The New York Times, the longstanding publication known for unearthing industry trends, kicked off its latest sneaker story by claiming, “Never has buying, selling or stealing a pair of sneakers in Brooklyn been this complicated.” The short piece goes on to document how retailers like Foot Locker are preventing would-be thieves from running off with a pair of sneakers, from only allowing patrons to try on a single shoe at a time to only displaying the right foot of each pair so people aren’t able to steal the left foot on display at another location.
Unfortunately, this is not a new “cat-and-mouse” game. Major retailers have been placing right foot models on their walls and limiting the try-on process for years. I can attest to this fact, because I once sported the white-and-black stripes during my acne-infested school days, and experienced sneaker thievery firsthand.
One school night just before closing, a young man came in to try on a pair of Air Jordan 16s (I’m an old-head). After I agreed to let him lace up both feet, he asked “Do ya’ll have any pinwheels to match these?” As I turned around to point to our wall of caps, the young man jets out the store escaping through the mall doors, likely creasing the patent leather on his brand new 16s. Moments later, I was sent home for making the mistake of giving the full pair to a patron. This was 15 years ago.
For us sneakerheads, this is nothing new, especially for those living or working in cities where theft is much more prevalent. What this article neglects however, is the constant profiling of customers who walk into these large-scale, urban sneaker retailers because they dress ”suspicious” or walk in with a large group of friends or simply ask to see the other foot of the pair they wish to purchase. Because all thieves dress alike, men don’t shop for sneakers in groups and you never seen a pair of new shoes where one was slightly flawed.