The 2020 State of Sneakers

Kicks, Coronavirus, and Black Lives Matter


When the Coronavirus outbreak started, nobody was ready for just how hard it would affect the world. Businesses closed, either temporarily or for good, and the US economy took a massive hit. By February, the country was officially in a recession. Everyone was, and has been, trying to spend less and save more just in case another depression was on the way.

And sneakerheads are feeling the effects pretty hard.

While the sneaker market runs on supply and demand, the state of sneakers seems to be hanging by a thread. Or rather, a shoelace.

The sneaker market has gone through some pretty interesting shifts over the course of a few months. Since factory production has slowed or flat out halted due to restrictions in workplaces, many new shoe releases have been either pushed back or cancelled indefinitely. One of the most highly anticipated pairs of 2020, the Dior and Air Jordan 1 collaboration, was originally supposed to release in April, but as of June, has not received any updated release date. While a lot of the more coveted pairs have had some issues, the retail market has been suffering. For the most part, the brands have stuck to their original schedule of releases. But with stores being closed and brands having to rely solely on online business (pun intended), athletic footwear sales have taken a nosedive. Despite their stock dipping, Nike has shown no sign of slowing down, dropping new colorways for shoes through their SNKRS App seemingly every day.

But where the realm of sneakers differs from the stock market is in the secondary market. Stores like Stadium Goods in New York have seen a decrease in in-person business and have relied mostly on online sales, but when it comes to prices changing, there haven’t been many major shifts. Interestingly, people haven’t been flipping their pairs for extra cash, neither have they been cashing out on pairs that they want. The market runs on a supply and demand model, and since both the supply as well as the demand have lessened, the flow has remained somewhat steady.

Prices, however, have fluctuated. In a Vogue Business interview with Derek Lew, the founder of Sole Supremacy, Lew estimates that the value of sneakers has depreciated between 10 and 20 percent. “New releases technically don’t drop in value,” he stated. “But if COVID-19 didn’t happen, they would be trading or selling at a higher price point.” Sneakers that seemed out of reach now have become one step closer to attainable, and buyers aren’t complaining. Only concern is the question of if buying shoes is the right thing to do right now. To the average consumer and non-sneaker head, the answer is no. But sneakerheads aren’t your average consumer and will most likely get that new pair, even if it means having to skip on a payment or two.

Unfortunately, the Coronavirus hasn’t been the only crisis to strike the United States.

On May 25, George Floyd was killed by police officers during his arrest in Minneapolis. The tragic and unjust death of yet another African-American at the hands of law enforcement sparked a global protest against racism and calls for reform within police forces. With the protests came outrage in the form of rioting and, unfortunately, looting. In Los Angeles, popular shopping district Fairfax Avenue was the site for numerous stores being looted amidst the protests. Alongside retail streetwear stores like Undefeated and Supreme, some of Los Angeles’ biggest sneaker consignment shops, Flight Club, Solestage, RIF.LA, and CoolkicksLA, were broken into and completely emptied on March 30. Each store lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of product. CoolkicksLA owner Davon Artis spoke with local news station, KTLA, about the looting, saying the hit appeared “very planned out” and that replacing the store’s stock will be extremely difficult.

Streetwear designer and frequent Nike and Jordan Brand collaborator Don C had his store, RSVP Gallery, hit during the protests as well. He posted pictures of the damaged shop onto his Instagram story with captions such as, “Father forgive them for they not know what they do!” and, “I understand people are hurt, so if stealing merch will ease the pain, I can sacrifice that.”

And though not directly a part of the sneaker world, The Hundreds brand founder Bobby Hundreds posted a photo on Instagram of his damaged storefront, plainly stating that he was not upset that his store was hit, but was upset at the racial injustice that happens in America. Bobby would also call out brands for making youth valuing brands over everything else. “Is anyone truly surprised that 2020 looters would not set fires or rob banks, instead opting to steal Bearbricks and sneakers? We feed these kids this bullshit all day… We TAUGHT THEM to value hoodies above their relationships, their financial education, their careers.”

Fortunately, there is a silver lining to the crisis. Sportswear brands have been providing masks, footwear, and other supplies to hospitals across the world to aid in the fight against COVID-19, as well as donating to Black Lives Matter and black community organizations. The most notable has come from Michael Jordan and Jordan Brand, who announced their plan to donate $100 million to black organizations over the span of 10 years to fight for racial equality. Additionally, New Balance donated 10,000 pairs of running shoes to black communities in honor of Ahmaud Arbery, and Reebok ended its ties with CrossFit after the founder posted an insensitive tweet relating to George Floyd. One of the most profound developments came from adidas, as black employees voiced their grievances about the treatment of black employees and the black community. Adidas gave a public apology, promising to listen to their employees and start change throughout the company, as well as hire more black employees and donate $120 million to black communities.

2020 has been a rough year to get through for sneakerheads. From the passing of Kobe Bryant to the looting of shoe stores, the 20s have been more or less a roller coaster. With the fights against Coronavirus and racial injustice still going on into the second half of the year, the near future seems unclear. But there is one thing that is certain: new shoes will release, and sneakerheads will get their hands on them. Just as long as they stand in line six feet apart with a mask on and are buying from a brand that supports black excellence.