Philly Sole: Shoetopia and the Sneaker Hustle

Sneakers are hot right now, and getting hotter. Introducing a column designed to keep you on top of the amazing world of stylish, comfortable footwear.

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Anyone who thinks millennials don’t have any work ethic has never been to a sneaker convention.

Last month I attended Shoetopia. You bought a ticket for the Sixers’ first win in two months that night, and you got to attend the sneaker convention earlier in the day.

Convention is probably too strong a word. It’s more of a sneaker flea market. Some vendors had tables and loads of sneakers, mostly recent basketball kicks. (“We’ve seen every basketball sneaker released in 2014,” my friend Nick said.) StashedBoxes.com even had a pair of original Air Yeezys, the Kanye West sneaker — Philly.com says it cost $1,450, Slam says $1,300 — and a selection of recent Ubiq sneaker collaborations like the Benjamin, which I camped for out last year for a story.

But the majority of the people at the event were kids. Teenagers. And they sat on the floor or walked around the arena holding their sneakers up for display. Buying sneakers. Selling sneakers. Trading sneakers. These kids were hustling.

The truth is, though, you have to hustle to get the hottest sneakers in 2014. (Okay, you could also be rich.) A lot of the things people used to hunt for — say, out-of-print movies or bootleg concert albums — have largely been replaced by digital distribution. But sneakers are scarce. Want the Supreme Foamposites, released last week? They sold out online instantly on release; those who camped out in New York left empty-handed after police shut down the line. So it’ll cost you $700 or $800 on eBay. And these are Foamposites, one of the hotter sneakers of the last year or so. “People thought they were ugly and overpriced, and the shoes flopped [in 1997],” the Village Voice’s Albert Samaha wrote last year. “Now, more than a decade later, Foamposites have inexplicably emerged as the hottest shoes on the market.”

It’s a sneaker boom (or bubble!). It’s driven by people trying to make a quick buck — flipping Foamposites for a $500 profit — and by people just interested in looking fly. And Matt Powell, a sneaker industry analyst, says it’s not likely to end anytime soon: “We now have at least three generations of kids who grew up wearing nothing but sneakers (at least until they reached the workforce). It will be very difficult to convince millennials to give up lightweight and comfortable athletic footwear for heavy and stiff conventional shoes.”

The sneaker trend is here to stay. And so I’m here to help you navigate it. As a millennial, I have been wearing sneakers my whole life — ever since I fell in love with a pair of Nike Air 180s in the Ultramarine colorway when I was a little kid. Join me as I explore the wonderful world of comfortable footwear. I swear, people: Your feet don’t have to hurt after a long day. I can show you how to be stylish and have pain-free feet.

Philly Sole runs every other Friday. Follow Dan on Twitter at @dhm.