“It’s okay, the girls don’t notice.” This is a quote that has resonated in my head for almost a decade, especially when I think about streetwear. I remember when I was a sophomore in college, and I went back home to Virginia Beach for the weekend. A former friend of mine took me to this clothing store that was off the beaten path in Newport News, Virginia. They sold white tees, camouflage bandanas, and gold-plated chains. But in the back room—they had fool’s good that was dressed as exclusive items. Air Force 1’s that I’d never seen before, emblazoned with NBA patches, and Air Jordans that were clear and not nubuck material. He rifled through the racks and picked out a zip-up Bape hoodie. It looked real, if you stood very far away, but up close—you could see the second-rate stitching and printing elements on the clothing. As the shifty cashier rang up the hoodie (It cost $85 FWIW), I asked him if he was sure about buying fake clothes. He responded with the aforementioned quote, and threw the hoodie on as we walked out.
The “WGM” printed on the hood of the fake jacket has the incorrect sizing of each letter, on the real jacket all 3 letters are different in sizing, on the fake jacket all 3 letters are the same size. Also the placement of the eye balls are significantly higher on the fake jacket. . . Real via @englishsole
Streetwear has changed tenfold since that day. “First Come, First Served” has turned into raffles, and line fillers have become electronic bots that add product to your shopping cart. But with these changes, the only thing that has remained constant is the presence of counterfeit streetwear. Even as brands like KITH and Supreme move into the high fashion space, counterfeits are right next to them so to speak. Subreddits like /r/FashionReps and /r/Repsneakers proudly champion the affordable, if less desired, alternative.
Meanwhile, users on Twitter, Grailed, and Niketalk work tirelessly to do “legit checks” on product so they won’t be finessed. And when it comes to legit checks—no one fields questions more tirelessly than Twitter user @Quanflix_, who is one of social media’s most recognizable sneaker influencers. At over 12k followers, he’s usually seen retweeting release info, musing about availability—or giving people the real talk about whether their sneakers are fake or not. He sees a correlation, however, in why the rise of “fake” streetwear has been taking place. “I think cost and availability are the main reasons people wear ‘bootleg’ streetwear. Some people can’t afford to pay $300 or $400 over retail price so they explore other options,” he said. “The degree of difficulty in obtaining authentic items goes along with the price hike.”
Quan is right, and it’s leaving consumers out in the cold. The market has become so inflated that even companies like GQ have editorial verticals that are only about the streetwear market. “Hypenomics” does monthly tracking on the science of hype—like how high Supreme is reselling for (sometimes over 30% of the retail price!), and what are hot ticket items on any given month. In an editorial from last year, NPR estimated that the sneaker resale market was worth around $1.5 billion, excluding sales from private sellers. Brands like Jordan Brand and adidas have also been driving down inventory to raise up demand, and this is potentially driving less fortuitous people to turn to high quality fakes. It’s more than just being a hypebeast—which was formerly an arguably more pejorative term—it’s become big business whether it’s fake or not. “Yes, fake items are much cheaper and easier to buy,” Quan said before maintaining that he’s not knocking anyone for indulging in it. “In most cases, popular items become impossible to obtain due to the resell market. And as a result, some people will look elsewhere to get the item.”
“In most cases, popular items become impossible to obtain due to the resell market.” –@Quanflix_
Hip-hop influencer DJ Folk is no stranger to the ever-changing landscape of the market—and on the sneaker side, he’s become one of the foremost insiders in the game. Formerly working as the DJ for Young Jeezy, he’s seen the evolution—or devolution—before his own eyes. “Bootleg designer/brand name shit has been prevalent since the start of trends, [but] the rise of the internet along with the rise of hypebeasts [and now] cloutbeasts makes everyone have FOMO for the latest hyped thing... so of course the knockoffs are going to be heavy.” Sneaker connoisseur and reseller @202Sole agrees that the the fake market has risen—but primarily because publications like the LA Times, GQ, Complex, Hypebeast have driven the conversation. “The only time fakes would show their ugly face was at a flea market or thrift stores, where you would expect it,” he said. “Now, you have mainstream sellers and retailers that are called ‘reputable’ that have sold fake shoes. Some even sold fakes to celebrities, and they’ve been called out for wearing fakes. That’s why these publications now feel it’s something to report on.”
The fear of missing out on these trends is the most psychological aspect of collecting. Though people like Quan and Folk could care less about getting the big coveted item of the week/month, there are so many people that use streetwear to define their likes, or to gain the attention of others. This fracture leads to panic, and this panic is a large contributor of the upsurge of fake reselling. However, this panic also allows fakes to slip through the cracks—to “reputable” reselling apps like GOAT and StockX. “I’ve heard about StockX selling fake items, and I’ve been a victim of it, when I bought Adidas Yeezy V1 Pirate Black,” 202Sole said. “I received the shoes and immediately knew they were off... Not only did [they] send me a pair of fake shoes, [but they also] sent the wrong shoes. This tells me that their inspection process isn’t as great as they say it is.”
These fakes can also be beneficial, in a strange way. Folk posits a huge issue with keeping sneakers under wraps—they will sometimes leak, or even worse, be stolen. “The sad part of this is that most of the ‘fakes’ are either made from a [stolen] real pair or in the same factory authentic pairs are made.” Inherently, it’s bad business for Nike, or Supreme, or adidas. But ideally, they can gauge the hype for a shoe—and if fans revolt or show no interest, they chalk it up to the counterfeit marketplace. No harm, no foul—unless you get scammed.
The reselling market for fakes will be around as long as streetwear remains popular and mainstream, and as long as impressionable men and women have a desire to maintain a place in popular culture—there will always be a market for people who don’t care how authentic their gear is. The best advice is to be safe, and only buy from trusted resellers... or have a quick index finger on release day.
Trusted Resellers (According to DJ Folk):