Sneakers
From the ground up

NPD Group analyst Matt Powell has sat down with GQ for a wide-ranging interview. Described by Highsnobiety editorial director Jian DeLeon as a “go-to resource” when it comes to all things sneakernomics, when he’s not busy at the day job providing expert consultation for some of the world’s biggest brands, Powell can usually be found trolling Kanye West stans on Twitter.

In the extensive piece, the aficionado opens up on his daily routine, celebrity endorsements, and of course, YEEZYs. One interesting tidbit would be the fact that Powell, claiming to prize objectivity above all, doesn’t even own a single pair of sneakers. Find some of our choice excerpts below.

On the YEEZY’s appeal

Part of the Yeezys appeal, in Powell’s view, is that they’re extremely limited. But in his mind, that just means they’re not cool enough. Which requires you to zoom out and shift your understanding of what cool actually means. If Yeezys were really cool, couldn’t adidas sell them for those eye-popping numbers? The Superstar is cool because you can buy them online, you can buy them in a store, you can buy them right now, you can buy them in twos or fours, and people still want them. More people bought Superstars than any other sneaker last year. This is the kind of data that’s shaping Powell’s opinion.

On Kanye fans

Kanye fans are stubborn, and loud. Why spend all day fighting them? Powell says it’s because he wants to teach people about the sneaker business. Information still matters, Powell argues, and enough of it turns into power. “It’s really cool being considered an expert, right?” he asks rhetorically. He’ll tell followers to “do your homework” if he believes they’re relying on spurious statistics. And when these students use up Powell’s patience, the teaching turns into roasting. A follower tells Powell he knows Kanye’s shoes are important because he reads “comments on posts.” Powell tweets back: “Wow!” Somewhere, Powell hopes, a comments-section troll has learned something about the importance of verifiable information. Class dismissed.

On celebrity endorsements

Kanye’s shoes aren’t the only ones Powell dismisses; he doesn’t buy that athlete ambassadors and celebrity collaborators are pulling their weight in general. He takes a hard line here. It’s money he doesn’t consider particularly well spent by companies—it’s good for the celebrity endorsees (“They get their name in the paper,” says Powell) and it can be good for a retailer that sells a couple thousand shoes in a day, but it doesn’t do what Powell calls “commercial numbers.” These are the mind-boggling ones with a lot of zeroes attached. You can probably picture what a 1,000 boxes of shoes might look like—100 rows, 10 columns—but that exercise is impossible to replicate with 15 million boxes, the number of adidas Superstars that sold in 2015. “I’m hearing from people all the time, ‘This shoe sold out in a minute,'” says Powell. “Well, there were a thousand pairs, who cares?”

Read the piece in full over at GQ

We recently asked sneaker experts if they care where their kicks are made.

  • Main and Featured Image: @NPDMattPowell / Twitter
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