ARE TRAINERS REALLY WORTH THE PRICE? ASKING SNEAKER SHOPS ABOUT THE RESALE MARKET & THE DIRTY BALENCIAGAS.
After everyone in the office recently seeing the Balenciaga Paris High Top Sneaker, AKA: the purposely distressed, dirty and beaten up trainer retailing for over £1000, we all had strong reactions - ranging from disgust, anger, confusion and admiration. Many strong reactions have also been seen on the Internet. We actually decided to create our own Koi versions - which can be seen below compared to the Balenciagas. But, this isn’t the first time Balenciaga have put out a distressed shoe - so why were there so many angry responses?
One thing that’s undeniable about this Kering-owned brand is that their marketing is very clever. The images they put out of the trainer are significantly more distressed than the ones they are retailing - and of course, people on the Internet being the way they are, they didn’t actually search for the real images of the shoe - hence causing the chaos. These Balenciaga High Tops look no better quality than a standard pair of Converse (which normally retail for less than £100), minus the logo - but it’s pretty much guaranteed that these will sell many pairs. 
This intrigued us to investigate why people pay the money they do for trainers, and also to delve more into the sneaker resale market. To do this, after some desk research, I needed some expert opinions - from people who really know what they’re talking about.
I went out to 2 sneaker resellers in Manchester: the famous KershKicks of Northern Quarter, and then the more hidden away Sneaker 63 in Chinatown.
I spoke to 2 friendly guys at KershKicks’ welcoming Edge Street store, which was spacey yet intimate and had an abundance of trainers all over the walls, as well as streetwear grails ranging from Stone Island to Supreme. It was decorated in a way that presented streetwear as colourful, exciting and culturally significant, and it was nice to see customers coming in and getting excited by certain pieces. Oh, and there was a trainer Key Master. 
I then spoke to one lovely guy at Sneaker 63, which was equally as cool but had a different feel - it’s also Manchester’s first consignment store. Smaller but just as exciting, with the vibe being enhanced by the hip hop blasting in-store. It was hidden away and underground in a basement so had an exclusive feel, and it also had a huge range of rare and collectable trainers - my personal favourites being the selection of 2006 Pharrell x Bape Roadstas that I wanted to take home with me.
Here’s what they had to say about the sneaker resale market, trainer value in general, and of course the Balenciagas in question:
QUESTIONS
Last week it was announced that StockX is facing troubles and have laid off almost a tenth of their workforce. What are your thoughts on the current trainer resale market?
KERSHKICKS:
They were unsure of what to think when first finding out, shocked almost. They of course pointed at the fact that the economy is declining so many are becoming less likely to spend their disposable income on shoes, so demand isn’t meeting supply.
They also believe that online retailers like StockX are losing customers as there are more stores like KershKicks themselves where people can go in-store and see products themselves as opposed to ordering ones that take weeks to arrive…and also their recent blows with Nike probably affected it (the NFT trademark drama and the fact they were caught selling counterfeit Nike trainers).
SNEAKER 63
They said this has happened because of a shift in the market. It was bound to happen because we are entering a dark, economic time (and also mentioned the Nike drama). He believed that people prefer retail therapy in person - that customers like to go to the cinema, go for food then go looking around the shops afterwards to browse.
Do you think the prices of trainers reflects their value?
KERSHKICKS
Yes! They believe they do, as supply meets demand - and there are always people willing to pay the prices. Of course, it depends on the person. Value is subjective, they believe trainers are like art - and art is not necessarily ‘worth’ the millions of pounds some of it sells for, yet people continue to buy it for those prices because they like to collect it.
Another good comparison they had was that a flat in London may not be worth £1 million, but to the people who pay that - it is. It’s all subjective.
SNEAKER 63
He said that it really depends. He didn’t think that trainers are every necessarily overpriced but sometimes, trainers are even undervalued, because they are overproduced and so they lose the exclusivity.
The value comes from the story of the shoe. This can be from a multitude of factors - such as whether a celebrity wears them, noting Travis Scott as a major inspiration of this. Social media, especially TikTok, is also a big player. 
Aesthetically, if a shoe is basic but looks really pleasing to the eye, then it can sell for a decent amount. However, if a shoe is crazy and unique looking, and also looks pleasing to the eye, they can go for thousands.
How do you know which trainers are going to be popular?
Both shops agreed for this question that research is key, and it’s crucial to be clued up and keep on top of trends. You can’t really miss a week of news as the market is ALWAYS changing. The guy at Sneaker 63 said he has been into trainers for around 11 years, and has been building his collection and bank of knowledge over these years to get to where he is now. It really takes time and dedication.
What are your most popular trainer brands?
KERSHKICKS
Their most popular trainer brands are Nike, Adidas and New Balance. Nike are always a classic frontrunner, but the others are constantly changing and rotating depending on trends. New Balance wasn’t even that popular last year, but this year the demand is getting more and more - and there was a pretty large selection of NBs in their store.
SNEAKER 63
Unsurprisingly similar - Nike and Adidas are once again very popular. The most popular models are Nike Dunk and Yeezy 350s, but again this is always changing. I was eyeing up the Bapestas that I didn’t even wanna know the price of, as I probably would have cried.
Did you see the recent Balenciaga £1,000 trainers, the ones that are purposely dirty and beaten up? What are your thoughts?
KERSHKICKS
Both stores responded pretty differently. KershKicks didn’t like the look of them, but acknowledged that most trends basically come from high fashion. Speaking generally of Balenciaga, they think their products are mad - noting Kanye West’s outrageous face sock look. But of course, they know they’re frontrunners in the fashion world.
SNEAKER 63
The first reaction was ‘no comment’ (lol). He believed the shoes are very gimmicky, and did not understand how the price tag could possibly be that high, and said it seems to be like they are poking fun at people, especially when there is normally so much genuine time and effort put into designing, creating and curating sneakers.
Do you think this signifies a shift from people preferring clean, perfect looking trainers to now wanting more beaten-up looking trainers?
KERSHKICKS
They said maybe, however they couldn’t really see this coming into streetwear since streetwear fans tend to prioritise a ‘fresh’ and ‘clean’ look. Overall, they can’t see this being a shift for streetwear fans’ priorities, but who knows what’ll happen in the ever-changing market.
SNEAKER 63
Kind of, but the distressed trainer has been done before by other brands like Gucci, so it’s not exactly a brand new concept. He believed that these Balenciagas were simply to get attention and push boundaries - since nowadays, any reaction is a good reaction. Some will think “why?” and some will think “why not?”. Each to their own.
He did think, however, that some outfits could definitely look pretty cool with these shoes, and that the distressed look could also be making its way into streetwear, although it’s more of a high fashion thing.
Do you think this shows irony and intelligence from Balenciaga and that it’s almost like a test to see how far we can push people so spend money on something simply for the brand name?
Very different reactions here. KershKicks said ‘definitely’, whereas Sneaker 63 said they’re literally taking the piss for attention, which I found very funny.
Some people have said it almost romanticises poverty as an aesthetic - do you agree or is that too much of a reach?
KERSHKICKS
They said it’s definitely a reach - it’s not that deep.
SNEAKER 63
He agreed this is probably a reach, but the mentioning of this sensitive topic raised a point. He started to discuss how if the shoes were made from recycled fabrics or up cycled, and created from patchwork, then they would not only have looked better, but they would be more ethically relevant and sustainable. He wasn’t a fan of the fact that they were made from fresh materials and then purposely made to look old.
Which shoes are on your current Wishlist?
KERSHKICKS
One of the guys said Sean Wotherspoon 97s - and proceeded to hold them up to show me. I remember them being released in 2016 and remembered how sought after they were and still are, partially due to their uniqueness and the fact they were pretty limited release. They of course also remember, and still have this desire for them to this day.
SNEAKER 63
It took him a while to think of just one trainer - but he eventually concluded he has the Nike Paris SB Dunks. We checked a stock website (presumably StockX) to see how much the last pair sold for: over £26,000. I asked “who is actually paying that?” And he explained that collectors in the US pay mad amounts for trainers, so there's probably a lot of people who would buy them.
I then asked him how much he would personally pay for trainers himself if he really wants a pair - and he said potentially between £1.5k-£1.7k. Damn.
In conclusion…
The staff in both of these stores are extremely passionate and knowledgeable about their product and the resale market, so it was great to get their expert insight on these questions. 
Overall, the answer to the question “are trainers really worth the price?” Is apparently “yes”. The comparisons of trainers to art, and to a £1 million flat in London, were really effective in helping me understand this - and essentially a rare, hyped or attractive pair of trainers acts as a piece of collectable art and a means of currency. Even if there are hundreds of thousands of people who wouldn't pay the prices, the chosen few who do, keep it alive.
The question of the Balenciagas, on the other hand, is more divisive. Which I guess, is exactly what they want: strong reactions - unimportant of whether this reaction is positive or negative. Moral of the story is that all publicity is good publicity.
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