Written by Matt Welty (@matthewjwelty)
Nike fulfilled its promise of an earth-shattering Air Jordan restock this week. Seventeen days after the brand initially promised on April 19, the restock included everything from black and red Air Jordan XIs
to Air Jordan III "88s." Announced around the late afternoon/early evening on Monday, most styles were gone before many could rev up their bots or get through Nike Store's Captcha system. The release left plenty of unsatisfied 'heads who couldn't scratch their Air Jordan restock itch and scoop the most-coveted Js from the past year.
Is this the way that restocks will happen in the future, unannounced and without warning? In a sense, it's a throwback to how sneakers were released before the days of Internet hype. Sneakers didn't have definitive release dates. They were just on the shelves when a store received its shipment. As a consumer, you had to be in the right place at the right time to procure a pair. The process is worlds away from what people have become accustomed to the past couple of years. There were no campouts, raffle tickets, or trying to have the quickest thumbs to beat faceless hordes on the Internet who want the same product.
It's easy for someone to curse a brand up and down because they couldn't purchase a hyped release.
But is this so bad for the sneaker industry?
With the prevalence of sneaker releases that are nearly impossible to get, random restocks help ease the tension between the consumer and the brand. It's easy for someone to curse a brand up and down because they couldn't purchase a hyped release. But it's harder for a brand to eliminate unnecessary hype from everything that it releases.
Take for example the spontaneous release of the "Red October" Air Yeezy IIs. Without any prior inkling that it would drop Kanye's final sneaker with the brand, Nike made them available via Twitter link on a random Sunday afternoon. Nike isn't the only brand or shop that makes sneakers suddenly available. Just the other day, Bodega re-released its Reebok Insta Pump Fury collaboration that had come out a few weeks before. And sites as obscure as Foot Locker Europe have thrown up restocked Air Jordans without the rest of the Internet knowing.
Granted, these are opportunities for consumers to instantly come up on sneakers they've been chasing down, but they also make would-be consumers live in a constant state of alert and fear that a restock will go down without notice.
Even if random restocks aren't announced, their very existence is enough to convince people to hold off on sneakers that might not instantly sell out. This can lead to everyone not buying what they really like,
because they knew a big re-release might be momentarily available.
Would-be consumers live in a constant state of alert and fear that a restock will go down without notice.
We're refreshing our Twitter feeds in the anticipation that we'll get a pair of "Royal" Air Jordan 1s for retail price, rather than strolling into the local sneaker spot to see what's in store. There's a percentage of 'heads who believe the restock has given everyone a fair shot, and is a good idea to give everyone a second (or third, or four, or fifth) chance to get a certain sneaker. The restocks have also crippled us into the false hopes that we will be able get these sneakers, too.
The barrage of restocks also force 'heads to focus on re-upping on sneakers that already released, instead of picking up new and exciting silhouettes. For instance, while Nike re-released the "Nightshade" Air Jordan XI Low, the Kobe 9 EMs subsequently sat on shelves that same weekend.
Sneakers that randomly restock, at times, are just as difficult to successfully add to your cart and check out as ones whose release has been broadcast across the Internet. The tech-savvy consumer is now behind the wheel of every sneaker restock. That is, until people get tired of the same sneakers being restocked, and restocked, and restocked.
Of course, particular sneakers are gone within the blink of an eye, but they're also brought back before anyone forgot they were gone. As much as it has us waiting with baited breath for Nike or Eastbay's next announcement that there will be a restock, it's become a year-long Easter egg hunt to track down a pair of Air Jordans. And if someone does get their hands on a pair, it feels like they were crowned as NBA MVP.
And while the masses are on a wild goose chase for the next re-release of the "Gamma Blue" Air Jordan XIs, a select few are scooping up the New Balance 998s and Nike Flyknit Racers that were lost in the shuffle.
Across the board, restocks have made things better for those so deeply entrenched in the sneaker world. Let's face it: We've reached an all-time high in sneaker hype, but the wave continues to rise and rise—there's no turning back.