In April 2021, eBay’s sneaker Authentication Centre opened in the UK in order to help buyers of new and used sneakers shop with confidence. It was also a timely move, with sneaker demand surging during lockdown and eBay selling sneakers on its marketplace every 9 seconds.
Working with crep experts SneakerCon, sneaker enthusiasts staff the centre, a warehouse on the outskirts of London which has become one of the coolest spots you never knew existed. In the last year, eBay has authenticated over 1.5 million sneakers globally, with more than 1.9 million pairs available to buy every day.
With the rapidly increasing scale of the footwear market, and the emergence of sneakers as a new asset class, there has never been more incentive for unscrupulous hucksters to get in on the game and create and push non-authentic merchandise.
To combat that, the authenticators are here to give you the real, their passion for the job palpable. With rap music blasting from the speakers, it was good vibes only in the UK centre when we recently paid a visit. Whilst it may have the community spirit of your favourite hangout spot, this is an operation that puts up some serious numbers. From what was an empty warehouse space back in April, the Authentication Centre has now become a thriving hub, full of conveyor belts, racks and racks of sneakers, and more Jordan, Yeezy and New Balance 550 boxes than your average sneakerhead could dream of.
The program currently authenticates all sneakers in new and used condition that are valued for £100 and over. Once a pair of sneakers has been authenticated, it receives a unique smart tag that provides detailed information about their authenticity. This tag can be easily read by your smartphone, making relisting them a breeze.
We chopped it up with some of the UK authenticators to discover what got them hooked on sneakers, what it takes to be an authenticator, and why there is a genuine sense of community at the Authentication Centre.
How do you guys go about sifting through legit sneakers and the ones that aren’t authentic?
There are different people doing different roles. We check them for quality control alongside the pictures, condition, size, box, stuff like that. Some boxes don’t even get past this stage. We have several checkpoints which we know ourselves having studied so many shoes. Certain shoes have a certain smell, too.
How did you first get into shoes and sneakers?
I would literally go on eBay back in the day and just stare at sneakers. I got obsessed with them just by looking on eBay and trawling through all the different types. I’m originally from Lithuania, so the access we had to the variety of shoes we have here today was impossible. I actually think a lot of the sneakers I was after didn’t even ship to Lithuania. I didn’t have a chance of copping any of the shoes I actually wanted back then. But then I moved to London and started looking into sneakers some more, checking out exclusive releases and whatever, and realised I really want to get into it. I started getting put on to raffles and then going on to resell stuff. Every release I would just follow up and get more and more into it.
How did you become an Authenticator?
I only had part-time work going for me before this job, but when I saw this pop up as a vacancy, I knew I had to apply. I managed to get invited to train, met the team, and it was actually just so nice from day one. You’re with likeminded people here, and that’s what makes it so good to work here. Before we even started the whole programme, we were trained by the team from SneakerCon in the States. They showed us the ropes until we got to a level where we were comfortable with the whole process. When you’re sorting through hundreds of shoes a day, you’ve naturally got to be really into them. We’ve got so many people working in different areas and on different brands, so we often all come together when a mad rare release comes in and all observe it and talk about it as a team.
Do you wear your grails out or do you only collect them?
I’m definitely more of a collector. I’ve got like 12-15 pairs, but there are people here who have got like 50 or 60. I like building up my collection and growing it then wearing some of the more low-key ones. But if you’re a proper sneakerhead, you should wear your grails out. I treat it more as a business: if I paid £150 for a pair of shoes that I can sell for £1,500, I will keep them and sell them when the time’s right, as I’m not that rich. One day, I definitely want a pair of the Macklemore Jordan 6s. We were just watching a Sneaker Shopping with Ed Sheeran, actually—he was given a pair by him personally, but it wasn’t really a big deal for him. He also fell in a pool wearing a pair of Red Octobers. I think that’s a good attitude to have with wearing sneakers out!
What do you enjoy about being an Authenticator here?
It’s so different from any other job. If you’re really into trainers, it’s literally the perfect job. Seeing new releases come through here before people even have it is crazy. There are also super rare shoes that come through here, too. There are people that have been using eBay way before authentication even existed, so you get some crazy sneakers coming in from the ‘90s and early 2000s that you just don’t really see any more. But the best thing is people are always looking out for each other here for releases. I also thought it would all be guys here as well, but there’s so many girls here which is great – Dee has an incredible archival knowledge on old-school sneakers.
What sort of sneaker trends do you notice working here?
It’s funny, as you can see trends unfold just from authenticating. There were loads of Dunk Mids at the start, but now there are so many New Balance’s coming in recently. There’s loads of 550s now, and the New Balance x Aime Leon Dore releases have been going crazy this year in terms of hype, and a lot of them have been coming through the warehouse. Dunks are still really strong though; Pandas are still really popular. I used to have a pair, and I’m pretty annoyed I sold them now.
eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee is basically a seal of approval from you. Why is it such a good thing?
I would say the pricing for both used and new shoes is so much better; you can always find a bargain here. When you buy on eBay, you can chat to the seller or buyer on the app after you’ve purchased, which is a massive thing for me. It’s just a bit more human than buying from other places—you feel safer copping from here. When sneakers arrive in their special boxes and stuff, it’s a proper moment inspecting them; you’re literally handling thousands of pounds worth of product so it’s pretty mad.
If you could get any sneakers for Christmas, what would you ask for?
I really want the Yeezy NSTLD Boots! They’re perfect for winter, with the amount of padding they have.
How did you first get into working as a Sneaker Authenticator?
I’ve been here since the start in April, but this is my third actual role in sneaker authentication. I’m the best there is! Nah, but I’ve been a sneaker head for the longest. I’ve been collecting for about 20 years so I’ve built up some solid expertise in that time. I’m from the old-school, so I’m all about wearing my own kicks and collecting them too.
What’s good about working here?
It’s actually just proper calm working here. We all get on—on a level—which really helps, and we’re always helping each other out when it comes to getting the sneakers we want or just with general knowledge about releases themselves. The atmosphere here is always really good, too. There’s always tunes playing while we’re working and everyone’s on a good vibe during the days. There’s not as many of us around today—because of the tube strike—but from table to table, there’s always good energies there.
Are you trying to cop anything mad for Christmas?
eBay is just the simplest way of getting your hands on legit sneakers, and that’s what a lot of us are here working for to be honest. I’ll probably be having a look there for presents this month, and I’m not even saying that just because I work here.