Four brave soles waiting outside Downtown store for release of shoes by Kanye West
Brandon Binion, 26, center, of the North Side sends a text message while Sydney Rini, 19, left, and Michael Worthy, 18, right, both of Brighton Heights, play a game while waiting for the release of the Nike Air Yeezy 2 outside Social Status on Liberty Avenue, Downtown, on Friday.
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Brandon Binion was disrupted late at night by a drunken man punching a street pole. Michael Worthy hasn't seen his mother since Tuesday. Chris Jackson spent the night, eyes closed, lying across two camp chairs, trying desperately to sleep.
And all along, passers-by have been stopping to inquire about the unusual clutch of people in front of a Downtown shoe outlet.
Since Tuesday afternoon, a small group of young people have waited outside Social Status, a sneaker and clothing boutique on Liberty Avenue, in the hopes of landing a pair of Nike's Air Yeezy II sneakers, which rap mogul Kanye West designed for the athletic wear giant.
Only a handful of stores nationwide will sell the shoes today. The announcement that a local store would carry the sneaker was "incredible news," Mr. Worthy, 18, said. "I just didn't think Pittsburgh had the caliber."
But those hoping to buy the shoe should not show up today. Social Status will sell the sneakers for $245 a piece to only the first four people in line, all of whom showed up Tuesday afternoon, said the store's owner, James Whitner. All other opportunities to buy the shoes will be raffled off. Any person who purchased an item in the store through Friday earned a raffle ticket.
While the system may seem odd, Mr. Whitner said he wanted to ensure that a mob would not arrive in front of his store.
"Crazy things happen," he said. "And I just don't want anything crazy to happen on our watch."
Earlier this year, police responded in riot gear when the release of the Nike sneaker Foamposite One provoked wild crowds at a Florida mall.
"What's happening right now is the perfect storm," Mr. Whitner said. "Sneaker collecting is going mainstream." He also said West's popularity and the limited number of shoes released contributed to the excitement surrounding the Air Yeezy II.
The high-top sneaker comes in two colors, platinum and black, features a strap across the laces and includes "hand skived anaconda textured leather quarter panels," according to a Nike press release. Social Status will sell only the black sneakers.
The shoes are "the greatest neck-breakers of all time," said Amsterdam Wright, 30, who came to Pittsburgh from Baltimore this week. He was the fifth person in line, but still hoped he would have a chance to buy the sneaker. Mr. Wright said he travels to various states to acquire rare sneakers. Like others in line, he often resells them online for thousands of dollars, but in this case, he hoped to keep the Air Yeezy II.
A pair of the pre-ordered sneakers sold for $90,300 on eBay, Bloomberg Businessweek reported Thursday. The shoes garnered bids of more than $2,500 on the online auction website Friday night.
Mr. Whitner declined to give the number of pairs his store had received. He also said he is not keeping the shoes in the Pittsburgh store, but rather in his company's offices in Charlotte, N.C., where he operates another Social Status location. He will ship the shoes to raffle winners and the four campers who stay until midnight Saturday.
Until recently, the city did not have a store to which Nike would distribute its more exclusive sneakers, Mr. Whitner said. Social Status opened early last year.
"Nike was not at all interested in having a store like ours in Pittsburgh at first," he said. "Pittsburgh has a young, fashionable consumer that no one believed was there. And now that customer is starting to show his buying power."
Mr. Whitner said he believed Social Status would be the only Pittsburgh store carrying the Air Yeezy II.
Another Downtown sneaker store called Villa, with locations around the region, indicated on its Twitter account that it would announce this weekend a scavenger hunt for the shoes to take place at select stores.
Rachael Couch said she had waited for the sneakers outside Villa for four days, thinking she would be able to purchase the Air Yeezy II, only to hear Friday that she would not be able to purchase them there. Her son Malik, 15, was at Social Status on Friday morning. He said he hoped to win a pair in that store's raffle.
Ms. Couch, 42, and her son drove from Germantown, Md. Malik has more than 40 pairs of sneakers, Ms. Couch said.
That wasn't the largest number mentioned at Social Status Friday. Mr. Wright said he owned 200 pairs of shoes, and after this week, both collectors hope to own one more.
First Published June 9, 2012 12:20 am