Retail value for a pair of Vans Authentic sneakers is $55. Canadian rocker Mac DeMarco’s tattered, road-worn set are worth roughly 200 times that amount. The singer is auctioning his self-described “sexy shoes” on eBay for charity. In less than 24 hours, over 140 bids had sent the price skyrocketing well past $11,000.
The kicks — which DeMarco sported at a slew of other gigs while touring his latest album, Salad Days — are a beaten-up (but signed) pair of red Vans low-tops, his signature shoe.
“Will anyone buy an old stinky pair of shoes? I don’t know. lets wait and see,” DeMarco writes on the eBay posting. The answer — a resounding yes — echoed across the internet almost immediately after the listing went up Sunday.
DeMarco, 24, said over the phone Monday evening that he came up with the idea because he was bored and thought it was funny. “I was getting a little stir-crazy over the holidays, being home while everyone’s out of town,” he says.
DeMarco’s been selling weird stuff on the internet for years, though. “There was another band on my label [Brooklyn’s Captured Tracks] called DIIV,” he says, speaking of the now famous (and infamous) New York group. The band came through Montreal while DeMarco, who grew up in Edmonton, was living there some years back. Singer Zachary Cole Smith left a sleep mask on the couch when he crashed with DeMarco.
“I said I thought this will be funny,” DeMarco recalls. “I’ll put Cole’s sleep mask on the internet. Some kid in Japan bought it for like fifty bucks.” DeMarco was expecting a similar result this time around (in the ballpark of one hundred dollars), which he would have been happy with. “This is just completely insane,” he says. “The person who is buying these has either stolen their mom’s credit card or is really into the cause as well. Someone is buying essentially garbage.”
DeMarco’s garbage is being recycled into cold card cash for a decent cause: All of the proceeds from the shoes will go to the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls. “I didn’t want to keep the money for myself,” DeMarco says. “I thought that would be kind of greasy.”
DeMarco says that he didn’t know too much about Willie Mae before he posted the shoes online, but that he had several friends volunteer in analogous organizations when he lived in Vancouver. “They would teach young kids how to rock,” he says. “There was a similar place in Brooklyn — seemed cool to me.”
The Willie Mae Camp, which was named after 1950s blues singer and proto-girl-rocker Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, was not aware DeMarco had picked them as beneficiaries until after the news broke Monday morning. “It was a complete surprise,” says executive director Karla Schickele. “The kind of surprise we love.”
Schickele says the camp hopes to reach out to DeMarco directly to see what he has in mind for the funds. A sum as substantial as $10,000 will have a significant impact at the Brooklyn-based nonprofit. The organization, which runs music-centered programs for girls aged eight to eighteen and has a cosign from Joan Jett, says that amount could fund an after-school program for an entire middle school.
It could also fund full scholarships for at least ten girls to come to Willie Mae’s week-long summer camp program, which is what the money will most likely go toward. “This gift will really make it possible for a whole lot of girls to make a whole lot of noise in the world,” says Schickele.
“That’s a lot of basses and drum sets right there,” says DeMarco.
Willie Mae runs one-week intensive summer camps at the cost of $1,000 per camper. The girls get instrument instruction in drums, bass guitar, guitar, or keyboards, are workshopped and mentored by band coaches, and, finally, are encouraged to perform songs they’ve written to an audience of more than four hundred people. They also get to create their own band name. Past favorites: Girlz Like Boyz, Fairy Sandwich, and Explosive Diamonds.
Willie Mae showcases have been held at Music Hall, where DeMarco has also performed. “For most of the girls, it’s their first gig,” says Schickele. “It’s not a bad first gig.”
While he’s not known as the most hygienic man in music — he does have songs dedicated to cigarette brands, after all — DeMarco want to stress that the shoes don’t smell that bad. “I mean, they smell like shoes, but they don’t smell…I mean, the shoes I was wearing before that were bad. You know when you walk behind a restaurant in the summer and there’s a dumpster full of vegetable scraps? That’s what those shoes smelled like.”
The Village Voice‘s 4Knots Festival was actually the last show DeMarco played in those Vans before changing into the internet-famous pair. Had he known how much they were potentially worth, he might not have thrown them into their final resting place: a dumpster in Bushwick.
As for the saleable pair? DeMarco’s girlfriend, Kiera McNally, gave the shoes an “official” smell test. They passed.
The auction ends on Sunday, January 4. For the lucky winner, DeMarco says, “I’ll probably throw some other crap in the box before shipping it. I dunno what.”
DeMarco also used the opportunity for an impromptu question-and-answer session on eBay with his fans. We’ve excerpted the choicest bits of weirdness below.
Q: will you except human seamen [all sic]?
A: Really don’t think rock camp for girls 8 – 18 need any semen
Q: will you miss them?
A: If you love something, you let it go
Q: do you take empty beer cans as payment? you can always trade in the aluminum.
A: Can you send cans through paypal?
Q: Ever kick a hippie with these bad boys on?
A: Don’t really kick hippies that much. definitely kicked it with some hippies in these
Q: will you ever follow me back on twitter babe?
A: I drink horse pee
Q: how do i sell out
A: Start doing things you don’t wanna do, bud.
Q: Cheese. thoughts?
A: Sexy butthole man