Sharing Secrets to Scoring the Hottest Sneakers

Sneaker Con, a gathering of shoe fanatics founded in 2009, brought 500 vendors and more than 19,000 people to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York late last year. The heart and soul of the event was the trading pit, an area in the back of the 840,000-square-foot center where sellers, mostly teenage boys, were talking and holding up their sneakers, looking for buyers. The experience was overwhelming, confusing (where are their parents?) and educational. Here’s what the sneaker experts had to say for themselves.

The line for Sneaker Con wrapped around the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.Krista Schlueter for The New York Times
The line for Sneaker Con wrapped around the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
Antonio Linares, known as @fake_education to his 600,000 Instagram followers. If you need to find out if you got scammed on eBay, he is your guy.Krista Schlueter for The New York Times
Antonio Linares, known as @fake_education to his 600,000 Instagram followers. If you need to find out if you got scammed on eBay, he is your guy.

Antonio Linares

Specialises in authentication of product, @fake_education

What are the things you look for first when authenticating sneakers?

Ultimately it always comes down to craftsmanship, detail and the material used. The counterfeit industry is going to get as close as possible to the original materials, but they cut corners and use inferior products. Stitching is usually a big thing to check across the board, whether it is a hoodie or a pair of shoes.

What are some of the biggest differences between real and fake sneakers?

A common difference amongst real from fakes is usually on inside size tags of sneakers, as well as on the box labels. The font style is 99.9 percent different, always. On Yeezys, for example, since they are some of the most counterfeited items I see, I look at the stitching; build structure; wherever it says “boost”; the font style; and the box.

On eBay, some users will post photos of the real shoes but then send counterfeit ones. How do you know you are not getting scammed?

I personally do not use eBay. Why I started @fake_education was by getting scammed on eBay.

What about people with good ratings?

Buy from somebody credible, from somebody reputable that has a reputation to uphold. To be 100 percent certain, buy from somewhere that has a return policy. Somewhere that if it gets out that they sold a fake, that it’s going to tarnish the image.

What are the top counterfeit items that you see?

Anything made by Adidas: the Yeezys, NMD, Ultraboost. They’re selling off demand as well. For example, a general release NMD or an Ultraboost shoe holds almost no resale value, but that’s some of the most popular replicas on the market, because people are not even thinking that they’re buying a counterfeit. Whereas when it comes to Yeezys, they’re calling every lifeline possible to prove legitimacy. But when you come up to somebody with a pair that’s $180 in store and they’re giving it to you for, let’s say, $150, you just think you’re getting a good deal, right? Little do you know, they bought it for 60 bucks.

Brett Avery, left, and Jake Avery selling the fruits of their labour.Krista Schlueter for The New York Times
Brett Avery, left, and Jake Avery selling the fruits of their labour.
Krista Schlueter for The New York TimesIf you just can't get enough sneakers.
If you just can't get enough sneakers.
Krista Schlueter for The New York TimesLook, Mom! No hands!
Look, Mom! No hands!
Ariana Peters, a co-founder of the Chicks With Kicks, has a collection of over 6,000 sneakers that her father started more than 25 years ago.Krista Schlueter for The New York Times
Ariana Peters, a co-founder of the Chicks With Kicks, has a collection of over 6,000 sneakers that her father started more than 25 years ago.

Ariana Peters

Co-founder, the Chicks With Kicks

How do you know when a sneaker will be an investment?

Now it’s a lot of hype. Kanye West drops something and all the kids are running, and a month or two months later, the price just drops. We don’t buy into the hype stuff. We buy stuff that held its value over time. We have sneaker patents. We have one-of-a-kind Yeezy samples. We specialise in prototype, samples, vintage, rare samples.

How do you know when something will generate hype?

Right now the market is all hype.

So your strategy is that you look for rare and unique sneakers that you know will hold value. What are some of the rarest pieces you have?

1985 Air Jordan 1s; we have the largest collection. That’s my favourite part of our collection, just because it holds so much history — it’s the first year of the Jordan. We have signed Julius Erving Converse sneakers. We have Yeezy samples, a few different colourways that have never been seen.

How many sneakers do you have in your collection?

My sisters and I have over 6,000 pairs, but we stopped counting. Our dad started the collection over 25 years ago, and we took it over about five or six years ago.

What are you looking for when buying sneakers?

It depends on the sneaker. Let’s say I were buying a 1985 Air Jordan: I would look at the yellowing, the cracking in the paint. If it’s metallic, that’s a big issue. You can use sneaker-cleaning products, and a lot of issues when it comes to yellowing just happen with age. So if you can get a dead stock pair from, like, ’85 or the ‘90s and it has no yellowing, the value is just astronomically more.

Tips for sneaker care?

We store our collection in an air-conditioned, no-humidity storage room. If it’s a collection piece, you want to keep it away from a lot of lights — they could yellow it.

Krista Schlueter for The New York TimesMikey Mouse made an appearance.
Mikey Mouse made an appearance.
Krista Schlueter for The New York TimesAre slides the new sneakers?
Are slides the new sneakers?
Yu Ming Wu founded Sneaker Con nine years ago. He is eyeing a $27,000 pair of Krista Schlueter for The New York Times
Yu Ming Wu founded Sneaker Con nine years ago. He is eyeing a $27,000 pair of "Back to the Future" Nike Mags.

Yu Ming Wu

Co-founder, Sneaker Con

What is your favourite sneaker?

The Nike Air Max 1. If we have to kind of go down to actual colourway, it would be the 2002 or 2003 Atmos colourway. It has a very safari, fun print to it.

You told me that you’ve waited years to find a pair of shoes. Which ones were they?

The Nike Air Max 1s in the Amsterdam colourway. I’ve probably spent now nine or 10 years looking for them. For the longest time, I refused to pay the high prices for them. I broke down this year.

How much?

$1,500. (Approximately S$1,990)

What is the most you would pay for sneakers?

Most recently I have been contemplating purchasing the real auto-lacing Nike Air Mags, the “Back to the Future” shoes which were released last year. Today they go for anywhere from $23,000 to about $60,000 (S$30,518 to S$79,614). I found a pair on eBay for $33,000 (S$43,787), and I talked them down to $27,000 (S$35,826). If I do get them, that will be the most expensive pair of shoes I will ever purchase in my life. The price of a nice decent car.

Tips for getting your hands on hard-to-get sneakers?

It’s tough. Today I try to be as safe as possible. I use eBay much more rarely. I am involved with the resell shop Stadium Goods here in New York City. I try to buy most of my shoes from there, just because they’re authenticated.

What are some tips for eBay?

I generally look at sellers that have excellent feedback on eBay. I always look at people who write their name.

How do you care for your sneakers?

I do sometimes use Mylar bags. For people who’ve collected comic books out there, they use Mylar bags to keep them from getting the acid air or whatever it is from boxes. I also sometimes take out the insoles and throw them in with my bleach cycle, or I also use vinegar. You wash your underwear and your socks, but you’d never wash insoles. Those guys get pretty nasty.

Krista Schlueter for The New York TimesName a more iconic duo.
Name a more iconic duo.
Krista Schlueter for The New York TimesWhen you wear all your best pieces at once.
When you wear all your best pieces at once.
Krista Schlueter for The New York TimesGiancarlo Purchia of Blazendary went live. The kids loved it.
Giancarlo Purchia of Blazendary went live. The kids loved it.
Mubi Ali of Sneakersnstuff has over 4,500 pairs of shoes.Krista Schlueter for The New York Times
Mubi Ali of Sneakersnstuff has over 4,500 pairs of shoes.

Mubi Ali

Buyer, Sneakersnstuff

First, how many pairs of sneakers do you have?

About 4,500 pairs. I’ve got a storage facility. I’ve been collecting since maybe 1996. So it’s been a long time to accumulate a lot of shoes.

Favourite sneakers?

Supreme Dunk High Stars. I just love the whole aesthetic of them. The embossed croc leather, the gold stars. The fact that they brought out three, it was very premium at that time.

How do you know what shoes will be investments later?

Trends are moving so quickly nowadays that it’s hard to predict. A pair that you’ve hedged a lot of bets on and think that is going to be very hot, eight months later doesn’t end up being so hot because the kids don’t get into it. But if a brand puts enough money behind something, it’s generally a sure winner. So looking at 2018, we’re hoping that Nike comes back because I’ve had a tough couple of years. And Adidas either maintained or even improves on the previous year.

How can you tell a counterfeit sneaker from a real?

There’s lots of telltale signs: the box, the sticker tags, the inside label. If you know that there’s a certain number that comes out of a shoe and someone’s got 15, 20 pairs, you’ve got to think that’s a little bit suspect.

Any tips on getting limited-edition sneakers?

You can try to get lucky with a raffle or a queue. Try eBay. Or even like Sneak Con is the best way to get what you want and what you need. The prices might be inflamed, but think of it as an investment piece. If you love it that much, go for it. Why not?

Krista Schlueter for The New York TimesThere was a Crep Protect station where people could wash their valuables.
There was a Crep Protect station where people could wash their valuables.
Krista Schlueter for The New York TimesBryan Cohen of Kosher had a style
Bryan Cohen of Kosher had a style "museum" with limited-edition pieces from the Supreme and Louis Vuitton collaboration. He waited in line to get them.
Krista Schlueter for The New York TimesHayden Sharitt had lots to sell.
Hayden Sharitt had lots to sell.
Benjamin Kapelushnik, 16, is a sneaker reseller to the stars. He has 650,000 followers, including some of these boys eager for a selfie.Krista Schlueter for The New York Times
Benjamin Kapelushnik, 16, is a sneaker reseller to the stars. He has 650,000 followers, including some of these boys eager for a selfie.

Benjamin Kapelushnik, aka Benjamin Kickz

Sneaker reseller to athletes and celebrities, @benjaminkickz

When did you start collecting sneakers?

I started as a hobby when I was 13. And my parents just didn’t want to support it at first. So I just had to resell sneakers to make money to buy myself more sneakers.

What are some tips for people trying to get sneakers?

You go to events like Sneaker Con and make a bunch of connections, and you just text them. You say, “Yo, how much is this? How much is this?” You just eventually get all of it.

What sneakers are you looking at for 2018?

Probably hoping Nike SBs. I know SBs died out a little, but hopefully they come back.

Krista Schlueter for The New York TimesIt must pay to be D.J. Khaled's sneaker connect.
It must pay to be D.J. Khaled's sneaker connect.

Tips for authentication?

When you over and over look at the same shoe, you can just tell. And there is this Instagram @fake_education. He’s one of my boys; he does it.

What the most you’ve ever paid for sneakers?

$14,000 (S$18,576) for a sample for myself. It was a sample Air Jordan.

What are your tips for sneaker drops?

It kind of gets hectic at sneaker drops. I used to camp out with my brothers all the time. I used to pay kids $50, $100, (S$66, S$132) but I stopped doing that now.

What about eBay?

I used to when I first started out. I used to get clean used shoes on eBay, buy them and clean them up and try to make them look close to new.

Krista Schlueter for The New York TimesChun Zhang and Xuanyi Chen, both 18.
Chun Zhang and Xuanyi Chen, both 18.
Krista Schlueter for The New York TimesTwo hot-ticket items: the Off-White x Nike Blazers, left, and the Yeezy 700 wave runners.
Two hot-ticket items: the Off-White x Nike Blazers, left, and the Yeezy 700 wave runners.
Matthew Ting and his son. Mr. Ting works for Adidas and gets free sneakers, so he is able to really invest in his son's feet.Krista Schlueter for The New York Times
Matthew Ting and his son. Mr. Ting works for Adidas and gets free sneakers, so he is able to really invest in his son's feet.

Matthew Ting

Senior brand activation manager, Adidas N.Y.C.

What are some of your tips for sneaker care?

Occasionally I just use a wipe. It could be a household wipe, a Crep Protect or a Jason Markk wipe. It’s pretty easy to take out the insole, and then I leave it out to air dry.

How do you know when a sneaker will be an investment?

That’s driven by supply and demand. I think kids are hip and know when things are limited, and that’s really the impetus for a reason to buy. Whenever a Yeezy 350 comes out, people know that quantity is quite limited, and that is a driving factor.

What the most you’ve paid for sneakers?

I’ve been in the footwear industry so long, I don’t think I have to have paid for sneakers in the last 15 years. It sounds like I’m spoiled, but I’ve been very fortunate to be in this industry where I haven’t had to pay for my own shoes. I pay for shoes for my son.

What is your son wearing?

He’s wearing Jordan 1s. He enjoys mixing them up, so he has one blue and one red. We bought two pairs to accomplish that.

What was you first pair of sneakers?

It was a Nike Jordan. I think seventh or eighth grade. My parents were very strict, so it was unheard-of to spend a hundred dollars for sneakers. Between birthday money, Christmas money, Chinese New Year money and rolling up quarters and coins, I scraped up enough money. They took me to New Jersey, because there it was tax-free. We went to some mall, and I think I bought it at the Athlete’s Foot over 20 years ago.

Krista Schlueter for The New York TimesSneaker selling is serious business.
Sneaker selling is serious business.
Krista Schlueter for The New York TimesJordans everywhere.
Jordans everywhere.
Amber Jackson specialises in ’80s and ’90s vintage clothes. She studies old MTV videos to educate herself.Krista Schlueter for The New York Times
Amber Jackson specialises in ’80s and ’90s vintage clothes. She studies old MTV videos to educate herself.

Amber Jackson

Vintage clothing store owner, Flight Vintage

How do you authenticate vintage or new clothing?

I basically study the past. I watch like a lot of old MTV, like rap videos and rock videos. I also do a lot of eBay, so I know what goes for what price and what to buy and what not. There are certain tags to look for, especially with Supreme. There’s a lot of fake Supreme going around. Study the tags. Study details. Stitching is everything, and the colour of the shirt. Sometimes an item could be discoloured colour and it could be fake.

Krista Schlueter for The New York TimesMs. Jackson’s Nike Uptempos.
Ms. Jackson’s Nike Uptempos.

Some tips for people looking for vintage clothing?

Go everywhere. Ask your grandma, ask your grandpa, ask your mom, your dad. Bring out that old concert T-shirt. Someone’s got it.

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