4: The Supreme Resale Economy

On October 5, 2017, following months of rumors and much anticipation, Supreme opened its third store in the United States, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Tony: Today, we are in Williamsburg trying to get the box logo that everyone is going crazy for but we don’t know if it’s going to happen [laughs]…I’ve been reselling sneakers and Supreme since 2008, collecting since 2006. Been doing it a long time. One reason why we’re here, you’re either collector or reseller, but there’s no in between.

Maddy: You’re both!

Tony: I’m both! [laughs] I’m a big reseller but a big collector also. Tony, 21, from Queens, NY, about 15 minutes away. 

Maddy: What’s your plan today?

Tony: My plan today is to see someone leave the store, cash on me, ask him what’s the best he can part with it for. Hoping $700, eBay selling for 1000. I can be persuasive, I’m known for that, so hopefully I can persuade the person to let it go for 700. 

Maddy: Practice convincing somebody to sell you a t-shirt for 700 when they could get more today. 

Tony: Hey, buddy, how are you today. Listen, I can get shoes, items from all around, I can trade you and sell them for retail, if look out for me, scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. 

[Music up and under, Secure the Bag (Get Money) by BSNYEA]

Welcome back to Relentless, a podcast about the pursuit of unusual aspirations, farfetched ideas, or the latest box logo tee shirt. I’m Maddy Russell-Shapiro, continuing my investigation into devoted fans of the brand Supreme in New York City.

Tony: I think Supreme has done very well to make its brand what it is. I think the appeal is the limited side. [Music fades out] For example, I’m wearing a crewneck. Usually retail is about 50 bucks. This one in the store was in 2013 188 and now, you can check this item on eBay, it’s worth over $1000. And that’s the beauty of it. 

[Music up and under, Secure the Bag]

I met Tony at the opening of the Brooklyn Supreme store. As you heard, for him, pursuing Supreme combines fun with profit.

In my interactions with Supreme fans, the issue of money comes up a lot. 

[Music fades out]

Especially the opportunity to resell purchased items and make good money in a relatively short amount of time. Whether or not resellers are fans, they are heavily represented on the line at every weekly Supreme release. And if I want to understand who lines up, I have to understand the resale market.

Anton: Last season somebody was asking me what bring me into fashion? I don’t see this as part of fashion, I see this as part of income. That is the story. To get more money and make money. I respect people who buy them to wear, I wear them too, and I respect people who sell the stuff because that is their property, they have the right to do that.

That’s Anton. He is from the Ukraine and came to the us in 2008. He works as a doorman in Manhattan and I met him at the week 1 Supreme release. You’ll hear parts of our conversation throughout this episode.

Anton: It’s not secret for anyone to live in New York is not that easy, it definitely good supplemental income

Maddy: How did you learn about Supreme? 

Anton: First, I learn about sneakers. It was late 2013, almost 2014. I saw releasing Jordan 11, Gamma Blue, [Music up and under, Gold by BSNYEA] and I saw people were fighting for them, somewhere in Texas someone got killed for the shoes. I said to myself, oh my god, people are killing for these shoes, why not make money? 

I did not know people were killing each other over sneakers. And I did not know how much money there was to be made. I wanted to learn more, but this is a side of Supreme fandom that people are reticent to talk about, at least to me, a stranger with a recorder loitering outside the store. So I had a lot of exchanges like this one, 

My name is Pe, I’m 23. 

Maddy: What did you buy today? 

Pe: One of everything, almost. 

Maddy: And you’re not going to keep any of it? 

Pe: I’m going to give to my boyfriend, he loves Supreme.

Ok, the quality of that recording isn’t great. She said she bought one of everything in the store, which means she spent at least $2000. She told me she bought these as a gift for her boyfriend. To me, this sounded extravagant. But who am I to judge. Except, I needed to learn to be a bit more discerning. Because I had that exchange and then, thirty minutes later, I saw her and her boyfriend selling her purchases around the corner. So, yeah, maybe her boyfriend loves Supreme. But she was shopping to make money. I had a lot of similar exchanges with Supreme customers.

[Music starts to fade out]

There was this guy, 

My name is Yaya, and I just turned 20, and I got involved with Supreme a few years back, I fell in love with some clothing when I was in high school and I just started buying and it turned into a passion. Every season I’m here and I’m buying. …

Maddy: What are you going to buy?

Yaya: Pretty much everything, probably around $3k plus. 

Maddy: Then what? 

Yaya: Most of it I’m keeping, to stock, some items I’ll probably give to some friends. 

And there was this guy I talked to in London,

Jerome, 24, I had number 1. 

Maddy: I love getting to talk to number 1! 

Jerome: Work in retail store shopping center to fund my Supreme addiction. Schedule my shifts at work away from Mondays and Thursdays so I can make it here. 

Maddy: What did you buy today? 

Jerome: Jacket, Arabic hoodie, yellow backpack, yellow side bag, yellow camo headband, that’s about it really. 

Maddy: How much did you spend?

Jerome: 1900 pounds. 

1900 British pounds is about 2500 dollars.

Jerome: All for me. Hardly resell. Stuff like this that I want I just keep for myself.

Both those guys waxed on to me about their love of the brand and fed me lines about buying for themselves, and then soon thereafter, there they were, making sales on the street. A Supreme shopping bag spread open for a customer peering inside. Or the entire bag of merchandise handed off to someone waiting around the corner. 

To be clear, there is an enormous tension surrounding resale, especially when it happens in the vicinity of the stores. The security team is not only managing the line but also doing all it can to discourage people from reselling. They shoo people away, call them out when they return and insist again that they depart. They threaten to ban people from ever being able to line up again. It plays out like an ongoing game of cat and mouse. And I’m sure it impacts people’s willingness to be honest with me.

But despite security’s efforts, reselling outside the store seems to be pretty efficient for a quick sale, though probably not the place to make top dollar. 

A key part of the resale system involves knowing which items will be the big sellers each week.

Rafe: Before the drop happens, you already kind of know what will sell and what won’t. If I get a number and am early in line, I’ll buy whatever I can and flip it. 

Maddy: How do you know what’s going to be the most demand? 

Rafe: Accounts on Instagram and Twitter that have insider information that leak the drops earlier. And then the hype stuff, you can tell once you know what Supreme is, what will sell. Also, the comments, people saying what they want. Good idea of it. 

So first you determine what’s the most desirable. 

Amit: …You also have to know how to market, it’s not just about buying it. 

There’s a lot to contend with in order to position yourself for success.

Amit: So, is it fair? No, It’s not fair… 

I agree! It seems unfair to people who just want to buy something for themselves. 

Amit: People probably pay the security guards straight up, they have friends. That’s not fair either.

He says people might pay the security guards for an advantage. He’s not concerned about individual fans but the lack of fairness between resellers! No reseller ever volunteered any concerns to me about the ethics of what they, as resellers, do. 

To secure Supreme merchandise, whether for yourself or to sell, everyone has the same two options on Thursdays: the stores and the Supreme website. So to create an advantage, you need more than just yourself. 

[Music up and under, Pop Lotti by Lawrence at Horizons]

My name is Malik. I’m from Harlem, New York. 

Maddy: Have you lined up this season?

Malik: It was horrible. Number 432. [Music fades out] Aw, man. I have no choice but to come out here and cash people out for over the price. 

Maddy: Do you arrange ahead of time? 

Malik: Social media, I got number 2 in line, I got number 4, you hit them up, they’ll go with the best price you can get them. 

Maddy: Are people trustworthy? They’ll come out of the store and give you stuff for the amount of money you agreed?

Malik: Sometimes, people go in store, see value or hear about the item and change their mind once they come out.

This proxy system is not unique to New York

[Music up and under, Pop Lotti by Lawrence at Horizons]

Callow, 19, number 121… 

Callow was in line at the store in London [Music fades out]

Maddy: Is everything you’re getting pre-sold? 

Callow: One guy who I sell, not gonna name him out, pay me 50 quid per item. I’ve got the money on me, buy it, go out, say, here’s your stuff, get my money. Just met him on Facebook. 

Maddy: Through interest in Supreme? 

Callow: Facebook group, just say, you’re gonna proxy or resell, people message, can you get this for me cause can’t make it. 

There just isn’t enough Supreme to go around. But wherever there is a Supreme store, the advantage that locals have is used in the same way.

As does Malik, in New York City, 

Malik: Honestly, I just came from work, came straight here. My business partner has what we call bodies, they was there. We bought stuff from them. We actually give them the money to buy stuff for us. 

Bodies, people who stand on line and buy for resellers. This is a pretty low-risk way to make money for time spent on the line at the store. Bodies are willing,

Malik: willing to give you the items for retail and you pay them. 

Maddy: How much will you pay someone? 

Malik: I guess I’ll pay them 20 over, 15 over. I’m honestly making a lot more money than what I’m paying. Wouldn’t be a hustle if I didn’t. 

Maddy: So you’ll pay them a little extra and then you charge more on top of that to people who either won’t or can’t come line up. 

Malik: Definitely. Supreme is a big label so everybody would like to buy.

Maddy: Your business is this?

Malik: Supreme and limited edition sneakers. Well, I work at Macy’s, so it’s a regular retail job. This on the side is actually a lot more money but you always gotta have money on the books, you know? 

Once you have the items in hand, there are a variety of business models for reselling. For Malik, it’s

Malik: Celebrities, upcoming rappers, and also people outside that love to have Supreme. Just get a hat, a shirt, to have something to say I stood in that line even though they didn’t. 

Maddy: How do celebrities find you? 

Malik: Instagram, social media, word of mouth.

Maddy: Do you have celebrity clients who are repeat customers? 

Malik: Yes, every week I send a mass alert, see what they like, hit me back and tell me what they would like. 

So Malik is like a personal shopper for Supreme fans, some of whom are celebrities. Other resellers have more of a first come, first served model,            

[Music up and under, Pop Lotti by Lawrence at Horizons]

Dominiq Sotello, 21 yo, from LA. 

Maddy: Where are we right now? 

Dominiq: We’re waiting for Supreme to open up tomorrow at 11am, trying to get our spots not taken. 

[Music fades out]

I met Dominiq in Los Angeles. There, the store has a different system. Customers have to line up overnight in order to secure their places at the front of the line. 

Dominiq: We’re not here for reselling. We actually own our own business, we pay people to get stuff for us, sell it on our website. 

Mmm, well, I think that is reselling. 

Dominiq: It’s called PremeCopp. People subscribe to get something for retail. We don’t care the price, whether flipping for $1000 or $100, we’ll still sell it for the regular price. It’s $3 a week or $10 a month. Close to 2000 subscribers. 

Maddy: How many people in the store tomorrow? 

Dominiq: We should have 8 to 12. We drop every Sunday at 6pm. People from Dubai, Canada, across the world shopping at our site. It’s exactly like Supreme at 8 o’clock on Thursday, first person to check out gets it. Same thing on Sunday. Not a guarantee but another chance to get something at retail. Sell out in max seven minutes. 

Domniniq: I am a fan of the brand. I wouldn’t camp out for myself, this is for people who love Supreme. I quit my job at LA Fitness and now we’re trying to build up a huge company.

Dominiq and his business partners buy merchandise in the store and then charge others a fee to compete to buy it from them at retail prices. They’re increasing the online stock for geographically distant fans.

Other resellers have shops that sell new items, but at a markup,

Curtains: Speaking of resellers, have you talked to the old lady? 

Maddy: OG Ma? No, I went to store. Do you think she would be willing to talk to me? 

Curtains: She’s expecting people to come interview her. 

Curtains and I are talking about a consignment shop in New York City called Unique Hype. It specializes in Supreme and the woman who runs the sales counter, known as OG Ma, has quite a reputation. Curtains may be right that she is expecting people to come, but when I returned to her store, she declined to talk to me. 

Maddy: Why do you mention her? 

Curtains: She’s the greatest example of this anomaly. 80-year-old woman with a thriving business selling Supreme. What made this 80-year-old Asian lady just wake up in the morning and decide to sell this brand? We could talk about these kids all day, all night, lining up. Butwhat about people like her? She’s not a kid. She’s a responsible adult and she’s in the same mix.

She’s not alone – I’m a responsible adult in the Supreme mix too! Well, sort of.

Anyway, to me, OG Ma looks closer to 60 than to 80. And as I understand it, Unique Hype is a family business started by one of her sons. But she is definitely the face of the business. She is featured heavily in its active Instagram account wearing, Supreme gear and playing with Supreme accessories, and posing with the steady stream of celebrities who show up at the subterranean shop in Chinatown to buy Supreme. 

For resellers who are based outside New York, they can try to buy on the website each Thursday. But some will travel to New York City for major releases. When Supreme opened the store in Brooklyn, I met these guys, 

[Music up and under, Pop Lotti by Lawrence at Horizons]

Joseph Davis, 31. 

Maddy: Where are you from?

Joseph: Maryland. Yes, ma’am. 

Maddy: When did you come up here? 
Joseph: Yesterday around 4 in the afternoon, booked an Airbnb, it was a no brainer.

[Music fades out]

Maddy: What’s your plan for today?

Joseph: Try to cop Supreme. Get something to eat, get on the road before traffic hits. We’re hoping to buy from somebody. 

Maddy: How much are you willing to pay for a t-shirt? 

Joseph: Up to 1200.

Maddy: Wait, and then are you going to wear it? 

Joseph: No, ma’am. We actually have our own shoe business and deal in Supreme and Bape and different things like that.

Maddy: So you’re building up your inventory. Does your business exist online?

Joseph: Instagram, YPFP, for Your Plugs Favorite Plugs. We work really hard. I have regular job but hopefully become full time. Right now, I’m a medical records technician, atWalter Reed,with wounded warriors. Also in school as well, trying to get a business degree. Just working all angles.

Maddy: You guys are one version of resellers, right? 

Joseph: Yes, ma’am. But we are for the culture. Reselling is what we do, for the culture. We want to give back to kids, take this thing globally. We just love this. This is entrepreneurship. It’s the only business I know where on a Thursday morning you can be in Brooklyn and have the same people like you, feels good not having to punch a clock kind of.

The relative freedom of working for yourself is a common refrain, and though it is competitive, there is certainly a sense of community. In the vicinity of the store, people are constantly greeting each other in passing. Another common thing I hear is the justification that reselling is a way to validate and celebrate streetwear culture. 

I’m Andre, 23 years old, born and raised in PG county, Prince George’s County, Maryland. Met this guy earlier this year. Both had a passion for sneakers and streetwear, decided to make business. I’m a computer science major, still in school. This is my job. Working on certifications to make this business even bigger. 

Maddy: Do you ship internationally?

Andre: Yes, ma’am. In June, Adidas Zebra release, customer in Italy. Linked up over Facebook. Euro-dollar in our favor. That was nice to be able to sell and ship it over there. He’s gonna be a repeat customer too. 

Maddy: Crazy you can be sitting on stoop in Brooklyn, where you don’t live, with three phones, a laptop that’s not plugged in, running your business. Isn’t that crazy? We live in the future. Wow.  

I really do think there is something awe-inspiring about this. 

They are able to connect with individual customers outside the U.S. People living in places where there are no Supreme stores. And where it is difficult, or perhaps impossible, to purchase online directly from Supreme. My understanding is that there is in fact massive reselling abroad, much of it to East Asia, where only Japan has Supreme stores. 

There’s a group of people that come out every week, they cash everyone out, money, money. No matter who you are, they’ll buy from you. 

Those resellers, who are out every week buying as much as they can to ship to China and elsewhere in Asia, eluded me. 

As did the resellers who were running highly-coordinated efforts, with multiple proxies on the line. I saw the same guys week after week, sometimes on the line themselves but mostly hanging out on the periphery, waiting for people to come out of the store and hand over goods. They were there for business, they were working, and they were not interested in explaining themselves, their motivations, or their business models to me. 

The resellers who did talk to me tended to be younger and were often straddling the line of reseller and collector, like this college student from Albany,

Keep some of it. Sell, trade some of it as well. That’s how the game is played, so. 

One version of the game: leverage your spot on the line to buy more of Supreme than you need. Sell what you don’t want and your earnings cover the cost of what you keep. 

A lot of people I talked to were studying finance, marketing, communications. Supreme was like a case study for them.          

Here’s another college student, who comes in from Connecticut, 

My friend and I run this as our business on the side, Along with classes, great way to make money and also have fun.

Maddy: What’s the best sale you’ve ever made? 

Not actually Supreme, pair of Yeezys for $2250. Purchased for $240 after taxes. 

Essentially, for a lot of people on the line at Supreme, 

Being from New York, gotta find a way to make money. As a kid, not a lot of jobs. Here, you just wait in line, make money, sell an item, a hundred dollars over one piece. 

In other words, lining up at Supreme is equivalent to a part-time job. 

My name is Kalene, I just turned 19. I’m from Bay Ridge Brooklyn. I work at a beauty store for a little above minimum wage, so I have that, and then I come to Supreme and that helps a lot. I’m trying to save up for college. Today, I bought patchwork sweatpants for 200. I saw them and it’s like, before I buy something I have to have an outfit and I said, I like this, I’m gonna wear them. So I had to buy it. [laughs] I struggled with my sweatpants cause I know I could make money but sometimes you just have to treat yourself. 

I guess everybody struggles to get what they want from Supreme, even resellers. What does Supreme think about customers like Kalene?  

Kalene: They hate resellers.

Does Supreme hate resellers? I don’t know. It’s a question I would love to ask someone who works there. I wonder what Supreme thinks about all these people who feed the brand’s popularity while making money for themselves. I wonder if Supreme takes any pride, as a very youth-oriented brand, in fueling so many young entrepreneurs. I also wonder how many businesses in New York City could benefit from workers with the gumption and determination of these resellers. Like this 16 year old, Brian,

[Music up and under, Upset by Stripe Like Tommy]

Maddy: How much did you just spend? 

Brian: $2,300. I got every single tee, every accessory. I paid the cashier a few moneys so I could get multiple accessories, every single hoodie, two jackets. 

Maddy: They’re only supposed to give you one of each thing but if you give them cash they’ll give you more? 

Brian: Yeah.   

[Music fades out]

Maddy: So you just spent a lot money. Are you going to make that money back?

Brian: Some of these items are already sold, listed on eBay. I have loyal customers, some of them hit me up before they drop, some of them around my neighborhood. I actually have one in Dubai, have one in California, one in Virginia, most of them are here, consignment shops. I end up cutting school sometimes, I just don’t show up, pretending I’m sick. I also resell sneakers, use that to purchase these items. 

Maddy: The money fuels your business. What else does it go towards?

[Music up and under, Upset by Stripe Like Tommy]

Brian: Saving up for a car. Either a Cadillac ETS or Selica. 

I feel concerned for kids like Brian who are so distracted from school by the Supreme opportunity. Yet I can also imagine how these outings would be a satisfying combination of challenge and fulfillment. How buying and selling might be a welcome shortcut into that elusive aspiration of so many adolescents: being grown up. 

[Music fades out]

At the opening of the Brooklyn store, I met someone who was brand new to the resale game, 

Maddy: Do you know the brand? 

Daniel: Honestly, not really. I literally just called my friend up and I asked him how much is this stuff really worth. He said a lot. So I literally just went there and hung out and got a shirt and sold on eBay for $1100. 

Maddy: Ok wait a second, so let me understand this. Are you familiar with the brand Supreme?

Daniel: I’ve heard of it on social media.

Maddy: Where are you from? 

Daniel: Orlando, Florida. 

Maddy: Do you live in New York? 

Daniel: Just recently I moved here for college. 

Maddy: What is your name? 

Daniel: Daniel. 

Maddy: Ok, so Daniel, your friend told you there was an opportunity. Did you register online on Monday? 

Daniel: No, I didn’t know about the registration. Came for special event they had, the private party for the launch today. 

Attendees had access to a new t-shirt that was printed just for the opening. White with the box logo in camouflage instead of red. And a phone number printed on the back.  

Maddy: So how did you get into the party last night? 

Daniel: I didn’t. 

Maddy: Daniel, how did you get a t-shirt?! 

Daniel: I bought it off someone that walked out of it. That’s when I called my friend. I was like Cameron, is this stuff really worth this much? If so, should I buy one and have you resell it? Yeah man, get anything you can get. 

Maddy: So were you just approaching people as they came out of the store? Tell me what you said.

Daniel: “Hey, are you down to sell something?” And most people said no but one person seemed like he would. “I’ll buy it from you right now for $600.” Counted it out and I took it. 

Maddy: So then your friend listed it immediately on eBay?

Daniel: 5-10 minutes, it sold. I went and shipped it this morning. I gave him 25%. I’m gonna make about 350. Which is good. 

Maddy: For spending how long in Brooklyn? 

Daniel: Less than an hour. I know, it’s ridiculous.

Maddy: Are you hooked?

Daniel: Probably be here every Thursday, try to get stuff, have my friend resell it. Wouldn’t ever spend this much on clothes myself. 

Maddy: Does your school schedule accommodate your doing this? 

Daniel: Only have class Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. 

With a first experience like Daniel’s, you can imagine what an incredible temptation it would be to continue. Would you be able to resist the opportunity? While daniel makes resale seem pretty straight forward, it’s not always so easy to execute. 

Amit, 22, Brooklyn.

Maddy: What number did you get?

Amit: 16 and 168. 

Note that he has two places in line. I’ll come back to that. 

Amit: I resell life. I don’t sell drugs, I don’t scam. I sell concert tickets, hotel tickets, beer, SnapChat glasses, anything that resells and is legal.  

I’m not sure reselling beer is actually legal but, technicalities aside, that emphasis on legality is something I heard a lot. Comparing Supreme favorably to more corrosive kinds of addiction or more dangerous black markets. Over the years, Supreme itself has incorporated imagery and produced accessories that evoke the glorification of drug culture and other illicit activities, including the Scarface collaboration this season in week 8. 

But back to Amit and his resale hustle,

Amit: I actually went to Virginia yesterday, 10-hour trip, to get id and debit card, then another problem I ran into was had to find someone. Found someone for $100, $275 for the trip, so I’m in for 375 already. 

Ok, pause. I think this was a somewhat unusual maneuver for a New York-based sSpreme fan. Usually, it’s the proximity to the store that gives New Yorkers a distinct advantage. No need for ten-hour drives.

As it turns out, I also interviewed Amit’s proxy, number 16, though at the time I didn’t realize it,

Romeo, from Brooklyn, 23. This is my first time, I just wanted to try it out. Number 16. First group. You could say I got lucky. 

Maddy: Did you know what you wanted to get? 

Romeo: Had a list. 

Maddy: What are you going to do now?

Romeo: Gonna head home. 

Amit approached me later in the day with an update. My second conversation with him was not recorded. According to Amit, Romeo was his proxy and he had indeed gone home after speaking with me. But Romeo went home with all of Amit’s stuff. He returned the id card but somehow did not hand over the merchandise. That put Amit out thousands of dollars. 

And I never saw either of them again. 

[Music up and under, Night Sky by Synchro] 

I have no idea if Amit caught up with Romeo and got his stuff back. I don’t know if Amit was a particularly inept reseller or if he just had really bad luck that day. I don’t know if being out thousands of dollars was devastating for him or just a minor setback. But my takeaway is that there are many ways for resellers’ best laid plans to go awry. 

[Music fades out]

Are you wondering how much money resellers make? 

Maddy: How much did you spend?

Kalene: $2100

Maddy: How much hoping to make?

Kalene: Between 6-700. 

Maddy: How much did you spend today? 

Chris: $1025

Maddy: And how much will you make? 

Chris: I have no idea. Nowhere near a crazy amount cause this week wasn’t super hyped up. Probably 300, 400 bucks

Maddy: Worth your while. 

Chris: Yeah, a couple hours out of my day. Stood in line. I had number 60. If I had number 300, I wouldn’t have come. 

One of my assumptions has been was that buying Supreme was a very time-consuming activity. 

I didn’t put a lot of time into this. Signed up 10 seconds, wasted like 2 hours. I have class at 4 o’clock so perfect with my schedule…

Anton isn’t quite as dismissive about the toll the process takes,

Maddy: How does it feel on Thursday morning when you are getting ready to go to Supreme as opposed to a work day?

Anton: For me, every morning it’s difficult to get up. I don’t like to get up early, either for work or for Supreme. There is no excitement, like little kid in Christmas, don’t sleep overnight, waiting for present, no, I do not have that. For me, I would love to stay at home and do not go anywhere. Basically, over there, it’s already same community of people. You have this reselling community. Some of them you like, some of them friends some of them you hate, some you dislike, some of them you fight. This is easy money. With your job, you have to go eight hours and work. Over there, you never know, one day you can make thousand dollars. Sometimes you can make nothing. I would consider this supplementary income. I would never do this as a full time income. 

Anton does like Supreme merchandise but he is committed to Supreme because of the opportunity to make relatively easy money. As a result, he’s become part of a community as complex as any other. There’s the enjoyment of being part of an in-group. And there’s the stress and uncertainty of being part of a competitive activity, one with real stakes. And while Anton wouldn’t do this as a full time job, others do. 

Here to make money. I’m like a middle man. I have a middle-man for my middle-manning, cause I’m not in line. I’m gonna get some pieces and sell it to somebody else. I have a buyer basically. You gotta be able to, be an ambassador one would say, to do well in these streets. My name is Abby. I just turned 22. Brooklyn, NY.  

Maddy: What else do you do to make money? 

Abby: This is it right here. 

Maddy: Do you do the whole gamut, sneakers?

Abby: Everything gets sold. 

Maddy: Stressful way to make a living?

Abby: Can be stressful. To each his own. Either you have a job, working 9 to 5, getting paid by the hour, or do this and get paid in 5 minutes. 

Maddy: Is it a thrill? 

Abby: Without a doubt. Big thrill. A lot of flexing too, I’m doing it, you’re not. I do it literally because of the money. 

Maddy: Do you think you’ll be doing this five years from now?

Abby: Hopefully have somebody else on line for me. I’ll be chilling on my yacht. 

Maddy: Five years, yacht. 

Abby: For sure, two years. 

Maddy: You have an ambitious savings plan, I gather. 

Abby: Oh, big plans. 

Maddy: Good. Good to have big plans. 

Abby: Yeah, ambition is where it’s at.

With all this talk about the resellers, and their ambitions, let’s not forget the people who are on the other side of all those transactions. The end users. The fans paying over retail to get what they want. Occasionally I’d see them on the street, just a block or two from the store itself, 

Shivan: What’s happening behind us is a group of Europeaners who just came back from probably Italy. Their child is in love with Supreme and I don’t blame him because it’s a worldwide phenomenon. He’s just trying to buy a hat. Instead of spending 44, he’s gonna spend like 200. 

Maddy: He can’t get in line today. 

Shivan: No, never. I don’t think he’ll ever get in line, like in his entire life. 

I don’t see too many of these transactions. They’re mostly taking place at stores like Unique Hype and on the internet. I may not encounter these customers on the line at Supreme, but their numbers are just as legion, if not greater. 

[Music up and under, Je T’Aime by Synchro]

You’ve probably noticed that this week’s episode of Relentless is longer than the previous ones. I have mixed feelings about giving so much air-time to resellers. But my observations convinced me that Supreme fandom is inextricably linked to the possibility of profit. And I find reselling pretty interesting, both logistically and intellectually. I have numerous ethical questions about reselling. Like, is it ok to buy things to resell and force people who want the items to pay a higher price? Do resellers pay taxes on their income? Is it ok to skip school or to miss work for an opportunity to make money by reselling? Is it ok to bribe people – like security guards or store employees - to get what you want? The justification, as you’ve heard, is that resellers are providing access to people who can’t line up. Or who missed out on special items from prior seasons.  

How about this perspective on Supreme and resale?

[Music fades out]

There’s a whole lot more things you could be addicted to so much worse. Wearing clothes, nature of market, the worst that happens you overspend on your clothes, then give it a couple months, value goes up. Like a car, half value as soon as you get it. Clothes, not that bad. [Music back up and under, Je T’Aime by Synchro] Give it a couple months, something you bought for 100, you can sell for 500. 

He has a good point. How many items can you buy, use, and then sell for more than you originally paid? How often can you buy much of anything at a regular store as an investment? This value proposition is used by both resellers and regular consumers. It’s how a lot of Supreme fans justify paying a premium for a branded t-shirt or a branded shovel. They can enjoy their purchases and if at some point they tire of them, then there’s a really good chance that they will be able to sell, for a profit. So even if resellers undermine the fun for die-hard fans by taking more than their fair share of the spots in the line, resellers and regular customers all appreciate the resale value of Supreme.

And while resellers may not meet my standard for true fandom, as an outsider looking in, I can’t ignore the them. And let me say this, in terms of the overarching theme of this podcast, which is tenacity, resellers definitely check the box. They are dogged and tireless in their pursuit of merchandise and profit.

In the next episode of Relentless, Anton’s attempt, and my own, to buy something special from Supreme.

The most anticipated things for me, they’re things I personally like. From Supreme I never had enough luck and chance to get box logo hoodie. That’s what I’m looking forward, not trying to resell it. I want to keep it. 

I discover another fashion subculture that’s thriving in New York City and I attend Barbara Kruger’s Soho performance spoofing Supreme; plus, a preview of what’s to come on Relentless as we expand our stories beyond Supreme fans. 

[Music Chinatown by BSNYEA up and under until end]

Relentless is produced by me, Maddy Russell-Shapiro.

Music in today’s episode was produced by Lawrence, Stripe Like Tommy, and Synchro. Several songs, including the closing credits of every episode, were produced by BSN YEA! whose name I have mispronounced on each prior episode. But today I’m finally getting it right. All this awesome music was made at Building Beats, a DJ and music program that teaches entrepreneurial, leadership, and life skills to youth in New York City.

Thank you to Building Beats. Thank you to Anton and thank you to everyone outside the stores in Manhattan, Brooklyn, London, and Los Angeles who agreed to an interview. 

Relentless is available on SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher, and GooglePlay. To find out more, go to therelentless dot org, follow us on Instagram at the relentless podcast, and come back for the next episode!

[Music fades out]