The most popular sneakers are often produced in limited quantities, and lines often form outside of shops, with customers jockeying to get their pair before the next person. Fights have broken out while people wait for hours or days, but that’s the least of it. Certain tales from sneaker releases are stranger than most people would imagine, from raging parties to people sprinting across stores as they attempt to grab the sneaker they have their heart set on.
All too often, the stories are so crazy that it seems impossible they even happened. The only way to get the real story is to go to the people who know, the clerks and shop owners, so we hit up the folks who work behind the counter to tell us the craziest sneaker releases they’ve ever witnessed.
All Is Fair in Love and Sneakers
We’ve definitely had some crazy releases, but the craziest was for the “Blue Lobster” Nike SB Dunk. We had like 600 people in line for close to six days. It got to the point where we knew everybody’s names and faces. At the beginning of the line—maybe the first 100 people—there was this one textbook, sneaker-hype guy. It was all dudes, like normal, and just a few girls here and there. He was in line for a few days and he starts hitting it off with this girl, you know. I don't know what the f*ck they were going to do—they’re sneaker people, they don’t have sex. They just started making out on the corner, getting hot and heavy. The girl was like, “You know we can’t do nothing here, why don’t you come back to my car, come talk over there?”
So he follows her and they’re making out in the car, probably trying to get to second base. Her homies come over, tase the dude, f*cking rob him, take all his money, and all of the stuff he bought over the few days he’d been in line. They took everything. This dude gets back in the line—mind you he had a couple days to wait before we even start selling the shoes. He finally gets his day in court, walks up to the counter, he’s like, “Yo, blah, blah, blah, this happened to me,” tells me the whole story, I’m like, “Yo, that sucks.” He starts telling me I owe him a free pair of shoes because it happened on my property. I’m like dude, not only you are the dumbest person alive for going and getting robbed by a sneaker chick, but you also want me to give you free shoes? He thought he was getting laid, probably his first time. You know, most of those sneaker people don’t even think about sex, just strictly shoes.
Same release, there was a dude that had been in line for three days. While there, his girlfriend got in a huge car accident back home in California and broke her pelvis. He flew out went to see her, and his friends held his spot in line. This mother*cker actually flew back and waited two more days to get the shoes. Insane.
Apparently, Sneakerheads Know How to Party
The craziest release we’ve ever had would be the “Quest Love” Nike Air Force 1. I guess things were different back then. We had people drive up on a Tuesday before the weekend. They came out from San Antonio and started to camp out. Local guys started wondering what was going on. Some of them brought a couch and set up in front of the shop, which was pretty insane. Then we ended up doing a country show that Friday, the weekend of the release. We let everyone waiting in line come to the show for free. Everyone got super hammered that night, went back to the line. When we show up the following day people are just sprawled out, passed out everywhere. It was just a crazy sight!
Campers Catch Space Jam Fever
The first time the [Air Jordan XI] "Space Jams" came back out was 2009, right before Christmas. We did a little trick with our release to throw people off. A couple days before the release, we had a midnight screening of Space Jam at our store in Rockville Centre. We said, “We’re having a movie night, we’re open. Anybody who’s down to come through to the film, it starts at midnight.”
Only a couple people came—maybe eight people—and they didn’t know we were offering a ticket that held their pair, so that a few days later, when we had the actual release, they didn’t have to wait in line. All they would need to do is show up on release day and pick up their pair. We thought that was a great way to tie back to our story of being associated with movie culture and the sneakers being themed after Space Jam. They just thought they were coming to see the movie, but realized they were super lucky to have a pair held for them on release day.
When word got out, the panic set in. These releases were pretty limited, and that took away from the pairs we would sell to everyone else. This resulted in people lining up extra early, over 24 hours in advance. They came down early and held their spots in line. Once word got out on message boards, people were like, forget Extra Butter. Back then, there weren’t as many rules with releases, so we preferred midnight releases, because we felt it was better for people to be out during the day and waiting until midnight. The store was open, people could come in charge their phone, use the bathroom.
It was Christmas time, and we had like a little small gift exchange in the basement for the staff. We could hear yelling upstairs. We knew it's coming from that line. The store’s lights were off. We had a folding partisan thing blocking the door, so you couldn't really see into the store, but made it so we could see out. At one point, two or three guys took their folding camping chairs and collapsed them, so they were like a sword—you know, just facing off about to swing at each other. We were amused that this was happening, but we were a little concerned that this was gonna get crazy, you know. I was afraid that if one of specific customer lost his cool, it was going to get really ugly. I just knew how serious he was about this stuff. He was like, “I’m gonna do this, and we’re all going to jail and none of us are getting sneakers, because I’m going to go nuts.” He explained that four other guys appeared out of nowhere, and they tried to cut everyone in line.
The guys in the front of the line, who were swinging the chairs, were the real-deal campers who stay the whole time, don’t take bathroom breaks, or go home and sleep. They just sat there and froze their asses off and did things the right way. When anyone else tried to pull nonsense in line, they were policing it.
We were kind of happy they were there, but they didn't have to get into a chair fight over this. I’m glad they posed that threat, because it kept the line in order. Luckily it got sorted out and cooler heads prevailed.
The Mad Dash for Yeezys
The “Moonrock” adidas Yeezy 350 Boost was huge for Titolo, and because of this we decided not to do an in-store or online raffle. Instead, we had people line up for the shoes the old fashioned way.
When people go out to sneaker releases, they need to understand that this is the game. There will always be haters, and individuals will always say that we did something unfair, but that’s the way the game goes.
A couple hundred ended up lining up for the sneakers that weekend. With only 60 pairs of sneakers, you can imagine the tension outside of the store.
When we finally opened the doors, there was a mad rush. We actually filmed the release, and you can see it all starts with a guy in a red jacket. He sprinted into the store causing everyone else to do the same. It was a literal race for people to get to the shoes.
The Yeezys were located on second floor of our store. You can see a ton of people running to go to the top of the shop. Luckily nothing bad happened in the store. We had it planned out pretty well, and small group were able to get the shoes.
We’re not concerned if people are going to hate on the way we did the release. People are always going to miss out on a sneaker, that’s just the way it goes.
When the Thirst Is Too Real
I think the craziest release was for the Nike Air Yeezy IIs. We’re in Michigan. I don’t think anyone had any colorways outside of the gray ones here. Everyone in the area are used to Burn Rubber getting all of the Yeezys, as we did for the first Nike Yeezy. However, we got into trouble with the city for the lines at releases. We had been looking for ways to get around that, and people knew that we were getting the shoe two weeks before it came out. We thought we were getting them, but we didn’t know if it was confirmed yet. People just started coming and coming to the shop, and I said, “We don’t even know if we’re getting these shoes, it would be better for you not to come here.” We finally got a confirmation a day or two later. We wanted to let the people know [we were getting them].
We talked to a customer and he said, “I heard you guys were getting the Yeezys.” I was like, “We might be getting the Yeezys, but it’s in two weeks. We’ll announce something next week.” He’s like, “No, I think you guys are getting them.”
I went in the back and talk to my partner, Ro, and I’m like, “Dog, we have to do something nuts to let them know to not wait outside.” We’re in an area where there's not a lot of black store owners, so we don’t want to be the ones causing all the trouble. They see our lines and it’s not happening at any other store, but the guy didn’t care. We were like, the only way we can do this is to just tell them it’s going to be $1,000 [for the sneakers] and make it public. We told him, “Look, dude, it’s gonna be a $1,000. You can stay if you want to, but it's going to be a $1,000,” thinking that my man was going to be like, “I’m out of here, F you guys, I’m not messing with you, you’re charging a $1,000.” But, no, he said, “Alright, I’ll be right back. I gotta go check my bank account.” He comes back in 15 minutes and puts a chair out front. By the end of the day there’s a line wrapped around the shop back to the parking structure -- two weeks in advance! I was like, “This is crazy.” The news came, I don’t know how they found out, and they interviewed us. We told the news we were charging $1,000 dollars and it made it in USA Today.
We blatantly told everybody we were charging a $1,000, because the only way we were going to be able to cut the demand with this short of supply is by raising the price. We did that, but it still didn’t work, because we didn’t raise it enough. The day we sold the shoe, the news came back and did a story. All you see is us checking if the customers’ money is real or not. If I ever meet Kanye, I’m gonna tell him thank you, I don’t care what anyone says about him, he’s cool with me.