The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.
It seems that leaks are everywhere these days.
Political scandals are defined by them. Leaks to the media fueled Watergate and led to the downfall of Richard Nixon. Today, the divisive Wikileaks has brought new meaning to the term while inside details of Donald Trump’s administration leak to the public.
The entertainment and technology industries have been similarly affected. Studio executives try their hardest to prevent new movies or TV episodes from reaching people before their proper release only to—in the recent case of Game of Thrones—have half the season leak ahead of time. Tech giants like Apple are always on the lookout as well, especially before a new iPhone is set to release, even while employees often let out confidential details or prototypes.
But in the past few years, sneaker culture has experienced its own rising tide of leaks. Consumers are seeing entire product lines long before they hit shelves and for brand executives as well as the larger sneaker community, that is a major problem.
Sneaker brands are notoriously obsessive about the details and scheduling of product rollout. Factory lead times necessitate long-term planning, but in an age where a smartphone photo taken in the warehouse, stockroom or factory can wind up on social media, it’s harder than ever for brands to keep control and crack down on the spread of misinformation.
This is especially troublesome in the case of high profile collaborations. Consider Virgil Abloh’s recent partnership with Nike or Kanye West’s ongoing work with adidas. Whether on the feet of someone in their inner circle or an Instagram account hidden behind a veil of anonymity, we routinely see products nearly a year before they hit shelves. The first inkling we had of a collaboration between Abloh and Nike came all the way back in November 2016, with a colorway that ended up dropping more than a year later in collaboration with MoMA.
You may not have remembered those original samples, but you definitely remember how the hype built for the release over the span of many months, with more and more photos hitting social media. The same goes for any number of YEEZY colorways that never come out or how the first images of the ACRONYM x Nike Air Force One pack hit the internet and set off a divisive conversation nearly a year before they actually hit shelves. These days, hype is currency and key build anticipation. But it can also drag out a moment—leading to a payoff that doesn’t quite match the excitement.
Not only is it hard to keep release date information under wraps, but popular figures on Instagram have also ridden their connections and leaks to a high profile, acting as reliable sources to the larger sneaker community—whether or not their information is even accurate. Accounts like Sneaker Prophet, Gucci Paul and Yeezy Mafia have amassed followings for their knowledge of release dates and colorways. Yeezy Mafia in particular has become so successful that the account has produced its own line of merch that ends up being resold on Grailed just like YEEZYs themselves.
For a select few accounts, handling these leaks and providing a constant stream of information to rabid sneakerheads looking toward the next release has become a full-time job. Early information can be useful, especially if it pertains to an upcoming release slated for the near future.
But we aren’t talking about seeing leaked images a couple weeks ahead of time anymore. Any time you go to a sneaker site to read about a new release, it’s less and less likely that you’re able to see that pair, click a link and buy them. Instead, you’re met with news about a potential Ultra Boost or Jordan I colorway coming out six months or a year from now. With so many sneakers releasing each and every weekend, leakers feel they’re providing a service. But in the end, it winds up being more of the noise rather than the signal.
The cycle of sneaker releases is already difficult enough to keep up with and the leaks we see are rarely able to be acted upon. Knowing about a new Jordan colorway dropping in September 2019 when it’s October 2018 does nobody any good. Additionally, leaks have become increasingly unreliable. With such long lead times, people are less and less likely to follow up down the line to see if those shoes posted six months ago are actually coming out, meaning anyone with “inside information” can litter their feed with releases that may never happen.
These leaks have a larger effect too. In a sneaker calendar that has become increasingly cluttered, they are nothing more than noise and distraction that perpetuates the idea that style comes from keeping up with the newest releases. Every time you purchase a new pair of shoes, that means there’s less time for you to wear the ones you have right now and even less time to appreciate them. Ultimately, it detracts from the process of developing any sense of personal style — or control on your bank account.
It sounds overly philosophical, but if you constantly look forward, searching for the next hottest drop, anything that came out last week, month or year doesn’t matter anymore. Even if you jumped through all the hoops to get your hands on the newest pair, they instantly become meaningless if you start planning for the next drop right away. With a sneaker calendar that only shows signs of becoming more and more crowded in the coming years, it’s up to the shoppers to actually decide what they will and will not buy—whether they’re seeing them months ahead of time or they randomly found them in-store.
This mentality has made being a sneakerhead all about the journey, instead of the destination: the actual shoes. If that’s the case, then maybe it’s not worth spending the time or money on sneakers in the first place. I believe it was Ferris Bueller who once said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
The same applies to sneakers, whether you believe it or not.
Unfortunately, there is no fix in sight. And until sneaker brands get a better handle on keeping designs and release dates under wraps, we’ll probably only see more leaks pop up.
Maybe you want to know exactly what’s dropping on Sunday, July 28, 2019. But I’d prefer to find out later.
For even a deeper dive into the sneaker world, watch below.
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- Main & Featured Image: Yeezy Mafia