Teenage kicks On the heels of London’s youngest sneaker pimps
Hey, kids: why wear your brand-new pair of limited-edition trainers on your feet when you can sell them on for a huge profit? At London’s Crepe City, school-age hypebeasts turn an obsession with sportswear into hard cash.
Max and Alex, both 18, stand at a table covered in trainers in an old brewery off east London’s Brick Lane. One gets the attention of the person on the other side, points to a pair and asks how much they cost. He is told they are SGD800*, so he counts out the cash in his hand and passes it over. The other, pointing to a different pair, is told they will cost him SGD890*. He too pays the money, and in a few short seconds, the boys are light of nearly two grand. “Don’t tell my mum,” one whispers to the other.
Welcome to Crepe City, London’s foremost trainer reselling festival, where people gather to spend—and-make—big money on secondhand shoes. It started in 2009 at the Arts Club in Notting Hill. “There were maybe 10 sellers,” says co-founder Morgan Weekes. “No one wanted to sell. At that time, people were quite suspect.” Eight years later and it’s safe to say that any trepidation in the secondary trainer market has dissipated, with almost 5,000 tickets sold for the last Crepe City event in March.
Collectors have been trading in trainers for decades, but ever since Adidas introduced the Yeezy, produced in collaboration with Kanye West in 2015, the resale market has gone into hyperdrive. Now, a culture of limited runs, exclusive collaborations and frequent “drops” has been established. Demand always outweighs supply so there is a near-constant frenzy for the latest style; those lucky enough to get a pair at retail can make vast profits by “flipping” their purchase the same day. The annual trainer resale market is reportedly now worth in the region of SGD8 billion* globally.
The trader who sold Max and Alex their shoes was just 14, and there are many more like him. In terms of youth movements, this scene is not that different to teddy boys, or mods, or casuals (especially casuals). You need to wear specific brands, listen to certain music, of course, but the end product is where it differs, because as Crepe City demonstrates, being relevant in streetwear is as much about entrepreneurial acumen as it is about being cool.
By the time you’re reading this, there will have been another Crepe City event, with more traders and more baffled (cash poorer) parents. Plus more exceptionally well-dressed teenagers and more people making bigger returns on one pair of trainers than Nike and Adidas could ever dream of. So, it might be time to dig out those old basketball high-tops, they could well cover your next mortgage payment.
Youthful trainer traders attend the most recent Crepe City event, held at the Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane in east London, March 2017. The top three highest priced shoes for sale were 2011 Nike Air Mags for SGD18,000*, followed by the Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 ‘Turtle Dove’ at SGD6,200* and Nike Air Jordan V ‘Tokyo 23’ for SGD4,100*.