Today’s sneaker market is comprised heavily of general releases and retros from years past. When it comes to making the “cop or pass” decision with these releases, not much thought or effort is required. For general releases, a trip down to your local sneaker store is all that you need. As for retro drops, chances are that you have seen a prior version in person beforehand, and have a solid idea of whether you like the sneaker or not. And usually, the differences between two versions of the same colorway are minute.
However, this is not the case with all sneaker releases. While retros and general releases make up the majority of what comes through store shipments, most of the attention nowadays is on both collaboration sneakers and other highly sought-after new sneakers, whether they be new models or older models dressed in new colors. In the days of past, one would only find out about and see such sneakers by taking a visit to his or her local shop. With the advent of social media, this just seems laughable. For one, details and previews of these sneakers leak out online much ahead of release time, and do so in multiple stages. In addition, actual releases nowadays are so hectic that buyers have to resort to either online drops or in-store purchasing methods that make the buyers mentally commit to getting a sneaker before actually seeing it in person.
For example, take the recent “Flamingo” Asics Gel Lyte III designed by Ronnie Fieg and dropped at his Kith retail and online stores. In this case, the multiple previews that the public saw were more part of a plan than those of the typical Jordan Retro or Nike sneaker, but such a strategy is just another virtue brought about by today’s prevalence of social media. And after each picture, the fan is left second-guessing what the sneaker actually looks like in real life thanks to filters and differences in lighting. Is the nubuck on the upper more of a beige or more of a grey? Is the blue on the netting and inner lining bright or subdued? Some may sign themselves up for or dismiss a sneaker immediately after their first look, but to those on the fence, these elements are important, and picture after picture depicting the elements differently does nothing to help.
Unfortunately, the “on-the-fence” fan of the “Flamingo” Gel Lyte III could not just walk into the store on release day, check out the sneaker, and make his or her decision then. They had one of two options: either try to buy the sneaker online or line up outside Kith days before to reserve the pair. This all occurs before the potential buyer can lay his or her eyes on the sneaker. In the end, this fan might have had one idea of how certain features of the “Flamingo” Gel Lyte III look like in person, and be surprised to find out that the actual sneaker is not all they thought it up to be. And unfortunately, this particular Asics release is one of many similar cases. Even with Nike’s Twitter RSVP, a potential buyer has to commit to buying a sneaker, and can only try it on once they make the purchase.
Of course, making a return or resale is always an option if a sneaker ends up not being as impressive in person, but these should be rare occurrences for a true fan. There are ways that companies and designers can avoid the whole uncertainty, but following such guidelines might not be in their business interests. With that said, the process to deciding if you actually like a sneaker in person or not looks to stay as just that…a mentally draining process that makes the sneaker fan long for the days of going to the local shop just to check the new stuff out in person.
Words: Jake Pulver