An Impartial Thesis on the Subject of Sneaker Authenticity and the Early Release

ThinkPiece #001 (Part 3 of 3)




Are early releases simply authentic sneakers that certain employees at official retailers backdoor to the homies? Are they acquired through grey market channels of distribution? Are they Unauthorized Authentics, B-Grades/Factory Variants or downright Fakes?


Aside from the default possibility of someone having a backdoor authorized reseller connect (which we felt wasn’t necessary to include), listed below are three possible hypotheses.


Early Release Hypothesis #1: The Category 'B' Theory


A certain number of sneakers don’t pass quality control, are considered B-Grade/Factory Variants or Unauthorized Authentics (UAs) and a factory worker (or someone with access) backdoors them. Since they may not pass through the entire assembly line, they may often be coupled with a fake or unmatched box, wrong type font on box labels, differing packaging tissue paper, a missing tag, etc., to complete the product. It would nonetheless allow for the possibility of an early release on sites such as eBay and TaoBao, but not limited to, as well as specific online and brick-and-mortar resellers.


(Side Note: Taobao is a Chinese online shopping website not dissimilar to eBay where enthusiasts seem to be acquiring Early Releases with varying degrees of satisfaction/dissatisfaction.)


Early Release Hypothesis #2: The Category 'C' Theory


A real sneaker is stolen from its rightful factory and is quickly and unlawfully replicated at a different factory. Beginning and completion dates (printed on the inside tag) are possibly off compared to Authentic pairs, fake components such as non-visible Nike Air technology components are used. The poor craftsmanship (material cut lines, logos, etc.), stitching style (longer/bigger sew lines), and materials (excessive/improper use of glue, etc.) on these pairs are usually much more noticeable than B-Grades/Unauthorized pairs. This would also allow for the possibility of an early release on sites such as eBay and TaoBao, but not limited to, as well as online and brick-and-mortar resellers.


Early Release Hypothesis #3: The Category 'B' & 'C' (Hybrid) Theory


The shoe is part real, part fake. Let’s use a completely made-up example. A factory is contracted to produce “X” number of Adidas Ultraboost. However, they don't produce the proprietary Boost foam sole portion of the sneaker and are sent this integral part of the shoe (from another authorized factory) to complete the final product. They are only contracted to produce “X” number of Ultraboosts, and so for any additional units they wish to backdoor, they attempt to replicate the Boost foam portion of the shoe leading to a part real-ish, part fake shoe.




Hype has created a double-edged sword. If you’re purchasing from, Footlocker, FinishLine, Eastbay and other reputable authorized sources, you have peace of mind when purchasing. If you’re purchasing an Early Release from eBay, TaoBao, or other potentially not-so-reputable resellers, you have a much higher chance of copping that rare pair, but coupled with a much higher risk of them kicks being anything but authentic.


The fact that a sneaker is being released before the official release date by nature can make the sneaker questionable. The exception to this rule is, again, if the seller has contact to an authorized retailer that can acquire the sneaker a week or so early before the official release. Otherwise, you'll never know 100% what you're getting online since you can't really verify the posted images. You can't verify the seller neither since you never really know who's behind the computer screen on the other end. Plenty of sneakerheads have been scammed (just search YouTube) by resellers claiming to be an authorized/reputable source only to  disappear after the transaction is made.


What’s the Bottom Line?


If there is one, it’s that the sneakers you cop are only as reliable as its source. If you can't wait for the official release or are afraid that you won't be able to cop them, all you can really do is weigh out the pros and cons with an Early Release seller. It might be worth the risk if the seller has reputable reviews and the markup is reasonable. Or it might not. All we can say is protect your hard earned money and think it through before you click on that buy button. And as Mr. Foamer Simpson eloquently and comically states when copping his Nike Air Trainer Cruz in the haystack colorway in one of his sneaker videos, “...if you’re buying a pair of kicks in store, always inspect them thoroughly before purchasing…” And don’t make a rookie move and end up with suede that is super warped and wrinkly that they probably used a senior citizen cow to make the pair.

We're curious what brands will do to combat this ongoing problem as well as how unauthentic offerings will evolve.

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