The biggest sneaker release of the past decade went down yesterday, except no one was lining up outside of a store and no fights broke out in the middle of the streets. The panic happened from inside of offices and wi-fi friendly cafes, where everyone -- from the average reseller on your timeline to Shannon Sharpe and Topanga Lawrence! -- was trying to get at least one of the nine pairs of Virgil Abloh’s collaboration with Nike that released on the SNKRS app. And for the most part, it was a complete failure for everyone involved.
But what’s what we expected, right?
Virgil’s work with Nike -- mainly the Air Jordan 1s and Prestos -- had been vaunted as the Sneaker(s) of the Year, and everyone wanted in. Not just because they were good shoes on their own merits, but rather that Nike made it that way.
The story of Nike’s downfall has been largely overestimated. Yes, the brand’s stock is in the shitter, and Adidas has risen from falling behind Skechers to overtaking Jordan Brand and becoming the second biggest footwear brand in North America. But it’s clear that the brand has been on a mission since losing Kanye West in 2013 and subsequently its perceived cool. All because it was slow to accept the reality that athletes, in today’s climate, aren’t what moves the needle for the teenager who wants the coolest sneakers that resell for the highest dollar.
That resulted in Nike and Virgil way, way, way, way overdoing it with the Off-White collection. He enlisted nearly everyone of his A-list celebrity friends (Drake, Travis Scott, Bella Hadid, Michael Jordan, to name a few) to gift the sneakers to and make them the most-talked-about release of the year.
With that type of hype around a limited release, even if there were nine different pairs being available to the public (the 10th shoe, the Converse Chuck Taylor, has been delayed), it was bound to end up in debauchery. And it did.
So much so, that Nike had to issue a formal apology on social media, stating:
“We experienced an unprecedented level of demand during the launch of The Ten collection on the SNKRS app today and the shoes sold out in minutes. We always strive for the best consumer experience and we’ll continue to learn from issues that some consumers faced today to help us continuously improve.”
(I'll save you from the roundup of corny tweets of people expressing their frustration at Nike and the app.)
I don’t know much about technology. But I do know that it’s not surprising that this happened. Was the Virgil x Nike project made to generate a massive amount of revenue for Nike? Not really. The quantities of the shoes are unknown, but I doubt that hundreds of thousands of each pair were produced, like the brand does with its more-mainstream product. There’s no way that people can’t reasonably expect that this sort of outcome wasn’t going to happen.
I can’t blame Nike. The brand needed a huge energy play at the moment. Coming off the heels of ComplexCon, which saw them release a handful of collaborations on the Air Force 1 amongst other shoes, this was the perfect way for them to secure the year, at least when it came to footwear hype.
The thing is, though, is that these are supposed to be the Sneakers of the Year. And who has them? No one I know outside of the industry cool guys and celebrities. If it’s truly the “Sneaker of the Year,” it’s weird if no one was really able to hear it. To me, the VaporMax is what changed and redefined the sneaker industry this year, and you saw tons of people wearing them. Often we place these lofty titles on coolest objects on things that we can’t obtain, which ultimately makes them even cooler in everyone’s eyes. People want what they can’t have, and the Off-White x Nike collection was just that.
The shoes themselves are a complete signifier, a statement that you have something that others don’t, all the way down to the red plastic zip tie -- commonly placed on shoes at outlet shops to prevent shoplifting -- on the laces. It also says, “Sorry, you can’t have (or afford) these.” Just the way Nike intended. And as much as we scream at our phones in disgust, raging at an app, we need to realize the simplest truth: Sneakers are mainstream. They’re a commodity. These bastards resell for over $1,000 a pair. People are going to want them, and this is going to continue to happen. Welcome to the party and get acclimated to the fuckery -- there are Yeezys releasing this weekend.