America's Most Vibrant Industry Right Now Is $80,000 Sneakers

Unless you're of a certain (mostly young, mostly male) demographic, you probably haven't heard that one of the biggest, most anticipated product launches of the year, Nike's Air Yeezy II sneaker.

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Unless you're of a certain (mostly young, mostly male) demographic, you probably haven't heard that one of the biggest, most anticipated product launches of the year, Nike's Air Yeezy II sneaker. Although we consider ourselves hip and in the know, we didn't understand the extent of this event until we came across the following absurd stat: the price of a Yeezy 2, the Nike named for Kanye West, is reaching $80,000 on eBay, claims the New York Daily News. And a pair already allegedly sold for over $90,000, says Bloomberg Businessweek. That sounds ridiculous for a shoe (a sneaker no less!) that retails for $252, so we went looking on eBay ourselves, and while there were no listings at $80K, there were some in the $10,000 range. We have long heard of this type of crazy fanboyism for Apple product launches, but with this whole resale ecosystem, this sounds more than hype taking over a product's core demographic. Since the shoe maybe comes out today -- Nike says it won't announce the day and time in advance -- we better brush up before the weekend selling bonanza begins.

Step 1: Understand the Yeezy

At its core, the Yeezy 2 is a Nike sneaker. To be sure, this is a designer sneaker made with materials we would personally use for our own fancy shoes. Per a press release:

The Air Yeezy 2 comes with hand-skived anaconda textured leather quarter panels and a reptilian-like rear spike, as well as opulent details and references to ancient civilizations: hieroglyphics spell out "YZY" on the shoe's loop strap and the Roman numeral "II" is etched on the leather lace toggle. 

Yes "hand-skived anaconda" sounds lux and, the shoe does get a 9.5 out of 10 overall swag grade in the Bleacher Report's sneaker review. But the hype isn't really about the design or materials. More than that, these are the kicks of the stars. Kanye, who designed the shoes as a follow up to the original Yeezy, has been sporting them for months. Jay-Z has a pair, too. And when Nike releases these to the general public the shoes will have more than the hand-craftings of Kanye West. "The Air Yeezy 2 prototype was also tailored to West's own foot, rendering it slimmer than the original," said one press release.

Step 2: Understand the Yeezy Resale Ecosystem

The Yeezy 2 will retail for $252, yet we have already seen the shoe go for thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. This does not compute. But, it's all a part of the designer sneaker retail game. Like Apple before a big iThing launch, Nike has baited its fanboys, keeping things secret and scarce. Though Nike is expected to start selling the shoe at some point today, it has kept the exact timing under wraps, says a post on its site. "The day and time will not be announced in advance. We will tweet the link when the shoe is live." (Nike had not yet tweeted out any information.) Gimmicky, yes, but it keeps the fans busy looking at sketches of the shoe, checking the Twitter feed, and talking about where to get the shoes. The fanboys get giddier and giddier until they explode, splurging on a $90,000 pre-order. When the shoe finally comes out, Nike will only release 3,000-5,000 pairs, obviously not enough to satisfy demand. Low supply plus super-high demand equals a lucrative resell market. However, buyer beware: Some, like Scav writing for, suspect the resell market won't have as much potential as it seems. "There’s a chance this is just some kind of publicity stunt," writes Scav. Some of those preorderers might be getting punked.

Step 3: Buy the Yeezy

Here's the hard part. A couple of options:

  • Preorder the shoe on eBay for a huge markup that might end up being a huge ripoff. 
  • Wait in line at a store that says it will sell the shoe. Complex Sneakers has a list of what it claims are all the stores selling the shoe. Even if one gets their hands on a shoe, this could cost more than $252. One excited shoe owner paid $400 to be fourth in line outside a Detroit store, notes the Detroit Free Press. Similar to Apple product launches and high-profile Supreme Court cases, some are paying people to hold their place in line. 
  • Enter this contest.
  • Buy the shoes for a mystery price after they have sold out. That will could cost somewhere from a couple hundred to the tens of thousands of dollars.

Step 4: Be the Yeezy

Either wear them or keep them in a glass case until you take them to the yearly gathering of designer sneaker aficionados, Sneaker Con.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.