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Weston Kay stands in front of a brick backdrop wearing a pair of oversized glasses, a denim shirt, and a patchy beard while brandishing a razor in hand and says, "It's time to put an end to all the speculation and cut these Shattered Backboard Jordans in half to see if the leather quality's that good….and if they're worth the $1,000 I paid for them."
Kay, who runs the leather goods brand Rose Anvil and YouTube page of the same name, has gained notoriety for cutting apart sneakers on the internet to inspect the quality of the product. He's inspected the aforementioned Air Jordan 1s, as well as a pair of lesser-quality Air Jordan 1 mids, Air Force 1s, Common Projects, Vans, and more. And he's found out whether the sneakers are good or poor in quality and amassed nearly 200,000 subscribers in the process.
"I make wallets, belts and our biggest selling thing is camera harnesses for photographers," says Kay, who is located in northern Utah, where he says there is no sneaker culture, aside from a skate shop in town. "I'm not a cobbler, I'm just a general leather worker."
Kay's videos have drawn interest mainly for two reasons: first, nearly every person with an above average interest in sneakers pays attention to quality, and second, there's something very Good Internet about cutting a sneaker in half.
His videos show that cheaper shoes, such as an Air Jordan 1 Mid, aren't even made out of real leather, while the "Shattered Backboard" Air Jordan 1s are constructed of higher-quality leather in parts of the shoe.
"I'm kind of ignorant to the whole hype game and what's hot," says Kay. "I go in fairly blind to the cultural significance of shoes and what people think of shoes. It makes it easier for me to stay unbiased and look at it from a real world sense without being swayed by hype."
The Common Projects Achilles, which retails for over $400, has long been touted as "the only sneaker you'll ever need" by men's style experts who don't know much about sneakers. It's an all-white sneaker made in Italy and renowned for its quality. Kay deconstructed a pair of these and found out quite the opposite was true.
"It really surprised me that that was one that I kind of fell victim to the hype behind it. I heard in my comment sections, online, and just throughout my life that Common Projects were this ultra high-quality sneaker," says Kay. "I was expecting something a little bit more like a boot out of them, like full leather and a lot higher quality. They ended up just being an average shoe. It was a little bit overpriced."
In his video, Kay found out the shoes were made out of "chrome-tanned leather," which is a leather made from a cheaper process than vegetable-tanned leather. He also found out that shoes have a softer sole than Vans or Converse, which means it will wear down faster.
When it came time to dissect the Shattered Backboards, Kay says he felt hesitant. He's not the first person to destroy a sneaker online, although many have done so without the purpose of actually learning about the shoe, rather lighting it on fire or dipping it in fudge for Instagram likes or YouTube views.
"That's a lot of people's holy grail shoes and then they just see some guy cutting it apart on YouTube," says Kay about the Shattered Backboards. "A lot of people were really interested and a lot of people were upset."
He found that the toebox leather on the shoe, which is perceived to be some of the best Jordan has ever put out, was a "pretty good leather for the price." The black leather that's on the toe and heel, Kay says, was a "cheap" leather without grain. Given the $160 retail price on the sneakers, Kay was impressed.
"They're far from really high quality," he says. "They're decent quality for a sneaker."
As far as leather quality in sneakers, goes Kay says many are average, and there may be several factors that cause that. "I think it's planned obsolescence," says Kay. "I also think that when you get these big companies, you have so many people that are trying to make a buck all the way up the corporate ladder. It's all about the bottom line, and they know their shoes are gonna sell no matter what. I think companies are trying to make more money. I think they want people to buy shoes more often."
As far as the future of the channel goes, Kay says he's interested in dissecting an original 1985 Air Jordan 1, although he admits it's probably too expensive. He's also had unnamed boot companies mad at him for exposing what's in their products. Through the whole process, Kay admits that he's gotten a few things wrong (which has been called out by the commenters).
What the future holds for Kay, as far as YouTube goes, remains unknown, but he's going along with it and seeing where it takes him.
"I never intended to be a guy that cuts shoes and boots and half on YouTube. It's funny, right?" says Kay. "It makes me appreciate the sneakers a lot more. It's just really fun seeing what people are paying and how much hype dictates quality in that world."