More than two-dozen people camped out Friday night in front of a SouthEnd shoe store, each hoping to snag a pair of rapper Kanye West’s new $300 sneakers, the Air Yeezy.
Only one N.C. store carried the exclusive kicks — Niche, 1504 Camden Road – and owner Bobby Webster was given only 18 pairs to sell.
When Tyler Mansour heard the coveted shoes would be sold in Charlotte, he grabbed two of his friends and headed north from their homes in Charleston, S.C. They arrived in the Qcity around 10 a.m. Friday and set up camp, the first in line.
The trio waited all day Friday then sat through a cold, steady rain later that evening and into the night.
“When you have a passion for sneakers, you gotta go where you gotta go,” said Mansour, 19, who said he works at a Charleston sneaker store.
Prince Ekenedirichukwunjoku of Charlotte began waiting about 1:30 p.m. Friday, more than 22 hours before the scheduled sale. He said he worked serving food at a retirement home before he was fired.
“My last check is going for these shoes,” he said.
Asked how he would use the sneakers, Ekenedirichukwunjoku answered in one word, “Skateboarding.”
For sneaker enthusiasts, the Air Yeezy is the hottest shoe on the block, assuming you can get a pair. The peach-colored high top Nikes are the third and last installment of West’s sneaker line for the company.
In Philadelphia, fans waited in the rain for two days hoping to score a pair. Some say the shoes will later fetch $1,000 or more on eBay.
Critics say paying such amounts for sneakers is ridiculous.
First Lady Michelle Obama got caught up in the debate recently when she wore a pair of Lanvin sneakers, which retail for $540, to an event to feed poor children.
For some, paying top dollar for sneakers is “a status thing,” said Cigi, a sales clerk at Niche. “It goes along with having the house and the car.”
Minutes before the store was set to open Saturday, those who had camped out began striking their tent and folding away chairs. Some who arrived late offered money for spots higher in line, and were politely turned down. A few parents who had not camped out arrived, hoping to buy shoes for their children.
Ryan Alston, 20, one of the Charleston trio, said he was glad he came but didn’t like sitting in the rain all night.
“It went good, it went bad, it went ugly,” he said, “but it’s about to be worth it.”
Alston, who said he works at an aircraft factory, said he has more sneakers than he can count.
The store opened promptly at 11. The owner bought doughnuts and coffee. The shoes would be sold on a first-come basis, one pair per customer, only a few sizes available. Customers would be allowed inside in pairs.
The Charleston friends were first. One by one they walked to the counter and stated their shoe sizes.
“Three hundred and fifteen dollars,” the sales clerk said.
Each transaction took less than a minute.
Webster, the storeowner, declined to say how much he made in profit from each sale.
“There is a markup,” he said smiling. “It’s no secret that the suggested retail price is $215.”
Asked how he might respond to critics who say $300 sneakers are a misplaced priority, he noted that Kanye West was the first non-athlete to have a shoe line with Nike.
“It’s kind of an historic moment,” he said.
Glenn H. Burkins contributed.