diamond founder Nick Tershay's luxury spin on the iconic Dunk hit skate shops, it became an instant classic.  

The shoe also spawned one of the first true sneakerhead memes, the “Tiffany Kid” (a dude dressed in an outlandish outfit to match the shoe), and ignited further debate about the authenticity of the buyers.

By 2005, I’d begun to limit purchase of SBs, but not for lack of interest in the releases. As the fervor for limited editions spiked, so too had prices. An added tariff above the box price emerged as standard. You could almost call it the non-skater tax. It was indicative of two things: the overall health of the skate industry and a knee-jerk reaction by shop owners to “protect the culture.”

As the fervor for limited editions spiked, so too had prices. An added tariff above the box price emerged as standard. You could almost call it the non-skater tax.

I faced this, as a consumer, when the HUF dunk high dropped in 2004. I was living in Wilmington, Delaware, getting paid to go to school, and spending every extra penny on sneakers. I bought deadstock classics and Jordans on Market Street, trainers at the Finish Line in Christiana Mall, and skate shoes as a spot called Kinetic located in a strip mall on route 202. My first SB pick-up was the black/true red lows. Box price, two months after initial release. I became friendly with the Kinetic staff. I picked up subsequent releases without an upsell, and they even held a few things for me if I happened to be out of town.

“There’s a lot of buzz around these,” I was told, in response to an inquiry about the Huf highs. “We’re going to be charging $200.”

In 2004, $200 for a sneaker was outrageous. To put things in context, I was buying Python Air Trainer 1s for $15.99 off sale racks and scooping retro Js under retail.

I didn’t let hype hold me. I declined and moved on. My SB collection pretty much ended there.

Price gouging was inevitable. I’d heard rumors of kids being made to kick-flip to prove they skated. I’d also heard murmurs that SB sales were essential to keeping shops afloat.

 
But, I was no average asshole. I was a true customer, and although a non-skater, an outright supporter of Kinetic. My wardrobe consisted of shop T-shirts. My sock drawer represented the good, bad, and ugly of skate design. Yet, the effort to spend locally hadn’t grandfathered me into MSRP purchase.

Yesterday, Rise Skate Shop in Carmel, Ind. announced plans to charge non-skaters $216 for the Tiffany highs. Unapologetically, the shop also noted that real skaters could have the shoes at box price. The logic? Nike SB is a tool to support the shop and create extra income.

Americans are capitalists. There is nothing inherently wrong with profiting from hype and selling high when demand is high. However, the practice price gauging for sneakers remains distasteful. It creates an undue tension and limits a shop’s potential to foster broad, beneficial consumer relationships.

Americans are capitalists. There is nothing inherently wrong with profiting from hype and selling high when demand is high. However, the practice price gauging for sneakers remains distasteful.

Imagine if Foot Lockers around the country doubled up on Jordan IV prices if the buyer couldn’t dribble adequately with both hands. Imagine if Bo Jackson retro models weren’t readily sold to people without an interest in swinging a bat or sidestepping tackles.

Skateboarding is an integral element of contemporary youth culture. It has informed graphic sensibilities and street style. Diamond Supply itself has blossomed from its humble hardware roots to dress everyone from platinum rappers to mall rats. In short, the sport has transcended the core and become a standard influence. And, Nike SB has, accordingly, gone mainstream to the brand’s own webstore.

Selling certain shoes for above retail hampers rather than protects the skate industry. Each consumer given a bad shake because Nike SB served as a gateway to skate product is a missed opportunity. These kids can be fostered as regular consumers who, ultimately, contribute to the bottom line of a shop’s finances.

Nike SB is certainly a tool. The hyped products (the Tiffany has certainly brought back an ’05 level on interest) bring dollars in the door. Treated respectfully, those dollars can double and move associated goods. Treated as a threat, independent retailers risk damaging an often-unstated goal: supporting the health and progression of skateboarding.

Rather than employ Nike SB as a way to pad pockets, shops should embrace the platform to push the cultural capital of the sport forward. Charging above box price insults consumers and creates a climate of exclusion that ultimately makes a mockery of skateboarding’s own success.