06 May Thousands of sneakerheads get their kicks at Bridgeport show
After some brief negotiating, a teenager pulled out a wad of money and handed Owen Corazzelli $310. Corazzelli placed a pair of Nike Air Jordans in a shoebox, handed them to the boy and the two shook hands.
“Those were a pair of Jordan 11 Playoff Edition,” explained Corazzelli, a 13 year old from Easton. “He wore them in the 1996 playoffs. They retailed for $185. That’s what I bought them for.”
Corazzelli had already raked in about $1,000 earlier in the day from sneaker sales. Not bad for a 13 year old in just a few hours of work.
He eventually spent half of that on the “What the Kobe 8s” he was wearing, a signature pair of Nike Kobe Bryant sneakers that feature an outrageous color scheme of oranges, blues, greens and more. Each shoe in the pair is a different color.
This was the scene on Sunday at the Connecticut Sneaker Show at the Webster Bank Arena. Thousands of “sneakerheads” and over a hundred vendors driving as far as Michigan sold, bought, bartered and flaunted their “kicks.”
Tables lined the venue with sneakers like classic Jordans to exclusive LeBron James’ neon colorways. One vendor even had the limited edition Nike MAGs, the shoes Michael J. Fox wore in Back to the Future II. Those are listed on Ebay for over $7,000.
Many walked around carrying stacks of shoeboxes. Others filled duffle bags and backpacks looking to sell or trade.
The crowd ranged from brace-mouthed teenagers to middle-aged men and women of all ethnicities. All part of the ever-growing subculture of sneaker collecting. “Other things like it have kind of faded in value,” said Dave Schneider owner of Jimmy’s Clothing and Footwear, who organized Sunday’s show. “Baseball cards faded and gone down. This is kind of the new baseball card show. Kids aren’t only buying stuff, but they are doing it with a business mindset. They’re flipping this stuff. They’re walking around with the shoes. They’re trading. They know they’re going to flip that over there for $3,000. It’s not your Derek Jeter rookie card anymore. It’s serious stuff.”
Basketball sneakers make up $4.5 billion of the $21 billion athletic shoe business, according to the New York Times. At Sunday’s show, which is the first in Connecticut but one of many around the nation, thousands of dollars exchanged hands. At one New York sneaker show, Schneider said, a sneaker collector turned down $98,000 in cash for his pair of Nike Air Red October Yeezy 2s, autographed by rapper Kanye West.
Sunday was more than just a sneaker show. It was an event. People strolled up and down the aisles of tables with their best outfit and sneakers on. Music blasted through the speakers played by well-known DJ and producer Funkmaster Flex. There was a tattoo artist, too.
The show even had enough hype to draw UConn guard Ryan Boatright, who recently led the Huskies to a national title.
“It’s shot up,” said Boatright of sneaker popularity. “It’s gone crazy. Jordan has really turned it to another level. Then with all the celebrities and stuff, that’s really taken it to the next level.”
The industry has come a very long way since the days of canvas Chuck Taylors. Even over the last 10 years it has grown tremendously.
Steve Davis, a 28 year old from New York City, explains how a decade ago sneaker collectors were able to get a Saturday sneaker release on a Sunday. Those days are pretty much numbered. Now they camp out hours before the store opens, and there have been reported brawls and stampedes at malls for Air Jordan releases.
Davis was at the arena selling sneakers and his Fabes Sole restoration and sole protector kits. He says some collect sneakers and keep them in the box. Others wear them. Some are in it for the money, buying them at retail and then turning around and selling them in the lucrative resale market.
“I’ve been collecting for over 12 years,” Davis said. “It’s really transcended. Some buy shoes to buy popularity. Some people collect them like stamps or paintings. I do it for the love of the game.”
The sneaker game, that is.
Davis had made $3,000 about halfway through the day. That included a pair of Air Jordan 5Lab3s he sold for $300 and then a pair of Air Jordan Doernbechers for $650.
Marquise McDuffie also had a few tables, selling sneakers and promoting his New Haven-based clothing store All-Star Apparel. McDuffie watched nearby as a pair of Jordan Air Force 1s fetched a hefty price tag of $725.
“This had a good turnout,” he said. “The sneaker game is going crazy right now.”
Meanwhile, Corazzelli was back at his booth, bargaining and haggling with sneakerheads that were looking for a deal. One kid next to him pulled out a wallet that could barely close because of the stack of cash inside of it.
Corazzelli’s father, Frank, was close by.
Will he be able to trade his sneaker collection in for a college education one day?
His father laughed.
“It’s insane to me, too,” his father said. “Once he got into it, we didn’t know it was going to get this big.”