Meeting some guys who love shoes more than I love anything.
Behold, the Yeezy II, a new shoe made by Kanye West. It’s the sequel to the Yeezy I, it’s made by Nike and a lot of people are very excited about it. So excited, in fact, that a bunch of people have been CAMPING OUTSIDE the 1948 store in Shoreditch, East London to get the wristband that guarantees them a pair when they're released on Saturday. They don't get a discount or anything though, they just get to be among the first people in London to own a pair of £210 ($245 USD) sneakers designed by a person who hasn't even been to fashion school.
On Wednesday, they gave out the first 30 bands and the shop was overwhelmed. On Thursday, another 90 were up for grabs and the demand prompted 1948 to insist via Twitter that people should not camp outside their store:
However, that clearly meant shit all to these people, because everyone just went and pitched tents anyway.
That's what it looks like the morning after over a hundred footwear fanatics sleep under a bridge for Kanye West’s sneakers. I know, I don’t get it either. Which is why I went down to find out what drives a grown man to piss in a bottle and sleep on the pavement just to be allowed to spend over two hundred dollars on someone else’s shoes.
VICE: Are you excited about the Yeezy II, Richard?
Richard: Excited and a lot of things. Just stressed out, really.
Have you got a wristband yet?
No, not yet.
What have you been through?
What have I been through? Sleeping on the hard concrete for a start.
You seem pissed off. Where have you been going to the toilet?
How important is the Yeezy II to you?
These are collectors' items, so very. I place a lot of importance on my shoes. I’ve waited in line for like three days for a pair before at Nike Town.
What if they’ve run out of your size on Saturday?
Wow. Oh, wow [eyes widen].
I hope you get your sneakers, Richard.
Silus, 21 and San, 17.
Are you guys excited?
Both: Yeah, we have been waiting for this shoe for a year!
How long have you stood in line?
San: For like, 13 hours.
Where have you been going to the toilet?
San: Well, we couldn’t find anywhere to go, so we were just like, “Let’s just shoot our pee out here!”
What makes it different from other sneakers?
San: I dunno, 'cos Kanye wears it?
Is footwear important to you?
San: Shoes complete the outfit, for us. For the first impression, shoes are really important. I mean, I’ve been collecting shoes for three years now.
What would you do if you didn’t get a pair of Yeezy IIs?
Silus: I have to get a pair.
What will people think when they see you wearing a pair of Yeezy IIs?
San: They’ll probably break their neck just to have a look at them. They’re the craziest shoe out this year, or more like, in a generation.
Who are you hoping to impress?
I’m not trying to impress no one. I love shoes, that’s all that matters to me.
Martin, 30, network engineer.
Martin, you look like you’ve been through a revolution.
Martin: I slept here the night before last. At around 12 PM yesterday, when they opened, it was just mayhem. Everyone charged the gate. Security, there was only two of them… I don’t know, I reckon there must have been at least 250-300 people. In the end we stayed on, a spokesperson came out and apologized. They took my picture so they could remember me for today.
So will they let you in today?
I tried, but few people at the front said, “I’m not letting you in before me.” I know people who have been waiting in line and stuff but I was doing that the night before. I had to take care of family business, but then I came back. I even brought my son here today.
Did you have a sleeping bag the night you stayed?
Nah man, I just roughed it out.
You look really tired, man.
Where did you piss?
Round the corner.
Is £210 good value? Please tell me, I have no clue, I wear plastic bags on my feet.
I think so. Other people would disagree. My wife calls me crazy; my parents don’t know why I’m here.
Do you hope your son feels the same way about sneakers when he grows up?
To be honest no, not really.
Hey Calvin, did you stay overnight?
How was last night?
It was… It was… It was more people than I expected.
What time did you get here?
How did you sleep?
I sat on the floor with a pillow. I didn’t sleep. It was a bit rough.
Where did you piss during the night?
I just held it in.
Suddenly a lot of people started trying to push and it felt like things might kick off. "Please don’t let me die in a shoe riot," I thought to myself, "please."
I tried to find out a bit more about what was going on from this guy. He seemed pissed off.
Which is because he was.
What’s going on?
Joe, 23: They’ve all pushed in. I was here 12 hours yesterday and they’ve all pushed in.
Did you have your picture taken yesterday?
Yeah. I don’t know what they’re doing. I don’t know if they’re letting people in the line or just people with pictures or… What are these guys doing here?
You seem annoyed.
I know half the people here cut.
What’s gonna happen?
I don’t know what’s gonna happen, yesterday people got upset.
But you’re excited about your shoes, yay!
I don’t know if I’m even gonna get any.
What?! What will you do?
I’ll be pissed off, I’ll feel violated. Violated. Just a load of people jumped up in there and if you know the bouncers you get let in.
As people gradually collected their wristbands and left, the mood was more of relief than glory. Everyone just wanted to go home. A few stopped for a quick chat.
Cute, you're showing us your wristband! Did you stay the night?
Ross: I did, yeah.
How was it?
Pheeew [blows out cheeks], pretty strenuous. I’ve been here about 24 hours.
What makes these sneakers good?
They're relatively innovative, I really like the shape.
So worth the £210, then?
How much would you say you spend on shoes a year?
I wouldn’t like to guess.
Probably five, maybe tens of thousands.
What did you say you do again?
Oh, I’m unemployed.
Congrats on your wristband, Makesa! How was your wait?
Makesa: I didn’t wait, I had friends wait for me in line overnight.
Dude! Were they annoyed with you for not having waited with them and making them brave a night on the streets for you?
Very, they were very annoyed. But what can you do?
How long did your friends wait?
Jeez. Would you wait for them?
When you get your new Yeezy IIs, what will you do? Wear them all the time, right, show them off?
I’ll probably wear them about three days then put them back in the box.
They’ll be vintage in a few years, it’s an investment.
Well done on the wristband. How was it?
David: It was horrible. I’m tired as hell.
How long were you here?
Two nights. I was 30th in the line on the first day and just missed getting in. So, I just stayed on.
It’s been a bit tense today. Was it the same during the night?
Always. About where people were in the line. Even during the night. Some people didn't wanna sleep in case they got cut.
I feel like I’ve got a connection with them now, after the effort I’ve put in.I mean, it’s crazy, there’s kids dying all over the world and we’re camping for £210 sneakers.
Is that good?
But you feel like you’ve been through something?
Yes, man. When I get them it’ll be closure for me and I can just move on.
Do you like sneakers?
I like sneakers, but not this much, it’s just a bit crazy.
Have you got your £210 ready for Saturday?
Yeah man, student loan.
So I guess, who’s the dumb shit now?
Follow Josh on Twitter: @joshuahaddow
Previous glimpses of street life: