Why do people queue for days to buy adidas Yeezy Boost 350 sneakers?

The shoes people are camping out for

Kanye West and Adidas are re-releasing a limited number of the Yeezy Boost 350 sneakers around Australia, with people camping in the streets to get some.

Lining up to be the first to purchase consumer goods is a particularly strange modern phenomenon.

You may have read about a Japanese blogger named Yoppy who camped out in front of an Apple store to secure an iPhone 6, a full seven months prior to release. Thankfully Yoppy eventually came to his senses and went home to have a Bex and a good lie down.

Not so, Lindsay Handmer, the tech entrepreneur who waited 18 days outside Apple's flagship Sydney store for the iPhone 6S. Or Lucy Kelly, who left her avatar (a robot) waiting fourth in line at the same launch.

So far, nobody has brought their robot to the re-release of adidas's Yeezy Boost 350 sneakers, which go on sale on Friday morning at Australian retailers including Sneakerboy's three boutiques in Sydney and Melbourne.

However, punters have been lining up for days to secure a pair of the coveted black Yeezy Boost 350s, after hearing about them on Instagram.

If you're a sneakerhead, then sneakers are something you live and die by, and you'll do whatever it takes to get a pair.

Chris Kyvetos

The Yeezy line is designed by narcissistic rapper Kanye West. Sneakerboy Sydney will be allocated just 18 pairs, Melbourne CBD 23 pairs, and 15 pairs for Chadstone Melbourne.

Demand was so high at the previous Yeezy release in August last year, that intending buyers needed to win a ballot to be offered the chance to buy a pair.

First come, first serve

This year it's strictly first-come-first-serve, with fanatics lining up from as early as Monday. "We had kids sleeping on Little Bourke Street," says Sneakerboy founder Chris Kyvetos. "I go out and chat to the kids all the time, because I'm one of them. Before I owned Sneakerboy I camped out overnight on the streets of New York during a blizzard to get a pair of (Nike Air) Jordans. I nearly froze to death.

"Why do we do it? I get asked this a lot. If you're a sneakerhead, then sneakers are something you live and die by, and you'll do whatever it takes to get a pair. I suppose there is also an element of status to it. When I walk up the street in a pair of Yeezys, the recognition you get is crazy. I'll have people stopping me to take a photograph."


Kyvetos admits the resale sneaker market is also a huge incentive. "I'll be selling these for $260 at 10am tomorrow. By 11am many will be on eBay for $2000."

Quien Nguyen, 19, has been waiting outside Sneakerboy's Sydney store since Wednesday afternoon for his pair of Yeezys, even though they won't fit him. "I didn't get to reserve my size in time, so I'm going to sell them," he says.

However, not everyone is in it for the cash. Nuryul Hussein, 25, grabbed a taxi straight down to the Sydney store on Wednesday as soon as the release details appeared on Instagram. She has been sleeping in a deck chair. "This will be my third pair; I just love wearing them," she says, pointing out the tan Yeezys on her feet. "My mum asks 'why aren't you selling them?' I said 'no way, never'."

The sneaker tribe

Marylouise Caldwell, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Sydney's Business School, says lining up to buy an iPhone or a pair of sneakers is a form of tribalism. "People gravitate towards this kind of thing when they don't have an affinity to more traditional tribes, such as professional groups, to give them status," she says. "They attach themselves to a brand that has global status, and in so doing it gives them the status they wouldn't otherwise have.

"I don't mean this to sound harsh, but if you can spend days waiting in a line, what else do you have in your life?"

Caldwell says in lining up to secure a product, people can associate with like-minded folks and share their passion for a particular brand. "They feel like pioneers, ahead of the pack. These people are not keeping up with the Joneses, they are setting the pace."

She says the influence of Kanye West cannot be ignored. "Having someone who is a musician and reality TV star setting the trends, as opposed to somebody who went through the traditional societal pathways - such as being editor of Vogue - is an example of the democratisation of the marketplace."

Would she line up to buy a pair of Yeezys herself? "I would certainly wear a pair but I wouldn't line up for them, because I have a busy job and I don't need that sort of thing to express myself," she says. "I create my status in other ways such as writing papers and teaching at a prestigious university.

"However, it's not uncommon for a professional 50- or 60-year-old to buy a pair of Adidas. The omnivore behaviour amongst the upper-middle class shows the world that they can negotiate all these groups and clothing styles. It's a way of proving they are a global citizen with their finger on the pulse."