Tips to Step Up Your Shoe Game from a Bonafide SneakerHead

The international sneaker market is a $55 billion industry, and the sneakerhead resale industry is (around) $1 billion. And that $1 billion is just trackable sales, not to mention the friend-to-friend transactions that happen every day. We millennials especially have begun to drive sneaker growth since 2014, contributing $20 billion of that industry. Sneaker culture has only popped off the shelves more with the rise of social media branding, influencers, and the fashion trends of sports superstars.

Ready to score a pair? Or your 10th? Gemsman caught up with Reddit user Rags (Rags768 from r/sneakerhead), a long time sneakerhead, to grab his tips for scoring great kicks and leveling up your closet game. Here are Rags’ 4 tips for winning the shoe game without losing your bank account.

Sneakerhead Tip #1:  Always Be on the Hunt

You’ll get gashed in the sneakerhead game if you give in to impulse buys. Being a sneakerhead is about participation in systems, says Rags. He’s always on the lookout for new sneakers and new information to get ahead in the sneaker game. He pops into retailers and resellers every once in a while to hit the clearance section–just in case a store had an overstock that they marked down.

The real place to “be on the hunt,” according to Rags, is Reddit and Discord groups dedicated to sneakerhead culture. Sneakerheads have a vibrant online presence and are always down to help you out and keep you updated on styles and deals. A good sneakerhead will get a significant percentage of their closet through secondhand distribution networks.

Speed is everything. If you know what brands and styles you’re interested in, Rags advises setting up eBay and Facebook alerts straight to your phone so that you can be the first buyer to dive into the listing.

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Sneakerhead Tip #2:  Never Ever Buy Retail

Most people think that sneakers are bought from malls and stores with big “swoosh” logos above them. And it’s true that only $1 billion of the $55 billion sneaker industry runs through alternative channels. But you know who represents that $1 in online marketplace shoe sales? Sneakerheads.

Once you begin leveraging those networks of sneakerheads and online marketplaces, you’ll never go to Nike and Adidas to buy retail again. Rags advises skipping the retail and wholesale markets, and even the resellers like FootLocker and Finish Line, opting to work with more one-to-one buyers. Retailers and resellers, he says, mark up shoes to cover their overheads and turn profits.

Unless you’re trying to cop the freshest releases, skip to the marketplace. Rags estimates that online discount shops, eBay, and Facebook marketplace shoes can be 50-70% cheaper than the retail and resale prices. Diving into the marketplace sneaker culture will also teach you how to hagle, negotiate, and drive down prices!

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Sneakerhead Tip #3:  Don‘t Be Afraid of Gently Used Shoes

Rags turns over a lot of his closet through e-commerce sites, like eBay and FB Marketplace. He says that most of the shoes he gets are “like new,” and after a few wears with brand new kicks, there usually isn’t a big difference. Rags has a few tips for getting the best deals for online shoes:

Treat a shoe interview like a job interview. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Rags recommends getting plenty of photos and asking the buyer for even more photos if there aren’t enough. Marketplace policies on returning used goods is notoriously fickle, and if you didn’t have enough information then you don’t have a case for being ripped off. If you have detailed photos of the shoes from every angle, you’ve got a case if your shoes are scuffed.

Rags recommends always asking the buyers more information not provided in the description. Asking for clarification can help you avoid scams and get the best deals. Once the buyer knows you’re interested, involved, willing to initiate communication, and knowledgeable–you’ll get a better deal. Let the buyer know that they’re dealing with a sneakerhead.

When you’re buying through a marketplace (especially FB Marketplace, Rags says sellers sometimes overprice shoes and expect to haggle), be prepared to negotiate. You might lose the first bite at new shoes if they were just posted, but for shoes that have been up a few days, a little bargaining might lower the prices.

Rags says that by following these things, he’s continued to find great deals on eBay and FB Marketplace. Sneakerheads sometimes buy shoes they don’t want and then take cuts to resell! Capitalize on these deals.

Sneakerhead Tip #4:  Properly Clean Your Shoes

A sneakerhead doesn’t just acquire new shoes, they take care of the closet. Protect the closet. The closet is your endzone, your goal. Don’t worry about playing offense by grabbing new pairs if you can’t play defense and keep your shoes fresh.

Rags says that many people don’t clean their shoes at all, resulting in dirty buildup. When they finally get around to it, they use hard products that give their shoes a fresh shine for a week but damage the fabric over time. Don’t use harsh chemicals! Alternatively, people don’t care for their shoes correctly. Rags insists that once you get your new (or used) kicks, you need to waterproof them to protect their lifespan.

Once you’ve waterproofed your kicks, you need to at least wipe them down with water and a cloth after every use. It’s time-consuming, he admits, but it keeps your shoes fresh and protects the fabric wear out over time. If you wait till they get really dirty, you’ll scrub hard to get the dirt off and begin to damage the fabric. Rags uses Scotchgard Fabric Protector, because he says the ingredients are better for the shoes than traditional shoe-branded water-based protectors.

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Final Thoughts

There’s nothing quite like finding out that the guy in the office also has a banger collection of sneakers. Whether you’re a sneakerhead seeking some new ideas, or a longtime Kirkland Court Classics purchaser looking to add some edge to their wardrobe, try out Rags’ tips to break into the sneakerhead culture.

If you start by following tip #1, “Always Be on the Hunt,” you never know what you’ll end up with.