Buying Old Kicks Online
Is there a hustle-proof method to online sneaker shopping?
by Chris O’Leary / @olearychris
We had an interesting email come through a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t an overly long letter; just a note, really, from a kid with a simple sneaker dream who needed our help.
This guy loves the Nike Zoom Kobe III. Specifically, he loves the All-Star red/gold colorway. Of course, that was three full years ago and he was in junior high when he had his first pair of the shoes.
Everywhere he’s looked for the shoes, he said, he’s found nothing but counterfeits.
He’s already gotten my reply prior to this, but as soon as I read his note, I thought this would make for a great discussion here. Playing basketball, you get attached to certain pairs of sneakers. When you love those shoes, you wear them into the ground and eventually lose them via any combination of playing in them, wearing them casually and through growth spurts.
Nike and Jordan Brand have been consistently re-releasing sneakers for years now and that helps (unless you’re a stickler for the finer details of your OGs), but I feel for this kid who’s looking all over the place for a shoe that’s been off store shelves for three years and likely isn’t coming back anytime soon. I’m sure it’s something that a lot of other sneakerheads out there have had to deal with or are dealing with right now themselves. I won’t front like I have all of the answers here. Use this as a starting point for discussion and add your experiences and suggestions in the comments section.
eBay is probably the most popular option for these scenarios. I’ve bought a few pairs on eBay, but it’s been about seven years since my last purchase, maybe more. The things I’ve always watched for on eBay are simple: I want a seller with an impeccable reputation, both for delivering on what’s advertised and for not selling fakes. I ALWAYS message the seller during the auction and try to have a little back and forth, both to try and get a feeling of sketchiness from them and, because I’m in Canada, to see if they’ll ship to me from the US or wherever they’re based out of.
Of course, the downside to eBay and to any pursuit of a sneaker like this is that you’re at the mercy of the market. You might feel like you’re paying too much in a retail store, but at least with retail you know you’re not going to have to pay more than what that tag says. There could be another sneakerhead on his/her computer onthe other side of the world who wants the shoes just as much as you do. You may have to be willing to outbid him/her to get them and that can get pricey. That’s why I only bought obscure, forgotten shoes (like the Nike Zoom Turbine) on eBay when I was using it.
Also remember that you’re never safe from fakes on eBay. Go through the seller’s history and check feedback to see what people say about them selling fakes. If you see the accusation coming up more than makes you comfortable, abandon ship. I prefer buying from a seller who posts actual pics of the shoes you want, not just a generic screen grab from NIke’s site, or a picture of LeBron wearing his shoes in a game. You want to see what you’re supposed to be buying.
We should also go into how to ID a fake/fake distributors. In an effort to keep this brief, I’ll just say that the minor details very often are neglected with a lot of fake sneaks. The waffle pattern in the Kobe III, for example, could be misplaced on the shoe, or seem larger or smaller than what you know it to be. The spacing on materials could be off: the patent leather on the toebox looks like it runs higher or lower than you’ve seen on the actual shoes, or the logo on the tongue looks different than you expect it to.
The easiest red flag with fakes comes in the colorways and the websites themselves. If you find a site called superdupercheapkobes or bestdeal4lebronz, you’re very likely heading into treacherous territory. These sites will also throw a few more warnings your way when you see their selection. If they’re offering you a candycane striped version of the LeBron 3, you’re in a bad spot and should get out. If you’re looking at a site that has a burberry Jordan XI, run. Just. Run. The telltale thing is always the price. If the sketchy address and infinite colorway selection hasn’t convinced you yet, the fact that the shoes are like $50 US should push you over the edge.
If I’m looking for a long since released shoe online, another place I check is Pickyourshoes. The prices are reasonable (most of the time) and I haven’t heard any negative stories of shoes never reaching their destination, or of a knockoff arriving in its place. A friend of mine picked up the Mychal Thompson 25th anniversary Air Force 1 on there a few years ago for just over $200 Canadian, I believe. The shoe was well worth the price to him and there were no issues with it. Mind you, that was a few years ago and things can always change.
Sneaker boutiques that sell on consignment are also an option, but again, you need to know what you’re getting. Talk to the people who work there, get a feel for them and if you trust them to bring reputable stuff into their stores, that’s one way to go. Again, you’ll likely pay a lot more than retail for the shoes.
Generally, the approach I try to take is that it’s better to be safe, pay a little more for the shoes and be happy when you get what you actually wanted when it gets there. If things seem off about the seller you’re dealing with, don’t follow through with it. Patience is the key here. Eventually, you’ll find your shoe online, or the company will decide it’s finally time to start re-selling the shoes.
Got anything else to add on reputable sellers or how to spot the ones that are trying to hustle people? Hit the comments up.