You think girls are crazy about shoes? Boys are worse. Do not mistake the young men camped out on the sidewalk beside Silver Lake’s Undefeated sneaker store for homeless bums — they may look it, they may smell it, but their shoes cost as much as rent.
It is t-minus-2 days until the release of the limited-edition “Kanye West x Nike” shoe, a highly anticipated sneaker otherwise known as the “Air Yeezy.” The shoe retails for $215. But one of the guys in line, Christian Becerril, has been offered $950 for his. Yesterday he decided he would sell them, but now he wants to keep them. “I keep going back and forth,” he says miserably, snuggling deeper into his sleeping bag. “Really, it is really boring. We get four hours of sleep a night.” He’s been here since Monday. The shoes are being released on Saturday.
“If they gave out wristbands, people would just line up three days before that to get the wristbands,” says 21-year-old Juan Aguayo, who is sixth in line. He decided against camping out in front of the Nike store on Rodeo Drive. “In Beverly Hills they don’t let you do anything that makes you look homeless. So, no sleeping bags, no pillows, no blankets.”
Here on Sunset Boulevard, the manager at the Town & Country café next door is real nice at least, and lets them use the bathroom when they need to.
The guy in the No. 1 position is Jon Villanueva. He saunters over, having browsed the store for, oh, probably the millionth time.
“He’s the veteran!” says Becerril.
“We’re running out of things to do really quick,” says Villanueva. “I’ve done this several times before.”
“Oh, 20 times.” He’s come prepared with warm jackets, cookies, bottled water, a cell phone and patience. “Personally, I’m retired.” From work? Like the other campers, he is in his early 20s. “No, from shoe collecting. It’s getting worse as shoes are released. It’s getting even more extreme. More and more people are camping out for them.” This time, someone is paying him $400 to wait in line for the shoes. Last December, he camped out for 10 days at the Beverly Center in front of the House of Hoops store for the release of the Jordan 23.
A sort of unofficial Geneva Convention of sneaker waiting has been hashed out among the boys. They won’t save seats for other people because it wouldn’t be fair. Though by mutual agreement they have started a numbered list of names in a notebook, which Alan Maldonado is keeping. Only 12 pairs of shoes are being sold at this location. There are nine guys in line so far.
Two cute blonde girls walk up and survey the line. “What sizes are you guys getting?” one girl asks. She relays their answers to someone on her cell phone. Sizes are an issue. The store may or may not have your size. The process goes: When your turn arrives to purchase a pair, and your size is gone, you still buy. At least you can “flip the shoe” on eBay. Otherwise, you just wasted a week in line. The girls confer about whether or not to stay.
“They’re not gonna make it,” says Becerril. “They’re weak. They don’t have blankets or anything.”
“If they bounce . ,” Aguayo mutters, his voice trailing off. “I mean, they’re cute, but they’re not that cute,” he says as the girls leave in a sweet perfumed haze. He and the other guys haven’t showered since they got in line. “Shower? What’s that?” says Becerril.
“I brought some baby wipes,” offers Aguayo. “They’re in the car. What?” The guys are laughing. None of them had met before this week, but they’ve become fast friends. “I brought sunblock and these guys called me a fag. I thought about bringing a bed. Not a tent, though. Tents are too bulky.”
On the last day, he continues, you’re sunburnt and you don’t care anymore. Almost. Excitement will likely keep them up all night on Friday, until Saturday morning, when the store opens and the shoes are unveiled. “The soles glow in the dark,” says Villanueva, rhapsodically. “Get the magazine. There’s a picture.” A battered copy of Complex magazine is fetched from Aguayo’s car and flipped to the page with pictures of the shoe. It looks space-agey, and comes in three color variations: gray/peach, black/pink and tan.
Now, the cook from the Town & Country café comes over. “I have to close early tonight,” she says. “So if you want something, get it now. But the pupuseria down the street should be open later.”
Dinner discussions ensue. One guy will probably go to McDonald’s. Villanueva will probably walk one block to Good microbrewery, where he’s fallen deeply in love with the waitress. Last night the guys chipped in and ordered a pizza, and Aguayo stood on the side of the street waving the cash for the delivery man. “I’m gonna miss having you degenerates out here when this is over,” says the cook affectionately. The evening’s chill is settling in. Only 63 hours to go.
Postscript: The shoes all sold out in the end. The Friday before the sale, the manager handed the boys a list of the available sizes and they worked it out among themselves. Though a few people had to settle for the wrong size, all the guys walked away with shoes they could either keep or trade.
“They were happy,” says manager Chris Lozano, who let the boys in one at a time. “If they couldn’t get their exact size, they got the next closest one.”
That day, Kanye West sent someone to film the scene for his blog. Lozano bought the boys doughnuts.