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.

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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*.

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