On November 18 last year, a major event in the sneaker community came to pass.
Adidas had just released the latest shoe in the Yeezy Boost collection, its famed footwear collaboration with Kanye West. This sneaker – the Yeezy Boost 350 V2 – was not a new model, and cost $220, the same as other sneakers in the range. The difference was the colour: Semi Frozen Yellow, a muted fluorescent hue with grey and red highlights.
For those in the know, this was a huge deal. Sneakers or trainers in this particular colour were the most limited release to date, and would fetch big sums on the lucrative resale market. For days before the sneaker was available for sale, forums and Instagram accounts buzzed with hype of the release.
The hype reached a crescendo at 10am, when these sneakers became available for sale. But less than a minute later, they had sold out: by some estimates, it had taken just 15 to 30 seconds for online buyers to clear the shelves.
Welcome to the world of the “drop”, a sales tactic deployed by a number of streetwear brands to supercharge the traditional supply-and-demand model.
An announcement on social media about the limited release of, say, a new sneaker is all it takes to cue the hype. Next, the message is amplified across social media, especially Instagram, where celebrities, fashion-forward influencers, and collectors create an echo chamber of excitement.
Once these items are released, some can sell out in a matter of seconds before emerging on resale websites, marked up 1,000% or more. For the brands who have mastered the art of the drop, and for the legions of fans buying and reselling their products, such hype can produce remarkably lucrative results.