I see and hear this question a lot in the context of sneakers. “What are those worth?” or “What’s the value?” It is an interesting query that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. While at first it may seem like a simple request for the monetary value of a pair, to me it can be much deeper than that.
An easy answer would be the MSRP on the box. Not every manufacturer prints the price on the box label, but typically there is a set price any consumer can expect to pay when purchasing a brand new pair from a reputable retailer. Where this gets interesting is when a shoe hasn’t even released for retail yet but the expectation is that it will sell out instantly. The secondary market is already being set. Based on past releases, some collectors are able to estimate a price a shoe will resale for before it hits the open market.
So I think the first question of worth or value pertains to monetary return and an expected price above retail. This is where resellers thrive. Now keep in mind that I’m not using the word “reseller” in a negative context. The fact of the matter is that resellers would not exist without buyers. The first chump who bites and pays the asking price helps set the market and anyone who continues to pay up helps turn that price up or down. Often this angle on “value” is not even dependent on the number of pairs available but instead the perception of scarcity and the thirst to follow the hype.
I can’t claim to be innocent in any of this. I’ve sold my fair share of shoes in the past and even have a nice couch in my living room that was paid for the most part by selling three pairs of Yeezys. At the same time, I don’t do that for a living – I have a job. Professional resellers (yes, that is a real thing) put in the work to make connections at shops and boutiques, analyze the market to know what will sell and for how much, and find ways to secure pairs in advance of release days. Love it or hate it, that’s the state of the sneaker world right now.
In my opinion, another interpretation of “value” is what the shoe means to you. It has nothing to do with monetary return or future resale prices. It is about how the shoe makes you feel, or how it looks on foot, or a memory or connection it elicits. For some, this might mean a perception of status or worth – having Yeezys on creates a sense of fitting in or taste in fashion. For others, it could be a connection to childhood memories, a lost loved one, or a special place or time.
It is probably pretty obvious by now that I fall into the latter category. I don’t look at shoes as an “investment” or worry about what they will be worth if I decide to wear them. Not judging those who do, but for me certain shoes represent periods in my life or connections I have made through sneakers. Their value is beyond a dollar amount. An example would be the New Balance 740 Jame Worthy model. Today, the shoe sits on discount racks, but in my memory it was the first basketball shoe I ever owned. “Big Game James” was part of the “Showtime Lakers” and wearing his shoe today not only reminds me of my love for the game, but also connections with watching those championship runs with my family and friends.
I’ve written before about my experience with and love for the Jordan 1 model. Unlike the Worthy 740, the Jordan 1 continues to be a hot seller. Any new release of an OG colorway will continue to get snatched up by me and plenty of other people. It is in these instances where the differing perceptions of “value” are in plain view. I’m going to buy them because it is the model that got me started in this sneaker mess and I wasn’t able to have pairs when I was a kid. Now that I have the means to have them, I’m going to indulge a little. It is probably safe to assume that is the case with many others on the hunt. On the other hand, plenty of people are looking solely at the potential money to be made due to the high demand. We all have our reasons and each side can probably justify their way through a conversation about it.
While I may ramble on and get sentimental on this site, one thing I won’t do is lose perspective. They are just shoes and not worth getting worked up about or losing any sleep. At the end of the day, we are back to the same question: “What are those worth?” I know the answer to the question, but how would you answer it?