An open letter: Is it time to kill the sneaker sleep out?

I am writing this more or less to get it off my chest and to see what the communal feedback is like. I have been concerned about the camping out for sneakers here in Australia for a while. We have not experienced too many releases with the kind of violence you have seen on the news in the USA but with the escalating amount of drops and consequential camp outs things have been getting tense here lately and it’s not uncommon to at least hear about a few fights over a weekend.

We simply cannot expect to get more product here, that is not going to happen. With such a small market once you know how hard it is to get a drop in some places in the USA you will realize we are actually pretty lucky in regards to some Jordan and SB drops, we definitely don’t get everything but remember, they sell more shoes in NYC alone than we do nationally annually (I think that’s correct).

Camping has bred all kinds of antisocial behavior, we now have guys camping out more than one night for a release, people setting up ghost chairs where they place 3-6 chairs and sit in one claiming the others are getting food or going to the bathroom. We also have ‘groups’ getting together at these events and standing over people making them feel unsafe and scared so they leave. People up front are often providing false information regarding sizes and availability down the line to discourage people from staying. We have people being paid to line up and provide misinformation and then of course there is the old famous line cut.

So considering this the inevitable happens and there is either heated arguments or scuffles at these events, not every release but some. With the same people hitting up the same releases every other week and with the potential for alcohol and other factors to come into play I personally think it’s only a matter of time before the violence escalates and something really bad happens. When there is people making very serious cash on the reselling of sneakers its very serious business.

I was under the impression that this kind of behavior was technically loitering and not allowed in shopping centers and in the city anyway? It definitely wasn’t a few years back I remember a bunch of line ups getting shut down.

So what’s my solution? In 2009 I went to Japan with a good mate and it was fashion night out, there was a tonne of awesome sales at BBC, Bape etc. and they all went off without a hitch. How did they do it? Their system is surprisingly simple.

Say a drop is set for 10am (open) Saturday morning, at 9am the shop attendant comes out with numbers in a hat and each person gets to pick one number at random from folded up bits of paper. This number is the number in line you will have available to you at 10am when the doors open, it is not a promise of product or a size it is merely an allocation to a place in the line for entry. If you forget or lose your ticket in that hour it is bad luck and you must present your ticket for entry at 10.

Why does this work? Simply there is no added advantage for lining up making it an even playing ground for anyone who can get there at 9am, no matter if you are 1st or 50th in line you have the chance of pulling a great number and as such getting into the store near the front. Once in the store you are then able to purchase 1 of each item that’s available that day and then exit.

This system also kills the ghost chair and ‘I’m just minding this for 7 other people who are coming’ mentality which is completely ridiculous and unfair at line ups. Also it means the standing over of people and the insecurity that’s felt by people to sit out in the city all night is eliminated. Also and maybe one of my favorite things, it gives kids a chance to cop something awesome. I grew up when there wasn’t super limited colorways every other weekend and I was able to get shoes weeks after release, I would hate to be the 13 year old me now, in the scene, and never be able to cop what I wanted while working as a janitor in a bakery like I did at school to buy shoes and cds.

I personally saw this system work and pulled #2 out of a hat at an amazing 70% off BBC sale in Harajuku, sure I was vomiting blood due to an excessing few nights out and gave it to my best friend who generously gave me is #86 ticket but even at #86 I was able to score some cool stuff and didn’t mind (it was after all my own fault I was in that state).

The end goal of this I am sure will frustrate some people and have them calling me all kinds of BS on the net, like I said there are people making serious bank of their staunch tactics and this doesn’t work in their advantage, also some people will wonder why the hell I care so much. I love sneakers, I have for around 14 years and even though I hate reselling it isn’t even about that.  It’s more or less about finding the most perfect solution to a problem that isn’t going away anytime soon and creating a better sense of equality and harmony.

I understand kids are ‘thirsty’ for kicks these days and there sure as hell was years where you wouldn’t believe how many shoes I purchased but nobody is entitled in this scene, being a completest and a sneakerhead is a horrible combination.

I have seen it all over 14 years as a sneaker head, guys with 1000s of shoes drop out of the scene, kids come in heavy buy big and regret it, the rich take over and leave, shops open and close and then reopen, big events, Australia missing out on product, everything is cyclical. Remember, if you miss a release with the way things are now you will probably be able to get it in another two years if you only want to pay retail.

I am in a privileged position with my customizing and long time in the scene to know a lot of shop owners and people high up in brands, I am going to talk to some people and see what they think about implementing this at their store and giving it a local trial, hopefully it’s an overwhelming success here like it is in Japan but inevitably it’s up to the store owners not me, or maybe even someone else to invent the perfect system, it isn’t online with the use of bots these days.

After all, blood on the footpath of a sneaker store at 8am on a weekend isn’t a good look for anyone or anything to be proud of. The idea is to stop that from happening before it is too late, nobody wants to be on the news or in jail for a pair of sneakers, right?

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