Detroit’s crazy love for sneakers places the region front and center with shoe aficionados nationally.
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Gilmore says some resellers sell sneakers up to four times the retail price.
That price gouging makes shoes that are already expensive out of reach from some kids who want them. The cheapest shoes in Burn Rubber, are about $60, and the most expensive pairs are $200. At Bob’s Classic Kicks, the lowest-priced shoe is $50 and the highest $270.
“There are a lot of kids out there who would love these sneakers and can’t (afford them),” Thompson says. Since the Air Jordans grew to become the most coveted shoes in history, it became commonplace to hear about inner-city youth violence from stealing, fighting and even murdering their peers for a pair.
Most recently, Detroit native and star athlete Kavon Coleman, 18, was shot at a bus stop over a pair of $410 retro Air Jordan shoes, leaving him with severe mobility challenges.
Agee says he’s cautious when wearing popular shoes, often reducing the time he spends engaging with strangers about his kicks. During a recent trip to Washington, D.C., he wore a pair of electric blue Nike Foamposites, which caught the attention of bystanders who stopped him to ask questions.
“It was already popular in D.C., but with rapper Wale hyping the shoe, you could get robbed,” Agee says. “I knew what people were willing to do for the shoe, and I wasn’t willing to take that chance.”
Foamposites debuted in 1997 and gained a reputation for their wavy, synthetic mold—and being favored by former NBA player Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway. Agee says the shoe’s soaring popularity in recent years reflects the power hip-hop has on fans.
“Foamposites used to be considered whack. People would say it was ugly, that it looked like a shell—that it just looks weird. But soon as Wale came out with (Fitted Cap), everybody wanted a pair of this shoe,” Agee says.
Dorsey says he recognizes that the shoes he sells are out of reach for some kids. That’s why he says he gave away 3,000 pairs of shoes last year to teenagers who attended school on Student Count Day. He hopes to get support to give more shoes this year.
“We want them to have at least one pair of nice shoes to build their confidence,” Dorsey says. “We want to put everybody on the same playing field.”