What is it about guys and rare sneakers? This fashion subculture has been around for decades, driven in part by the obsession over Air Jordans after their maiden release in 1984, and helped along by celebrity basketball players prancing in shoes no regular human could afford. The sneakerhead phenom is big on eBay, where you can browse 1,200 to 1,300 auctions for "rare sneakers" in the men's shoe category any given week, but only about 500 in the women's.
RIF LA tapped into this craze among men, in 2006 opening a consignment store in Little Tokyo (there's also a RIF in San Francisco) to tap a vibrant but weird part of the men's fashion landscape. But the guys don't just buy — they trade, and they one-up, and they cut deals for used and new rare sneakers (including with each other) that can go for $5,000.
RIF brags in its online promotions that "We will BUY ALL your un-wanted sneakers for CASH, for a PRICE that you can not refuse." But it's no Nordstrom when it comes to customer service — it's sometimes up to the buyers to compete, essentially, for the shoe they really want, meaning you have a better chance if you show up in person than if you place a phone call or order online.
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As one Yelp reviewer commented, explaining the concept of customer service in the niche of already-worn sneakers for which men will pay thousands of dollars:
"If you see them on the website and are local, just head down there and find it. Don't email for pics or call them to see if it's still there, just go down there."
It's not just used shoes — guys now buy sneakers new, as an investment of sorts, then consign them at RIF LA with a bumped-up price, hoping they've chosen right.
There are a few rules to this game, and one is that RIF only buys and consigns new shoes online. You have to visit the store if your passion is to pay out big for sneakers with somebody else's sweat inside.