How do you buy your clothes and sneakers these days?
Unlike most streetwear enthusiasts, I am pretty old fashioned — the majority of my pickups are either purchased from bricks and mortar shops or established retailers with e-commerce sites. My ethos is that if something isn’t available, I simply don’t need it that badly.
Unlike me, there’s a huge demographic out there who feel that if there’s a desirable product then they simply have to own it and, once said item has sold out, there's only one place to turn to: the resale market.
Over the past few years, multiple Facebook groups have sprung up and that are dedicated to buying/selling/trading sold-out streetwear and sneakers. Some are broad (The Basement, Wavy Garms, Sneaker Myth) and some are more focused on specific brands (SupTalk, BapeTalk , Gosh Rubchinskiy Talk). These groups have become a hotbed for an entirely new retail space that often takes priority over the likes of more established outlets such as eBay and Grailed, mainly due to the lack of fees taken by the platform.
Buying and selling products on these groups appears fairly straightforward, but what about the ever-increasing demand for trades? Strangers from all over the globe are constantly trading high-priced items such as Supreme North Face jackets and adidas Yeezy Boosts without ever meeting each other in person. Some of these trades are straight swaps (product for product) but some involve one party adding extra funds on top if the value is deemed unequal.
As I’m neither a buyer nor a trader on these groups, I was fascinated to know how this process worked, and was introduced to the role of “the middleman” — a trusty go-between for two parties wishing to exchange their personal goods. The items being traded are sent to the middleman, who then checks for authenticity and that the goods match the condition described. Once checked, both items are then repacked by the middleman and sent to their new homes.
It’s a pretty heavy responsibility and in the UK’s streetwear scene there’s one middleman everyone goes to — Brandon Taylor.
This 23 year old works in a Southampton video game store on weekends, but during the week he is Britain’s most legitimate streetwear middleman. With almost half a million dollars worth of “grails” passing through his hands on an annual basis and the best reputation in the game, Taylor is the streetwear scene’s most trusted in-betweener.
I caught up with Brandon to find out his story…
How long have you been into the streetwear/sneaker scene?
I've been into streetwear for about five years now but the last two-three years are when I started to become really passionate about it. It was around the same time I started middle-manning actually.
Originally, were you purchasing most of your personal gear in stores or online?
I used to always buy my clothing online, or have a friend proxy on my behalf as living in Southampton restricts me in a lot of ways. A lot of gear is exclusive to London so if I travel up there I don't really want to spend half my day in a queue with angry, fed up people. With the Supreme drops you now have to queue somewhere on Monday in order to sign up to be able to queue outside the shop on Thursday which is unfortunately not an option for me.
How much of your online shopping was via specialist Facebook groups?
Almost all of my collection was purchased via people selling on a Facebook group called ‘The Basement’. That's really the only group I trust. ‘Supreme Talk UK/EU’ is good too but I wouldn't ever go through some of the poorly managed groups that you see a lot of nowadays.
So where did the idea of becoming a middle-man come from?
I'm not going to lie, it was all down to luck and I kind of just fell into it. I was doing favors for people on ‘The Basement’ and someone approached to be a middle man for a trade. I'd never even heard of it before and I made it clear to them that I had no idea what I was doing. This was about three years ago and it's just been snowballing ever since!
So what was the first trade you ”middle-manned”?
The first trade involved a Supreme/The North Face ‘Day Summit’ jacket and for some reason the prospective buyer didn't feel comfortable so he asked me to be the middleman. I remember the staff at my local Post Office being very confused about a single item of clothing needing £1,000 insurance!
For someone who has never traded anything online, please can you explain the process and your role in it...
For example, you have a sweatshirt that someone wants to buy, but they have no money. They have a jacket you like, so you trade the sweatshirt for the jacket. Now imagine you send him the sweatshirt but he never sends his jacket to you, and he lives in another part of the country or overseas. My role as middleman is mostly to stop you giving someone your item and getting nothing in return. A lot of people trade because it saves the hassle when they cannot sell something and they are looking for something of similar value. I can confidently say the service is forever improving and recently I’ve expanded into overseeing people’s sales and purchases also.
How do Facebook groups such as ‘The Basement’ figure in your business – would you say a large percentage of your trades comes from them or other groups?
I owe everything to ‘The Basement’ to be honest, and I like to think the admins and members know how much I appreciate them. I'd say a good 80 percent comes from that group although ‘Yeezy Talk Worldwide’ members have been coming to me a lot lately with the popularity of the Adidas Yeezy Boosts.
What is it about you that people trust so much and how did you build up such a great reputation?
I think I'm just honest with regards to everything I do. I've always put myself out there by filming my life and posting it online so everyone knows exactly what’s happening with their trades. Anyone who knows me personally will tell you that I just don't ever lie, so you build up trust and reputation by being honest.
Talk me through the legit check / condition check process -– do you have a meticulous eye for detail?
When I started I never legit checked or condition checked, I just took photos and videos and sent them to both of the customers trading, now it’s an important part of what I do.
If a certain item comes through that I’m not 100 percent certain of, I'll send multiple photos to the buyer who can then post a ‘legit check’ in a Facebook group before they decide to make the trade.
I see my middle-manning service as a community thing that we are all a part of. We all just want to own cool clothes at decent prices, so if we all really put our minds to it there'd be zero scams.
What has been the most expensive trade you've ever completed?
There was one trade around nine months ago where a camera was traded for three Supreme Box Logo hoodies. The camera was a Nikon D3 with spare batteries, memory cards, tripod (which all came packaged in a beaten up Supreme TNF bag for some reason) and he also added £720 on top. The hoodies were orange, burgundy and royal blue and all in very good condition with an estimated value of £600 each.
What’s the approximate value of goods that pass through your hands on a weekly basis?
Easily £4-£5K of goods per week as well as £1K or so in cash transfers. I have a few guys that use my address for their Supreme online orders every week and some who I place orders on behalf of.
As someone who clearly loves streetwear, is it ever frustrating to be handling desirable goods you may want yourself or does the process have the opposite effect and actually numb your desire to own them yourself?
It's a bit of both to be honest. With Yeezys I absolutely hated them until I was handling them every day, and now I've bought four pairs! I receive Supreme Box Logo tees and sometimes think to myself “wow, this doesn't actually look like it's worth £400”.
Having to middle-man some of the Louis Vuitton/Supreme stuff was hard as I doubt I'll ever get to a point in my life were I can comfortably buy items like that.
You run this operation from your parents house, what do they make of all these packages turning up every day?
My mum absolutely hates it! I've overtaken the spare bedroom as a makeshift warehouse/packing room.
You must have a pretty solid relationship with your local postman and post office workers by now!
My relationship with the post office is amazing, they've given me tons of free equipment and sometimes open up especially for me outside usual hours. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the postmen who see me as a bit of a nuisance, especially when I have to go to the depot to collect 12 parcels because no-one was in.
Have any trades ever gone spectacularly wrong?
Yeah, I can’t ever lie! There were two cases near the beginning in which I've sent the guys back their own items by mistake. That doesn’t happen these days though!
I see you have now have set up your own website, taylorstrades.co.uk, so do you anticipate a day when the amount of trades will require you taking on extra help with packing, posting, etc?
The website is a constant work in progress. I'm yet to figure out a way in which people can book directly through the site. I do find Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the most hectic days as I think a lot of people don't post on weekends so wait until Monday.
I personally don't post on weekends so I'm lucky to have friends that will help as some people urgently need the items sent the same day they arrive.
How do you make your money on the trades - is it a flat fee, a percentage of the overall value or a combination of the two?
In the beginning it used to be completely free as I just wanted to help people out and support the online streetwear community. I still just want to help but now I’ve pretty much dedicated my life to it, I have to charge a fee. My fee really depends on the situation — who it is, how busy I am, how much time is required, etc. My official line is £7 each + 1 percent of each item's value, but that just isn't viable at times so it can be as low as a £5 flat fee.
At the end of the day I just want to end those online scams and see some cool clothes, it’s more for the passion than for monetary gain.
Now check out these two young streetwear heads and their advice for budding resellers.