This past weekend the DIY, for-us-by-us, support-your-local-shop, no posers, ethos of skateboarding stood on the brink of complete annihilation – all because of one infamous, re-issued, precious stone-themed Nike shoe. Not really. But it’s amazing what the Internet, a few savvy skate shops, and some highly-polarized opinions had you believing was about to go down.
Nike SB Dunk High Tiffany
On Saturday, February 8th, 2014 Nike re-released the highly-anticipated SB Dunk “Tiffany” – in high-top steez. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP)? $108, give or take. The original low-top version dropped nine years ago and has since become one of the most notorious shoes in the volatile realm of sneaker collecting. Asking price is upwards to $1,200 plus, as we recently confirmed at Flight Club New York (FCNY) – the city’s premiere sneaker boutique that specializes in the consignment sales of ultra-rare kicks. And that may very well be a last-minute jump in prices due to the update, some sneakerheads say. It’s a bit of a stock game, not too unlike Wall Street, I gathered. Perhaps with a bit of unintentional Goldman Sachs on the marketing side as well. One of the FCNY clerks already projects the shoe to go for $300-$400 once they start coming in.
Nicky Diamonds getting his mogul on (Photo – Eddie Eng)
So what’s the big deal, aside from price fluctuation and infatuation from sneaker collectors? Well, for starters, the original “Diamond” Dunk Low was the result of a one-off collaboration between then skateboard hardware line, Diamond Supply Co. (now a big-time hard and soft goods skate brand) and Nike Skateboarding back in 2005, when they asked founder Nicholas “Diamonds” Tershay (AKA Nicky Diamonds) to design an SB Dunk for them. What Nicky did was repurpose a Tiffany & Co. (the real diamond company)-inspired color scheme that drove home both the luxury mystique of both his burgeoning brand and the limited edition skate shoe. Since then, it’s become one of the most-coveted collabs in the SB library and marked a pinnacle in commercial success for both parties. The rest is skateboard/sneakerhead history. Until now, the re-visit of sorts, except with a little more hype and hoopla – the bi-product of a materialistic hunger for the shoe and the folks that financially exploit that want.
OGs meet new steez
In a twist of irony, two skate shops were at the center of a social media firestorm of opinions for their “enterprising” ways. Usually the controversy stems from the hypebeast or collector side of things – folks that camp out for limited-edition kicks in order to snag a pair for themselves or re-sell them for upwards of quadruple the retail value, depending on demand. The result then creates the hysteria often associated with boiler room stocks. Along with the physical mayhem that can go down in or around the retailers, as haves and have-nots may clash.
But this time around it was Rise Skateboard Shop in Carmel, Indiana that implemented an antagonizing policy of over-charging any non-skater clientele that wanted to purchase the new “Diamond” Dunks. If you brought in your board you could get the shoes, no box, for retail price. If you didn’t skate, on the other hand, you could get the shoe in its box for $216. Meanwhile, 561 Skateboard Shop over in Stuart, Florida implemented a similar policy by stating that they’d only sell the shoes to skaters who could kickflip for them. Needless to say, there may not have been any physical altercations, but anyone with a keyboard and enough resentment to comment on The Net about the policies, actually did. Oh, the humanity! (Note: 561 Skateboard Shop didn’t even wind up enforcing the “kickflip” policy, as much as trolling on everyone to prevent calls and annoying inquiries.)
Disgruntled law student sneakerheads
When we reached out to Rise about their course of action and how a handful of folks deemed the practice both commercially and ethically unfair, they had more than their share of things to say in defense. Shop founder, Buddy Best, sounded equally as passionate about the shop’s policy as he did indifferent about the shoe’s hype. He did, however, have level-headed answers to it all. “It sucks because I see both sides. I see the guys that are really into the shoes and I’m sympathetic to it,” he went on to say. And as far as the intentional price gouging goes, “We are encouraged by Nike to do it,” he proclaimed. You see, Nike and Rise both lose out if the sneakers get purchased at market value then flipped, as was the case with one particular incident when, “A kid bought a shoe for $150 and flipped it right outside the door for $450.” Burn. And what was demand like from the actual scene? According to Buddy, “No skater is crazy excited,” at least within his circle of homies and local customers, he stated. Strange, wouldn’t a “skateboarding” shoe be intended for and marketed to skaters? Which leads me to my overarching theme here, skateboarding doesn’t revolve around the flavor of the month, never has and never will. I’m sure skate punk messiah, Duane Peters, would agree.
“Master of Disaster” Duane Peters (Photo -Thomas Wasper)
Regardless of the opinions about free enterprise and the presumed value of outside clientele, the SB Dunk “Tiffany” Hi hit the market on Saturday and pretty much sold out in tons of Nike SB account shops (insider note: Nicky Diamonds even wound up giving away pairs at the Diamond Supply Co. storefront in Los Angeles). However, I can pretty much guarantee you that most of the dunks will not be skated in. As in, most of the folks that purchased those shoes probably aren’t core skaters anyway. Here’s why; skateboarding, the true school counter-culture, is not and has never been a collective-consciousness of commercial approval. Sorry homies.
Blades NYC “letting down” its followers
Contrary to what the blogs or commercialism will have you believe, skateboarding’s history is actually rooted in quite the opposite of mainstream success. It’s anti-authoritative, anti-establishment, and generally anti-anything that tries to confine its nature. Our nature. Our freedom. From the Dogtown Z-Boy days of the late ’70s to the current state of the indie skate film and indie skate company revival, the culture’s always been a fast-moving target (pun intended) with its share of socially-acceptable ups and downs (pun also intended). But regardless of mainstream approval, some folks, somewhere, will forever get their roll on. And one shoe or many shoes will far from break any bank(s). Or as Buddy Best put it into perspective, “We’ve been around for more than 15 years and we’ve survived just fine,” insinuating that any backlash or poor sales from any kind of product wasn’t going to affect the general well-being of something that has already sustained itself through thick and thin.
I think this is the point. That contrary to free enterprise, capitalism, opportunity, or the ability to market to a scene that’s inspired outsiders to emulate it, no one will ever be able to successfully materialize counter-culture. That is, without a price. It’s the ultimate oxymoron. Skaters aren’t more passionate about their shoes than they are about their pants, or their socks even. Really and truly, it’s the art form, the poetry in motion, the four-wheeled graffiti of the physically-inclined, mentally-daring, and socially-abrupt. That’s what gets us off (and off of the lines). It doesn’t mean that some folks – Nicky Diamonds being one of them – haven’t been privy enough to make a living off of the chance to market their savvy and passion, but it certainly does mean that even this comes at a price – retail or doubled. For everyone else it’s just business as usual, or whatever shoe lets me kickflip in and out of my own firing line, nothing personal.