id you know that sneakers are called “sneakers” because they don’t make noise when you walk in them? This is why they were seen as the choice footwear for burglars in the late 70s, according to a heated history of sneaker culture in the United States, published by The Atlantic in 2016. It is a thorough, fascinating, and satisfying deep dive that illuminates a handful of the societal and political implications of the decisions you make when you put on a pair. I invite you to read it if you have ten minutes, but for the purpose of what we’re doing here today, all I can offer in the way of intellectual stimulation is the following anemic assertion: I think I’ve joined the cult of the secondary sneaker market.
A statistic the Smithsonian cited in 2017 indicates that we’re talking about a $6 billion market. That’s $6 billion generated by the hustle of enterprising individuals, acutely aware of the opportunity to make a very quick and distinctly disproportionate return on the acquisition of sneakers. Which, mind you, does not include the recent sale at auction of the original Nike Moon Shoe—a pair of sneakers cobbled in 1972 by Geoff Hollister—for $437,500. Puts that vintage Yves Saint Laurent suit to shame, no?
I was not a participant in this market until last month, when I bought Nike’s react element 87 sneakers from StockX. I first saw them last spring after my older brother bought them from Nike, but I couldn’t find them in my tiny-ass size (mens 4.5) anywhere but eBay, which was commanding a 5x markup on their retail price of $160. So I moved on. Didn’t think about them again, even, until a harmless Google search for, actually, something else (Sacai’s Nike collab sneakers), took me to StockX, where I found them for a 20% markup on the original $160.
Without bidding, I paid the “Buy Now” price and they were mine. I believe that makes me a regular contributor to the secondary sneaker market. And as an aside, let me tell you, the volume of compliments that these sneakers command—and the quality of person who delivers them, which is almost exclusively male—makes me wonder if the secret to finding heteronormative companionship is baked into a pair of slightly obscure Nike sneakers. That, or, I have been married for so long that if a man so much as speaks to me, I assume he must like me, but I digress. Or do I? Now I invite you to observe three ways to wear them.
Starting with: a dress I practically stole off Harling’s back, for a rainy day.
By Georgia Alice. Maybe I think it’s a good option for a rainy summer day because those are the precise grounds under which Harling styled the dress (her story hasn’t run yet), but also, if you’re a sneaker person and a dress person, I imagine this to be a silhouette and color play (black with less-expected white stitching) to interest you. Socks have become the unsung hero of summer styling, so I also invite you to consider Comme Si, with their back tabs and all.
Up next: a pinstripe suit.
So you can wear them on your commute! And if your boss is out of town, just keep them on. Keep! Them! On! In my view, a suit is only as interesting as the contrast you affix to it, and no odd-coupling is so literal as a pinstripe suit with a pair of rubber-bottom shoes. I included the sequined shirt because I have it and love it but don’t frequently-enough wear it. I don’t know why—maybe it can feel like too much at times—like it needs to be suppressed by an overcoat. Accentuated by pseudo-rare sneakers. But onward to:
The unlikely outcome of going rogue at a salad bar.
A striped cotton tank top, stretch-knit underwear shorts that are like looking through a kaleidoscope directly into the crotch of their wearer, and a summer tweed jacket. That is already a baseline of three disparate fabrics, all of which are rendered in different colors and prints. It makes no sense, but I genuinely don’t see another way. To add insult to injury, or bonus points to an already perfect score depending on how you see things, the socks are multicolor and silk, and the shoes, rubber bottom as you know, are also seemingly rubber top, to see through a see-through fabric that envelops the vamp. See what I did there?
I’m not sure where you’d wear this; maybe on an impromptu run through your local park or to a literal salad bar. Maybe you wouldn’t wear it all. Any of these options work, and as I think about the sneakers: how I got them, how much I like them, how much I like the way I got them — as a sort of a crystallization of this unique inflection point in the history of consumption, I am reminded of the conversation we started last week, pegged to the earlier mentioned vintage YSL suit that is for sale on Matchesfashion right now.
I am still not an expert on sustainability, but the more I think about it, the more I think that secondary markets may well be the highway exit sign that directs us toward a road to self-correcting in the quest to, not blankly have less, but really force us to reconsider how we value what we buy.
For now, I assure you, I am not a burglar.
Photos by Emily Malan.