After months of anticipation, the Pharrell x adidas NMD Hu Trail pack released worldwide this past Saturday. Available in limited quantities, and with a resell price of over $500, this was a drop that always promised to be a manic affair, with some ‘heads and profiteers seeing fit to begin queuing over 40 hours in advance.
While sneaker-related violence is nothing new and won’t come as a surprise to anyone, these flashpoints felt particularly ironic given the entire “Human Race” concept behind Pharrell’s NMD is to promote peace and togetherness. In New York City, the release was suspended after skirmishes broke out among the crowd after a section of people allegedly tried to form an alternative line.
And the violence just wasn’t limited to the States. In the UK, a source claims that a customer was assaulted with a skate deck at Sneakersnstuff’s London branch. Even more distressing was footage that emerged from Malaysia, where a customer queuing up was left with a broken nose.
As posted on Reddit, the video, which originally appeared on Facebook, was accompanied with the following caption:
“This morning around 2 am, my friend went to KLCC to que for the newly released NMD Human Race, he waited until 6am where KLCC doors open and he could go in front of the store to que. Another [strong man] came and wanted to cut the que, my friend went a told him to go line up as it’s a “first come first serve” basis. In the end, the guy ended up punching my friend. What do you guys think? Went to hospital KL to check, My friends nose is broken. was told that the person who punch my friend came as a gang of 10-20 people, they were employed by a reseller to que.”
The footage once again begs the question of whether a rethink is needed on the entire drop day concept, and whether brands as well as retailers are doing enough to keep customers safe at launch events. As more and more kids become acquainted with the “culture,” while product stock numbers become more limited and marketing campaigns more hyped, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that tensions among those in attendance are going to be through the roof. There’s no doubting that apps like adidas Confirmed and the raffle concept have helped improve the situation, but clearly there is still work to be done.
Still, as Highsnobiety’s Jian DeLeon pointed out in a recent piece regarding ComplexCon, the onus isn’t solely on brands to behave responsibly, but all of us who attend such launches, particularly those of us who have been around the block a few times before (no pun intended). He wrote: “ComplexCon isn’t the source of the problem; it’s on all of us. What it did, however, was shine fluorescent lights on an uncomfortable truth: As the publications in this world grow from start-ups to corporations, we’re too old to be the kids waiting hours in lines for gear anymore; we should be the responsible adults empowering them to make informed choices.”
Here’s a brief history of deconstructed sneakers.