By Brad Tuttle
On Saturday, July 13, legions of sneakerheads will descend on Pier 36 in Manhattan for the arrival of Sneaker Con, a kicks convention where admission costs $15 and the average pair of sneakers sells for about $250 — some running as much as 17.5 times their original price.
Sneaker Con visited Miami earlier this summer, moves on to Washington, D.C., on Sept. 14, and is expected to hit other cities later on. It’s not the only convention playing to the sneaker-crazed masses either.
What’s behind the craze? Nostalgia certainly plays a role. “If you bought Air Jordans when you were 13 or 14, it was probably a big moment in your life,” says Sneaker Con’s Alan Vinogradov. “People remember that feeling, and they want to revisit it. This goes way beyond the great story of Michael Jordan.”
The thrill of the hunt is undeniable as well, as collectors seek rare, unusual and highly prized sneakers to fill out their meticulously organized closets. “If all of these shoes were accessible and easy to get, that would take the fun out of it,” says Vinogradov, who has traveled to Europe, among other places, in pursuit of sneakers.
For more of the story, here’s a collection of factoids showing just how passionate some people are about sneakers, and how big sneaker culture has become:
2: Number of shoe stores that some thieves must visit in order to steal a single pair of sneakers — making off with a right-foot shoe on display at one store, and a matching left-foot shoe at another. One Manhattan sneaker store estimates that thieves steal roughly 50 of its display shoes every year.
At least 3: Number of traveling sneaker conventions being hosted this year. In addition to Sneaker Con, there’s Solefest, which is held in Florida and plans to move out of state soon, and Europe’s Sneakerness. Many smaller conventions are held regularly as well.
1, 2, at least 11, 20: Numbers, respectively, of people stabbed, toddlers left unattended in cars, shoppers arrested, and customers pepper-sprayed by police in various chaotic scenes in late 2011 when newly released retro Air Jordans arrived at malls around the U.S.
$65: Retail price of the original Air Jordans when they first hit the market in the mid-’80s. A pair of early Jordans in good condition now commands well over $1,000, according to the Air Jordan Price Guide 2013 (yes, there is such a thing).
$200: The original retail price of Nike LeBron X MVP sneakers, which were sold via lottery on a very limited basis in May. These sneakers are expected to be available at Sneaker Con for 17.5 times the original price — $3,500.
1873: The year that the term sneakers (previously known as plimsolls) was coined, according to “Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture,” a special exhibit on display through March 2014 at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. Here are a few of the museum’s featured sneakers:
2,500+: Number of pairs of sneakers — almost all of which are Nikes — in the Shoezeum, a private collection that was displayed in Las Vegas in 2012. For $10, visitors could tour the world’s largest private sneaker collection, per Guinness World Records, owned by a guy in his mid-30s from San Diego. His name? Jordan Michael Geller, and he swears it’s a coincidence that it’s similar to a certain iconic basketball star’s.
10,000 to 15,000: Ballpark estimate for the number of different styles of sneakers for sale at Sneaker Con in New York City. “We turn into the biggest sneaker store on the planet for one day,” says Sneaker Con’s Vinogradov.
$15,000: Value of 50 pairs of sneakers stolen from a storage unit in North Carolina last year.
$90,300: Winning bid for a pair of Kanye West’s Air Yeezy II sneakers when they went up for auction on eBay last summer. The original retail price of the shoes was significantly less ($245).
$5 billion: Total online sales of athletic footwear in the U.S. from May 2012 through April 2013, according to the NPD Group, a rise of 21% compared with the same period a year earlier. Better price is one reason e-commerce sneaker sales are increasing far faster than brick-and-mortar sales. Better choice and selection are key as well. “Online also offers the widest assortment of athletic footwear, where brick-and-mortar has limited space,” said the NPD Group’s Marshal Cohen. And it’s the guys who are pickiest about their kicks, according to Cohen. “Surprisingly, men are more superficial about the athletic footwear they buy than women.”