Kicks—in the Flesh

Sneaker heads unite in Chelsea

Something remarkable happened last Saturday. Over the course of the afternoon, a few hundred sneaker connoisseurs (mostly male, though not entirely) willingly subjected their dazzling footwear to several forms of precipitation. Between 2 and 7 p.m., Dunks, Bapes, and Jordans were drizzled on, poured on, and even hailed on while their wearers waited to pay $10 to attend the first Dunkxchange in New York.

The event, at the Chelsea club Stereo, was basically a flea market/swap meet for "sneaker heads," but unlike the flea market, the lights were low, there was a D.J., and beers were flowing. Vendors paid $100 to set up their tables, and the prices they set were entirely up to them. A pair of low-top Dunks made out of hemp and trimmed in green ("bonsai") were tagged at $600, but the same sneakers were under $200 with brown trim. If you were a sneaker head (or a pot head), you'd expect as much—the bonsais were released in a limited edition on April 20th (4/20), and they only made 420 of them.

A pair of purple high top Dunks customized with a portrait of Jimi Hendrix and the words "Purple Haze" across the back were $200 used or $300 new. But Dunkxchange isn't all Dunks. Several editions of Reebok Pumps from the 90s could be had, and there were Jordans representing the last twenty years.

The best way to get a guy's attention at this party is to be a sneaker
photo: Nina Lalli
The best way to get a guy's attention at this party is to be a sneaker

Most of the vending tables corresponded to sneaker websites, which is amusing, considering the event's founder says he was motivated precisely by the experience of getting screwed buying sneakers online. After blowing a few hundred dollars on faux footwear on eBay, Gary Hughes took it upon himself to fight for a sneaker head's right to shop for rare, vintage, and customized sneakers in the flesh.

Collectors who came with fewer than three pairs of shoes each could try to sell or trade without paying for a table. This brought the best aspect of eBay into the mix—the amateur salesman. A group of high school seniors from Queens who call themselves TEAM A.S.H. (Asian Sneaker Heads) would definitely qualify as power sellers. Shu Cheng ("That's my name—'cause I love shoes!") seemed quite comfortable with the hard sell, shouting things like "Hey man, that's a good price!" and "What about your girl, you two could match—C'mon, I'll hook you up."

Over the years, Lauren Leder, a 36 year-old sneaker lover, has given away many pairs of collectable sneakers, having been utterly unaware of the market for stinky old shoes. At Dunkxchange, she stood against the club's bar for most of the day, holding a pair of extremely rare Air Jordan One's in a zip-lock bag. She bought them for playing basketball in 1985, when she was in the tenth grade, and they're still in excellent shape. "I'm waiting for the big money to walk through the door," she said. Although many had admired her Jordans during the day, by 5 p.m., the best offer she had received was fake big money: "If I had it, I'd give you $2,000 for those," one guy had told her.

A 23 year-old guy named Steve had humbler goals for the day. He stood around with a pair of retro 7 Clog Posits that he was hoping to sell in order to buy the very same pair—but in his size. His friend, Danny Rezmovits, 22, had made two purchases but was full of complaints, mostly about the presence of teenagers ("fifteen year-old kids with their moms!") instead of just serious collectors at the event. He bought a pair of Stash Air Max's for $300. The same shoes had caused a commotion when they arrived at Nort, on Lafayette Street, a few weeks ago—people camped out over night to snag the limited release, and they went for $240. Rezmovits put it all into perspective. "I've been into this shit for a few years but I'm not one to wait on line for two days or anything. I'm not retarded."

 
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