There used to be, if you will allow an old man to reminisce, what was almost an art to buying things from Supreme. Not the ordinary things like decks or wheels or griptape—if you were an actual skater you were treated like an actual customer—but the hard-to-get stuff like its Nike Dunks or particularly sought-after T-shirts and five-panel hats.
There was a release day, sure, but in those wild pre-Twitter (and pre-online shop) days, this info wasn’t widely distributed. You had to know it, or at least know somebody. And everything wasn’t just placed out on display, either. You had to ask. And if that day’s arbitrary allotment was sold out, well, better luck tomorrow. Selling out on the first day wasn’t the idea. When the Dunk Highs released in 2002, I eventually got the whole set, going back again and again over the course of a week or more.
This, of course, is no longer possible.
Here’s how a Supreme drops works now, for those who aren’t familiar. Generally, word gets out of something new dropping early in the week, or maybe the week before. Releases happen on Thursdays, and the lineup starts at least a day before. In the case of the much-heralded Foamposites—which wound up not even selling at the New York store—it was more like a couple of days before. Simultaneous with the shop doors opening up, products launch online at 11 a.m., which means thousands of people around the world are fervently clicking “refresh” from 10:55 on. Wait for the official e-mail, and whatever was most sought after will already be long gone. For those who can’t line up and miss that crucial first few minutes of an online drop, well, sorry. Best of luck with the resellers.
There has to be a better way, right? Of course. Supreme could go back to only selling a certain amount of the high-demand products every day, ensuring they’d last at least through the weekend, which would at least theoretically give everyone a shot. (Random restocks on the web could do the same thing—although these actually do happen when some of the first-thing orders are inevitably denied or cancelled.) Barring that, though, what to do?
Here’s an idea: Buy different shit. Yes, the box logo tee is a classic, and yes, the latest leopard-print, half-suede, neon pink five panel will get beaucoup likes on the ‘Gram. But not only is that not all Supreme makes, it’s not even necessarily the best stuff Supreme makes. Ditto on the collabs. Vans and Nike and Comme des Garçons is nice and all, but ask yourself this: Are you buying the Supreme stuff you buy because you like it, or because it’s a real-life equivalent of a “First!” comment? And do you really want to be out there wearing the same thing as everyone else (albeit on a much smaller scale than, say, the newest Jordan retros)? Oh, hey, you got the Taxi Driver T-shirt too, huh? Sorry you got stuck with the yellow XL.
Here’s another idea: Treat Supreme like a clothing store, not a sneaker boutique. Sometimes it seems like product sellouts become a self-fulfilling prophecy—something gets so hyped up that the first people in line buy it whether they actually want it or not. It sells out even faster because people are worried it’ll sell out. Or people settle for colors they’d never, ever buy otherwise just to get the “right” thing. “At least I won’t lose money on it,” becomes the battle cry.
Get it together. Leave the T-shirt rack alone, cross to the other side of the store, and check out some of the cut-and-sew stuff. Funny how some people who don’t think twice about dropping $40 on a T-shirt or $250 on a pair of sneakers will balk at $118 for a button-up or $138 for a pair of jeans. Maybe get something that will stay in the rotation beyond that first, magical week.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with liking the same thing a lot of other people do. After all, someone has to like something on its own merit for it to become popular in the first place. But at the same time, that one item shouldn’t blind you to the other options. If you don’t get that box logo tee or other item du jour, the world isn’t going to come to an end. If you play it right, it’ll actually open up.
Russ Bengtson is a senior staff writer who owns way too much supreme but has never camped out on Lafayette street.