Yeezy taught me

Temporarily mine

“Are you going to keep them or sell them?” Rob, the manager at House of Hoops on 34th Street, asked me back in June as I purchased my pair of Nike Air Yeezy IIs.

I hadn’t really thought about it. To that point, I’d sold one pair of sneakers ever.

“I’ll tell you what I think you should do,” said Rob, who I’ve bought sneakers from for years. “Unless you really need the money, I think you should keep them. I’m glad this fell into your lap. I know you love sneakers, you’re a good guy, you work hard, you deserve something like this.”

He paused for a second while I considered his logic. He was right – I do love sneakers, and it would be great to own a pair of Yeezys as the centerpiece of my collection. Perhaps I’d hold on to them, wear them for special occasions, a little instant credibility if I’m in an NBA locker room or something.

“But if you do decide to sell them? There are guys waiting outside right now offering $800 in cash. Don’t do that. Let me know instead. I guarantee I can get you $1,500 right now.”

Say what?

*****

The funny part was that I actually had no intention of getting the Yeezys, which wasn’t for lack of interest. I like Kanye West, I collect sneakers and the shoe grew on me as I saw more pictures. But the hype was out of control, and at 32, I’m too damn old to be sleeping outside, risking getting mugged over a pair of sneakers. I also wasn’t about to pay an outrageous amount on the secondary market.

The only effort I put in was to fill out a form on Foot Locker’s web site for a random drawing for the right to purchase a pair. Then I forgot all about it.

Boxed upA few days later, I got an e-mail from Foot Locker: Out of fifty thousand people who had signed up for a chance to buy the Yeezys, I was one of 300 whose name was drawn. I had until seven the next day to get to House of Hoops to get my pair. It felt like I had found one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets.

I’ve acquired some pretty coveted sneakers over time – I have a pair of LeBron IIs that was limited to 500 pairs – but never had it seemed like such a hustle as with the Yeezys. Rob was right: As I left the store, there were about a half-dozen shady characters staking out the entrance, hoping to shock and awe easy marks with a fistful of cash en route to doubling or tripling their money on eBay. I avoided eye contact and walked by quickly, trying not to tip my hand. I honestly felt like I was transporting contraband.

Once safely in my car, I did a quick eBay search on my phone. Given that the Yeezys wouldn’t go on sale at Nike.com until later that evening, there weren’t a ton of them on the market, so the ones I saw were going for ridiculous prices, over $3,000 in some cases. It was then I grew convinced I should probably sell them.

*****

The hitch came when I got back to my fiancée’s parents’ house, opened the box and saw the Yeezys in person for the first time.

ScalesThe Yeezys were a fever dream, an outrage to convention. They looked a lot better in my hands than in online pictures, with an amalgamation of premium leather, ballistic mesh and serpentine scales carved from nubuck on top of a glow-in-the-dark sole. The sneaker had a reptilian-shaped Achilles, hieroglyphics and mini-obelisks for lace tips. They were akin to something the twisted caricature of Kanye from his banned album cover would wear.

I’d never seen sneakers like the Yeezys, and if I sold them, I knew I’d never have them again. As a longtime sneaker collector, that was a tough pill to swallow.

Torn between having my version of Turtle’s Fukijamas from Entourage or cashing them in like a lottery ticket, I asked my lawyer fiancée what I should do, hoping she would make it easy for me and tell me to sell them or she’d sue me for stupidity.

“Honestly, you should do what makes you happy,” she told me on a late-night walk. “I’m fine either way. If you really want to keep them, I think you should. It’s up to you.”

Obviously, she’s wonderful. But that didn’t make my decision any easier.

*****

When it came down to it, I pretty much knew the whole time what I would end up doing. That night — aided by a coworker/friend who kept telling me I would have been nuts not to sell them — I posted the Yeezys on eBay. Before I went to sleep, they were already going for more than $1,000. They sold three days later for $2,300 to some guy in Canada who was ecstatic to get them.

I put them on for the first and only time late that night, took some pictures as a memento and sent the Yeezys off the next morning. Minus eBay fees and what I paid for them, I cleared about $1,700.

In certain ways, becoming a “reseller” – a dreaded term among sneakerheads – didn’t agree with me. There are plenty of people who buy sneakers with the express purpose to sell them for a profit, driving the prices sky high for people who actually want to wear them. That obviously wasn’t my modus operandi, but given the premium I received, and that I turned down much lower offers from people who claimed they couldn’t afford to pay more, I can’t say I didn’t become part of the problem.

Not as comfortable as I thought they'd beAnd yet, I have to confess the whole thing was kind of a thrill. Watching the dollars pile up bid by bid was a rush akin to day trading a stock. I still have a level of disdain for the unabashed reseller, but I at least see the appeal now; it combines the fiscal allure of a quick buck combined with the illicit nature of selling something everyone wants.

Besides that, though, the best part of the Yeezy experience – and why I could sell them and not look back – is what they’ve come to symbolize for me. My fiancée and I are getting married in about five weeks, so we don’t exactly have a ton of disposable income right now. And on top of that, we moved to a new city three weeks ago and needed all new furniture.

A few years ago, there would have been absolutely no way in hell I’d have even considered selling the Yeezys. But at 33, I could either keep a pair of sneakers I’d wear like five times a year – or I could use the money they were apparently worth to buy a new couch, kitchen table and loveseat. This isn’t to say I’ve stopped collecting sneakers, but every time I look around our apartment, I can see exactly how far I’ve come, and I like where I’m at.

I’m not going to lie… last month, when I saw Kanye wear them in concert and rap in “New God Flow” that the Yeezy jumped over the Jumpman, I couldn’t help but smile and shake my head ruefully for just a second about the kicks that got away.

But though I was glad to have been able to walk a mile in Kanye’s shoes, there’s little doubt in my mind that I’m doing just fine wearing my own.

Esoteric

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