When you first move to Los Angeles, one of the strangest sights is the blocks-long queues of people waiting patiently to get into a handful of micro-boutiques on Fairfax Avenue, where four doors down from the Supreme store you could go for a nosh at Cantor’s Deli.
One line on Friday stretched impossibly long—past the intersection of Rosewood, where it swapped to the other side of the street, young men leaning against the chainlink fences of Walt Whitman High School’s football stadium. If you squinted, it almost looked like the line stretched all the way past Melrose, a third of a mile away.
Every single person in line was hoping to get into eBay’s three-day sneaker pop-up, Wear ‘Em Out. Yes, the “We Sell Your Stuff on eBay” store seen in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” is now a reality—except for the notable difference that eBay is the one doing the selling, off-platform.
The location’s proximity to Supreme doesn’t seem like a coincidence; the store’s real estate, tiny space and limited selection cultivated an air of exclusivity and scarcity. This can boost hype, but also emboldens entrepreneurial-minded buyers with deep pockets to take advantage of the small supply—snatching up as much stock as possible to resell at a future date.
To combat this phenomena while still trying to stoke the “hype” in hypebeast was the challenge; a “one pair per customer” rule can be enough to thwart some potential buyers from going near the place, while not exactly being the hardest system to game. But Wear 'Em Out had found a different kind of incentive system—offering steep discounts to anyone willing to actually put the shoes on their feet and walk them out the door. The catch was that they’d first have to navigate a short obstacle course of gravel, fake grass and sooty rocks; say bye-bye to the coveted NIB (New In Box) label that bumps shoes up from their retail price to thousands of dollars or more on secondary selling platforms like Grailed, GOAT, StockX, and eBay itself.
“People are treating sneakers like investments,” according to Garry Thaniel, eBay’s general manager of sneakers. “We love our sellers, but wanted to embrace the idea that everything doesn't have to be a business decision. Sometimes it’s just about enjoying them.”
Thaniel was wearing a fresh pair of Nike Air Force Ones, a blinding white sneaker notoriously unforgiving to scuff marks. That’s kind of the point; growing up in Baltimore, Thaniel recalled, come April or May everyone would show up wearing the pristine sneakers only to see them worn out by the end of the summer. The next spring would bring new shoes, and the cycle began again.
Here’s a taste of what was in stock on Friday:
- The New Balance 2002R "Protection Pack" in Sea Salt ($385)
- A Nike x Travis Scott Air Max 270 "Cactus Trails" collab ($400)
- 2 different versions of the Yeezy Boosts: a 700 Bright Blue ($355) and the 350 V2 Dazzling Blue ($415).
- 4 different Air Jordans: Retro 1 “'Cool Grey” 2021, ($335); Retro 6 "UNC White" ($325); 1 Retro High "OG Patent Bred" ($330); 1 Retro High 85 “Georgetown” ($425);
- The Union x Nike Dunk Low “Passport Pack - Pistachio” ($650).
Each pair would cost $100 less to wear out the door.
While he couldn’t give us any more specifics on the following days’ selection, Thaniel told dot.LA that every collection was put together by Offset, he of the popular hip-hop group Migos.
And what did Thaniel think about moving eBay’s sneaker game to a permanent brick-and-mortar location, a la Amazon Style’s new store on the other side of town in Glendale?
“That would be a great idea,” Thaniel mused. “We’d have to talk internally about it.” He mentioned that eBay’s policy of collaborating with sellers had led to this prime real estate, since they were technically operating in a portioned section of SoleStage’s already diminutive interior.
Leaving the store, a scroll through my phone revealed an interesting development: Gucci, the renowned legacy Italian loafer brand, had just opened its first location in the metaverse.