Keepin' up with the kicks

Dec. 20, 2001, midnight | By Colby Chapman | 19 years, 1 month ago

Blair boys dish out hundreds for the sake of fashion and the latest shoe trends

Maybe it's because they claim to give you mad hops like Michael Jordan or the sheer speed of Michael Johnson. Or could it be the ankle support they give when you are yanked in front of a crowd of rowdy people? But maybe senior Trevor Obarakpor is right. You stockpile them because you "just got to stay fresh."

"Shoes are like cars—you can't get enough," says senior George Bartlett, who says he owns 24 different pairs, at least.

Bartlett is not the only Blazer who just can't seem to get enough of all the shoe hype. According to a Silver Chips poll of 100 male students, 41 percent of Blazer guys own seven or more pairs of athletic shoes and 23 percent own ten or more shoes. Although females are known for buying lots of shoes, guys seem to have outpaced the ladies.

Stocking up

Senior Marcus McFarlane admits to buying a new pair of shoes almost every other week, adding to his collection of 113.

McFarlane recalls a time when he drove for about three hours to Pennsylvania in order to purchase a pair of $125 shoes that he was unable to find in the Washington area.

Junior Aaron Hernandez also devotes time and patience to obtain particularly outstanding shoes. Hernandez remembers waiting outside a shoe store early in the morning for approximately an hour to hook with the newest Jordans.

Long-time Foot Action employee Robert Prince bears witness to the shoe craze played out by Hernandez and McFarlane. "Every time a Michael Jordan shoe comes out, we usually have customers waiting outside the doors hours before opening," says Prince, who adds that Jordans usually sell out in less than 30 minutes. The majority of people who are buying the shoes are young males between the ages of ten and 18. Shoes not only draw young males into mile-long lines, they can even pull them away from a day of school.

As of this past fall, Jordans are now only released on Saturdays, a change from their previous midweek appearances because, according to market consultant Tracy Wyche, the number of students skipping school to buy the shoes became a national problem.

A penny earned, a penny lost

According to Prince, the average pair of shoes today costs $100. Seventeen percent of male students report spending close to $1,000 a year on shoes alone, according to the Chips poll, and 74 percent claim to have spent more than $100 on a single pair of shoes.

Some Blazers regard the price of shoes as a mere hurdle in their path to shoe paradise. Sophomore Darryl Hall says he knows some shoes cost too much money, but he continues to purchase them nonetheless. "Certain shoes are overpriced, but because of the style, I buy them anyway," says Hall.

Wyche also believes that shoes are highly overpriced. According to her, the average $100 shoe costs only $50 to make overseas in countries like China and Taiwan.

Companies usually save money by manufacturing their products overseas. Wyche says that if that same $100 shoe was manufactured in the United States, it would have to be priced at $200 retail sale in order for the company to continue to make a 100 percent profit. Very few shoes are made in the United States.

Save a buck or two

Some Blazers are finding illegal ways to get around spending hundreds of dollars on shoes.

According to junior Devin Grasty, the trick is to destroy the shoe and send it back to the company for a refund. "When they're broken or too small, pop the air bubble and send them back to Nike," says Grasty, who recently received a voucher from Nike to put towards a new shoe after he popped the air bubble in his Penny's.

Bartlett has developed a system of his own by which he profits while still getting the shoes he desires. "Why pay for shoes when you can get them free?" he says. Bartlett buys old or cheap shoes from friends or stores, destroys the shoe and sends it back to the company. The company then sends him a voucher that he uses to buy new shoes. Sometimes, he'll take those new shoes and sell them overseas to Japan using the auction house Ebay to up his profits.

Bartlett remembers making a profit of $350 after selling a pair of $160 special-edition Vince Carter Boings. Bartlett takes pride in his business. "I'm the number one white person when it comes to shoes," he says, laughing.

Why all the fuss?

The style, the athlete and brand loyalty. According to Wyche, these are the top three reasons why some males are attracted to new shoes.

Wyche sees the shoe's sponsor to be the biggest influence on the high school male population; she uses Michael Jordan as an example. " [His] shoes could look whatever, be whatever, but people are going to buy it because they're Jordans," says Wyche. She feels that when young males see that the shoe belongs to a famous athlete, they're going to want to purchase it.

Brand loyalty is also a big issue when buying shoes. Some students will only wear a certain brand of shoe and no other. "Some kids won't be caught dead or alive in Reebok because all they wear is Nike," says Wyche.

Wyche has come to believe that the male fascination with shoes has nothing to do with the performance of the shoe.

Senior Akeem Issa claims that sometimes females won't associate with a boy if he doesn't have on good-looking shoes because dirty shoes promote the idea that you don't know how to take care of yourself. "You can't get a good girl if you don't have good shoes," says Issa.

From Issa's point of view, shoes play a huge role in enhancing your appearance to the opposite gender. He says he buys them "so I can look sexy."

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Colby Chapman. Colby Chapman is a junior page editor and sports writer for Silver Chips. She plays basketball and runs track for Blair, and she plays the piano as well. She is very committed to her academics but takes great pride in her athletics. More »

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