It was a mid summer day in 2003 when I walked into a local video rental for a browse among the latest drops. As I scanned the titles some dude looks down at my French Blue Jordan 7’s and say’s “Yo, those Jordan 4s are sick!” I look over, say thanks and then politely correct him regarding the model. He goes from super amped to slightly puzzled and says “really? Are you sure those aren’t Jordan 4s?”
Of course anyone that is shooting off numbers for Jordan models should know the difference between the 7s and the 4s-and by 2003 there wasn’t nearly the amount of drops there are today – but I decided I would draw out the difference on a piece of paper for him. By this time the owner of the store had decided to chime in on the discussion and I figured that it was every self respecting shoehead’s duty in 2003 to draw some Jordan’s on a piece of paper to educate thy fellow shoe head. Right? No? Oh.
After I spent my time illustrating the Jordan’s to educate this man on the differences between two completely different shoes he responds with “you know, I can get you any Jordan in any color”-in that all so common sleezy overly confident tone. Now, as someone that has been a life-long sneakerhead and seriously collecting since 1997 I knew that a) this dude in no way shape or form could get me any shoe I wanted and especially not in any color (that was authentic) and b) he had met the worst person possible to hustle his fakes to. I immediately said I was good and that he was selling fakes for which he replied “nah B, they’re real.” By this point I could just say cool and walk away, or have a little fun. I went with the second option.
I asked him if he could get me the 7s in some colorway that I knew didn’t exist and he says–ever so confidently-“I’ve seen those, yea I can get them!” After a little more talking–and a crash course on Sneakerology 101-I realized this guy truly didn’t know what he was selling and legitimately thought he had some sort of special connection. He explained how a friend had introduced him to someone that declared he had a supply of legit hard-to-find sneakers and that selling them was a great way to make money. Afterwards his overly confident demeanor changed and he thanked me (probably cursed me out in his head) and we parted ways.
This anecdote thus parallels to Allen Kuo’s case.
Fast-forward to 2016 and many individuals have begun openly (and some unknowingly) selling high quality fakes with that never-ending allure to make good money as a reseller. It’s become a huge problem for those of us that care about it and one that has spiraled out of control. The flip side of that are those that have begun to legally hoard tons of high demand releases either through bots, back door dealings or by paying people to wait in line for them and reselling for an instant cashout or sitting on them for a future profit.
Sure, back door deals go down all the time but many are hesitant to make it happen with fear of losing a major account.
Now I’ll never knock the next man’s hustle in this community so long as they are honest and transparent with whatever it is they are hustling, and while resellers are somewhat hated in the shoe community we should remember there is a need for their services. Some of these resellers have built rock solid reputations as individuals that will get you authentic product without having to campout in front of a store or sit in front of a computer all day–useful when you’re busy. These are the resellers that have put in some serious time to build serious connects.
Then it seems that every couple of months some media outlet runs a fairy tale story about someone that’s minimally knowledgeable about footwear and how they made big money flipping sneakers and how we should all be in awe. These stories are a poke of sorts at members of the community that have been around for many years. Remember the time CNBC and the NY Post ran a story about a 16 year old and how he opened the world’s first sneaker pawn shop only to find out that it was all a lie? How many of you had your parents in your ear over that one? I can hear the discussions now; “this 16-year-old opened a store and you’re on your phone taking pictures of your sneakers!? Get up and throw out that garbage.”
This brings me to the video that surfaced recently about Allen Kuo. Kuo claims to have acquired 100 pairs of Yeezy 750 Boosts a week before the release date. Throughout the interview he declares his passion for making money, explains how he is not a sneaker head, how he flipped Nike Elite socks from Eastbay that he claims were purchased at wholesale (even though according to Eastbay they don’t sell wholesale to customers) and how he acquired the shoes from several stores and suppliers. I humored the possibility he actually got his hands on 100 pairs of one of the most sought after shoes on the planet based on the rumor the Grey/Gum had been produced in greater quantities than previous colorways. Still, me being the same guy that drew pictures of Jordans on paper in video stores for educational purposes knew that I had to look into this one a little deeper.
In my experience from nearly two decades of rummaging through mom and pop shops’ basements and warehouses, it’s always been hard to get a connection for a popular shoe from a retailer. Sure, back door deals go down all the time but many are hesitant to make it happen with fear of losing a major account. For most, the risk outweighs the reward especially with individuals entire livelihood’s at stake. Selling out a week in advance is especially risky. It happens though.
With that I reached out to a source that asked not to be named but one that knows about how shoes pass hands.
My source explained what some of us already knew, that brands determine allotment based on different factors such as how much business a store does or — usually when it comes to something very limited like a Yeezy — how impactful the image of the account is. Brands know exactly how much each store gets and in the case of the adidas Yeezy, shipments usually show up 1-2 weeks before a release.
There could be a big issue of the legitimacy of some of these 100 pairs of Yeezy’s.
My source went on to state that from their knowledge a small handful of high end stores do sell the Yeezy back door and that its possible that some pairs could have indeed landed in Kuo’s lap. Some. But 100 pairs? The number is iffy. They would have had to have been from MANY stores or a small few that received a lot of pairs. The issue for people here–including myself and my source–is believing that stores that received said large shipments of Yeezy’s or many stores with a small number of pairs were willing to back door them and risk their accounts. What adds to the stories skepticism is that he says he received these shoes from “suppliers” and explains that he also received pairs from “some stores, it came from so many different sources.” Either that’s a story meant to detract from where he actually got them (a diversion from specific stores near his location) or there could be a big issue of the legitimacy of some of these 100 pairs of Yeezy’s.
Normally, sneakers come from the factories and are shipped to distribution centers that are set up around the world. These centers then distribute to local retail outlets. The probability of a shipment of Yeezy’s going from adidas’s distribution centers directly to an individual (outside of them ordering a bunch of sneakers from the company direct) however is extremely low.
With anyone that comes into a large amount of rare items, whether they be sneakers or even art, you have to ask questions. Remember the Knoedler gallery scandal? Here you had a respected art gallery selling fake paintings for 15 years. They had some guy in Queens making them in his garage and while I’m not insinuating that Kuo is indeed selling fakes, red flags should arise from a story like his that seems more incredible than credible. The other side to the story is that it could be all a way to promote the consignment shop where all these Yeezy’s rest their head at. Another theory is that Kuo’s “suppliers” knew of the adidas x Yeezy retail stores to come and saw the writing on the wall for the Yeezy line from a reseller stand point and figured now was the time to sell them off at maximum profit by funneling them to Kuo and this story.
In the end many in the community could learn from the advice of O.G. collectors which is to question these stories and remember that many of them go on to be exposed. On the other hand some will defend Kuo, his hustle and remind us in the words of King Tee that “you don’t get paid for bein’ O.G.”
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