This story has been updated. Please see below.
Racks Hogan pulls his blue and silver colored grills out of his mouth. “Everybody got gold so I wanted blue and silver,” he said as he finished up a shopping trip in New York’s SoHo neighborhood.
A metallic purple Supreme hat sits backwards atop Hogan’s blonde dreads which are themselves adorned with pendants that are gold. Covered in tattoos, wearing ripped jeans and Asics camouflage sneakers, the Ohio-native oozes streetwear style.
Hogan is the musician, stylist and a streetwear influencer behind the “Stylish Stoner,” an Instagram feed with 41,500 followers. The 30-year-old is a prominent figure in a growing group of resellers who can be found lining up outside street and skatewear stores for days, waiting to get exclusive and often limited amounts of items to then resell on Instagram and eBay. While his full-time job is as a stylist, he also makes money reselling clothing and shoes from brands like Supreme, KITH, Nike, and Bape among others, to clients which include celebrities. He doubles the item’s price and makes enough money to live on.
Streetwear reselling has grown with the rise of social media and a growing awareness of brands like Supreme, which only release very limited amounts of items. Resellers buy items at retail price only to leave the store, upload a picture on Instagram or Ebay, and inflate the price by up to $1000 for rare sneakers like Adidas Yeezy Boosts, of which different styles can sell for between $200 and $525. For streetwear enthusiasts who don’t have access to drops, there’s no other way to buy items other than through resellers.
The practice creates tensions between resellers and brands — brands are thought to hate the practice, according to resellers spoken to for this story. Nike and Adidas are trying to stamp it out by selling through apps, and using raffle ticket systems which offer everyday consumers a higher chance of being able to purchase the products. Nike launched a multi-step raffle system last year, for which consumers have to sign up and have their details authenticated before placing an order and going into a draw. If someone wins, they’re given a store location to pick up the shoes.
The idea was to give all consumers a fair chance, and beat sneaker bots and resellers who had figured out ways to buy multiple pairs. Adidas made a similar move with its app, Adidas Confirmed, where users have to sign up and can only buy one pair of shoes. Even still product sells out in seconds, one said.
Resellers argue the market and demand for streetwear is strong, and they’re buying for those who don’t live in New York or Los Angeles, where most of the major drops occur. A lot of product goes to Japan, for example, where there are Supreme stores, but with different stock.
Hogan calls himself a “private reseller” which means he doesn’t just sell to just anyone. He claims to have a client list that includes celebrities, which he wouldn’t name. “It’s a confidentiality thing. This person don’t want this person knowing that person got them ‘X,Y,Z’,” he said.
On a weekday in Manhattan’s stylish SoHo neighborhood, Hogan’s afternoon consisted of returning items for clients that don’t have the time, or don’t want to shop for themselves. “I’m a scout,” he said about spotting trends and buying items from coats to shoes to accessories like bags for those he buys for. First up, was NikeLab, where he greeted the shop assistant with a high-five and hug, but he was there to do business to discuss when items were going to drop. Twenty minutes later, he was in the Nike Kith store on Broadway, returning a cream jacket he’d “pulled,” or used for a client’s photo shoot before dropping into Bape, a few blocks to the west, to see what new items there were.
At Kith Treats, an in-store cereal bar, a teenager stopped Hogan and said, “Bro, I recognize you from the Complex documentary, can I get a photo?” The 2015 Complex documentary was called “Sold Out: The Underground Economy of Supreme resellers,” and featured Hogan, among other anonymous resellers.
The Instagram effect
Social media, in particular Instagram, has become a hotbed for reselling. There are accounts dedicated to reselling items like Yeezy Boosts and almost any item from Supreme. The hashtag #supremeforsale has 592,554 posts on Instagram and there are more than 50 accounts which have the description “Supreme for sale.”
Instagram’s visual nature offers resellers a platform to advertise what they have. Payment methods like Paypal, or meeting up face to face to exchange product, is a cheaper method than eBay, which takes a cut from the sale.
But “reselling” has become something of a dirty word. Many in the community know who each other are, but prefer to keep their identity hidden behind their reselling accounts. There are some exceptions, like Hogan and others like Johnny Laboy, whose only job is reselling streetwear through his well known account “Marvelous.Souls” with 45,400 followers.
“It’s bigger than it’s ever been,” said Emily Oberg, an editorial producer at Complex who helped create the hour long documentary “Sold Out,” which has had almost half a million views. The documentary explores the community of resellers, from anonymous teenagers to the well known reseller who goes by Andre, who’s behind the Instagram account “Solestreetsneakerco” and the efforts they go to to get streetwear, and the methods they use to sell it. “Reselling is a secretive culture because it’s not the most respectable business to be in.” She said it’s mainly young kids trying to make quick money and the process is almost like a game. “It’s fun for them, waiting in line, meeting people, having Instagram accounts pop off because they become known.”
One reseller, who didn’t want to be named in case he’d been banned from stores, said people can make up to $10,000 a month. “It’s one of the best ways to make lots of money fast. Anyone can do it, you don’t need a college degree or to finish high school.” He was formerly a restaurant server, but when he realized how much he could make through re-selling, he went full time five years ago. “Yeezy’s, Supreme, Jordan’s and anything Kanye,” he said when asked what was most popular. “Kanye’s concert merchandise is the best thing to resell, it’s crazy how much people want it.” The most he ever made at one time was $4,200 for selling three pairs of Nike Foamposite Galaxy’s for $1400 a pair. Their retail price was $200.
Brands often remain tight-lipped about their stance on reselling (Kith declined to be interviewed and Supreme didn’t respond to our request for comment). Steve White, vp of commerce strategy at the agency Razorfish, said from a brand’s perspective it’s most likely a love hate relationship. “Resellers authentically represent brands in ways brands can’t do themselves because they have credibility in their subcultures. That’s the love part.” The hate part, he said, is when resellers get their hands on products before release days. “Brand manufacturers want to be the ones who break product and be exclusive.”
Resellers say they add hype and demand around product launches. Indeed, staff at stores often leak items. “They give stuff to people before it comes out,” said the anonymous re-seller. “Yeezys are coming out in two weeks, but you can see on social media people already have 30 pairs. People tell me they have managers in certain stores who do this,” he said, adding the practice is widely-known but not talked about.
Reselling isn’t unique to streetwear, and the high-quality resale market is estimated to reach $25 billion by 2025, according to ThredUP, an online consignment store. Resale is common in the luxury handbag market for example, and can be a multi-million dollar business, like Prive Porter which resells Birkin handbags. Like any form of reselling, the market exists simply because demand outstrips supply. Oberg puts it succinctly: “As long as brands continue to make limited quantities there will always be resellers because that’s the only means of getting product.”
Brands can even learn a thing or two about how resellers do business on different platforms, said White of Razorfish. “Nike has teams of people trying to work out how to sell product through Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and Instagram. Resellers are already there in a hacking sort of way.”
For Hogan, he’s spent three years building connections to get where he is today: shopping for and styling celebrity clients. Through social media and attending drops, Hogan’s earned himself a kind of celebrity status in the streetwear world. Most shop assistants know who he is; he’s stopped in the street by people who recognize him from the internet. “It’s all about connections,” Racks said.
At Starbucks, waiting to pay for drinks, Hogan doesn’t even pull out a wallet. “We’re probably going to get this for free,” he said with a cheeky grin. “I’m Racks.” Right on cue, he’s handed a Strawberry Acai refresher with coconut milk, an Instagram sensation itself, on the house.
This story initially said Racks Hogan’s full-time job was as a reseller. It is not. He is a stylist. Glossy regrets the error.