Stories produced by St. Peter's Journalism Students
Adhurim Marke is a 26-year-old construction worker living in Staten Island, New York with his wife and two kids. He lives a normal life, goes out with his friends, dinner dates with his wife and takes his kids to see Frozen On Ice. But Adhurim lives a double life and it is no big secret. His Instagram alias “Gates” Marke, is a sneaker obsessed shoe-guru whose collection landed him a huge following of 53-thousand followers on Instagram and also an advantage in the shoe collecting game.
“I narrowed my collection down a lot from what it is now, I buy more exclusives, quality over quantity is what I am aiming for, but I probably have about 180 pairs of sneakers and I think I have spent around $75,000,” Marke said. “But my collection is probably worth a lot more now, if not doubled.”
There is this alternate universe that exists where the ground you walk on is sacred, but what you are walking on that ground with is even more cherished. The impact of culture on athletic shoes has been around since the 80’s and fashion has unequivocally become very important in people’s lives, but what is it about the shoe that is so respected and praised? The price tag and wealthy lifestyle, or is it the prominence that exists in hip-hop artists and athletes, and the nostalgia towards it?
“Both,” Marke said. “It is mostly a lot of the younger generation now that collects sneakers and they look up to people like Jay-Z, Kanye West and all those athletes alike who would advertise kicks on social media and who have a lot of money and are able to afford all these different kinds of sneakers and so kids would start to pick up on the relevance of collecting sneakers and they start their own.”
The biggest hype that started collectors was the Jordan 11 Concords and then the Galaxy Foamposites, both of which were released in 2012.
“People went nuts for them, some wanted to wear them right away, others wanted to resell once they became sold out,” said Marke.
Marke stated that resellers ruined the game for a lot of people.
“Resellers usually buy in bulk as many sneakers as they can and then sell them for a bigger profit. It really is like a career for them, but resellers do not care for the sneakers or even wear them, they are just money hungry and if they are standing in line in front of you, chances are you are not going to get them that day. It is really annoying.”
Lucky for Marke, he was able to gain a lot of fans and followers, went to sneaker conventions like SneakerCon and became great friends with people who became his connections, avoiding headaches and having an easier access to exclusives, which are sneakers that are usually not sold in retail stores. Marke said he will not reveal his contacts names or how they get them because it is all part of his advantage.
“I hang out with them all the time. We started out as friends on Instagram, you know, people who appreciate the same lifestyle and collect the same thing and so eventually we would meet up at sneaker conventions and ended up help each other out. Making all these connections and friends is actually one of the things I’m most grateful for,” Marke said.
Attending sneaker conventions and shelling out $200 to rent a table is usually scheduled in Marke’s agenda. He sells sneakers, makes trades and even finds hidden gems. He even admits to once selling 20 pairs of sneakers at a convention to buy just one pair.
“So the owner of Nike, Phil Knight, is an alumnus at the University of Oregon. He makes a custom pair of sneakers only for their football team called Oregon 4’s and there are only about 80 pairs made. I sold 20 pairs of sneakers just to buy these off this guy at a convention and they are now the rarest pair of sneakers I own.”
Marke began his collection when he was able to buy his first pair with his own money back in 2004.
“I was 15 when I started collecting and Michael Jordan was the main reason,” Marke said.
“The 1999 White Cement Jordan 4’s started it all for me. These sneakers have “Nike Air” on the side instead of Jordan, because two years later Jordan became his own brand and that is why there is a Jordan symbol now instead of the Nike Air symbol on most of the sneakers you see today. “Nike Air” on the back heel tabs bring back a historic complex and they are highly respected in collecting.”
Michael Jordan sold $130 million in 1985 alone. His first pair debuted with a price tag of $65.00, a pair equivalent to $136.00 today. It was not until 2002 that Michael released the XVII’s, which became the first pair of sneakers to retail for $200— this drove the sports shoe market into the luxury category.
But Jordan was not the only successful one in selling sneakers. Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant all have their own sneaker lines. Kanye West has also teamed up with Nike Air to design his own shoe, which sold for $245 and was released without notice to the general public in February of this year.
“My most expensive pair has got to be the Nike Air Yeezy 2 Red October. I was actually one of the first people to own this shoe. I bought them for about $2,000 from one of my connects and got them months in advance,” Marke said.
“My social media account immediately blew up when I bought them and I have Kanye to thank for that.”
Marke describes shoe collecting as a drug, once you buy your first pair and you see others doing the same, you begin to relapse after you have worn them enough times.
“You just want to get another pair right away to get the fix in.”
He takes photos of his sneakers with a digital SLR camera saying that followers really appreciate the quality of a picture because you see more detail of the shoes. “That will make them hit the follow button right away,” Marke said.
With the amount of followers Marke gains everyday, it is no surprise that companies started to send him care packages.
“Basically what they do is, a brand that makes clothing, laces, socks, sneaker cleaners and other similar products, would just send me a box of all free stuff and then ask me to send them a shoutout on Instagram to promote their item and it just works out for them because I am basically endorsing their product. In a way I guess I am also a Jordan and Nike endorser… I’m still waiting for my paycheck,” Marke added jokingly.
With his extensive network of sneakerheads, Marke says that he is happy to have a carefree sneaker hunt experience, without any New Release Saturday drama. New Release Saturday is code for the only day Jordan’s are released in stores, Saturdays, when everyone would line up outside of the sneaker stores for hours, sometimes days in advance, just to make sure they get their hands on a pair by any means necessary.
“There is actually a lot of people out there who would kill for a pair of sneakers, believe me I have seen the riots from a ‘New Release Saturday’, it’s pretty crazy,” Marke said.
A manager at FootLocker, who asked that we not publish his name, says that because of how rowdy customers would get on line, they needed to enforce stricter store policies. Other sneaker retail stores have done the same.
“Now we do a lottery process to limit fights. Before tickets and the whole lottery process, the customers would get really out of hand and so we had to decide on a safer alternative,” the manager said.
Marke says he has only waited outside of the store when he was younger and now he does not have to. His collection has surpassed thousands of dollars which has sparked the interest of many, especially the teenagers.
“What do you do for a living?” “Can you give me a pair?” and “Shoutout 4 Shoutout” are frequently seen in the comments section on Marke’s Instagram pictures, usually from a younger following.
“Most of them are kids and they are looking up to me, and in a way I actually feel like a role model. I have kids myself and I hope they look up to me one day the way some of these kids do.”
Robert, his first son already has 50 pairs of sneakers himself and Ryan who is just six weeks old is sporting 15 different pairs.
“I’m not going to let these pairs go to waste, I have plenty to hand down to my sons and to me, collecting sneakers is a hobby, that is really it. I have a job, a wife, a family and responsibilities— sneakers are kind of a take away from that reality.”
Marke does warn younger collectors who are just starting their collection to stay away from what is considered the “it” thing at the moment.
“Buy what you like and want but please do not become a hype beast,” Marke said.
A hype beast is slang for anyone who jumps on a bandwagon, a follower, someone who is just trying to fit in and look cool.
“Be yourself and show respect to everyone around you and eventually people will have to respect you back, and if they don’t, you do not have to fit them into your agenda.”