How far would you go to wear the latest hype sneaker release? This might seem like sacrilegious question, but would wear a pair of fakes? It seems like a fairly obvious “no,” for most, but the grey market is thriving on Instagram. To put it into perspective, quite a few Instagram plugs have popped up in the last year followed by legit check accounts. While it seems that these plugs are thriving, on the Instagram market it’s buyers beware.
These folks advertise "authentic, custom made Yeezy's," but what does that mean exactly? Real fakes made at a real factory?
Over the past few years, Instagram has turned into a fascinating place in terms of marketplace viability because sellers (resellers alike) can sidestep the different firewalls put in place by eBay, trusted consignment shops, etc. Instead of showing some kind of authenticity guarantee, say a receipt, one can simply take a picture of their product with a loose description, and a price tag; this requires either a very careful eye or blind trust.
While the pictures themselves will usually lean toward a convincing model, the descriptions of the shoe truly require a giant leap of faith. Picture a pair of the supposed V2 350 Zebra colorway; you’ve probably seen a few of these different phrases in the description thrown around often. “Plug,” “sample,” “early releases,” “no box,” “100% authentic” and so on, usually followed by “DM only.” What potential buyers make of this is often varied, from “how much” to “check your DM’s” to “this is fake” to full blown arguments and name calling.
Real? Fake? Haters? Concerned citizens? You be the judge.
Sellers are essentially propped up by word-of-mouth vetting from the sneakerhead community. More often than not, the vetting or “defending” plays out in the comments section. With any picture posted, say of a pair of Jordans 1’s in a colorway not yet seen on a high traffic sneaker blog, there is bound to be suspicion.
Every pair of wildly colored Yeezys are claimed to be "authentic samples." In retail terminology, samples are pre-production models made to be presented at trade shows, to potential stockists, or for display at the brand’s showroom. Additionally, this sample pair could be an experiment in different color ways and materials. Typically a few dozen of these prototypes are made prior to the sneaker going into full scale sneaker production.
The seller’s ‘plug,' whoever this mysterious individual is, somehow acquires the sample after it has been displayed and passes it on to the seller. While this is claim, the chances of these being the case are rather slim. More often than not, that mythical sample pair is an “unauthorized authentic.” This only adds another layer to the question of value. UA’s tend to be made in the same factory, from the same material, by the same hands that pieced together the authentic retail model that people line up for. Factories can get away with the a few different ways. One way is simply saving material and making their own after their contract with Nike or adidas is up. In another scenario, the factory could sell the shoe mold to another, who puts that particular model into production.
This leads back to the original question: if Instagram sellers are dealing in grey market activities, why are people still buying? Consider that the chances of getting a real pair of Yeezy’s are steep, so probability points to those “100% real-no box-sample-straight from the plug” joints being very fake. But hey, you never know.
One is real, one is also real, and one is pretty much real too. But, which one is authentic?