Chapter I – De La Soul Nikes
We all have that product that receives “fuck I gotta get that” status. Something you don’t necessarily need, but you want it so bad it becomes a necessity. Instagram seems to know our shopping desires better than we know them ourselves, to the point that the social media platform seems to have become a shopping algorithm gone wild, a litany of useless products, one after another, with a small smattering of “organic” posts mixed in to remind us we still have “friends”. Pesky cookies stalk us on the internet until our credit card cries mercy and we surrender. When I saw those De La Nikes, I bought them so quickly the purchase was processed on my card before my mind. Were they rare? A collectors item? Would I get mugged for them on a New York subway? Worth the risk. While I continue to patiently wait to stream my favorite De La Soul records, I can be me, myself and I in these sweet kicks.
Chapter II – Chunky Dunkies
Like a Lays potato chip or your first mafia hit, once you’ve had a taste of your first, you can’t resist more more MORE. I became a sneaker head, albeit a forty-something white suburban sneaker head, on a budget. You’re not gonna see me camped out on Ventura Blvd waiting to spend $500 on the latest Yeezy drop (like the kids say); I needed a cheaper fix.
Eventually this lead me to DHgate.com, a janky Asian website that sold Nikes, not to mention a zillion other products, from laser pointers to women’s purses. The user experience takes some getting used to, unless your idea of a frictionless online shopping experience involves scrolling through an endless rabbit hole of shoe sellers that look almost identical, with the Nike swoosh strategically airbrushed out.
Buying them seemed risky. But risk is what credit cards are made for, right? I prepared for my DH purchase to languish on a boat in Long Beach harbor longer than it took Guns & Roses to make Chinese Democracy. But one shining day, when they were least expected and paid for two credit card cycles prior, my purchase arrived. Praised be.
I originally saw them online, a Nike collab with Ben & Jerry’s, but by the time they entered my feed they were completely sold out. Unlike the De Las, I knew these were fetching four figures online. Sure enough, there they were on DH Gate for under $100. How was this possible? No time to consider any “too good to be true” adages. My plan was to buy them to flip – figure if they sell easily on eBay, there’s more where they came from. My new sneaker scheme had me picturing living out my golden years like Tom Vu, with yachts and mansions. Alas, after having them up for a few days and a few bids on eBay, the post was unceremoniously taken down with no notification. Had to dig further to find that eBay took them down because they were “fake”. How the heck are they fake? And how the heck does eBay know they’re fake? They came in a Nike box with a hologram, for the love of god. They are perfect. Like a dot com startup looking to survive the changing tides of technology, I pivoted. My pivot was I fucking kept them, and wore them with pride.
Chapter III – Greatful Deads/Air Jordans
Resigned to taking my nascent sneaker business “private”, I quickly scooped up a pair of florescent orange Grateful Dead Nikes. They’ve got fur. FUR! Soon after I bought a pair of black and red patent leather Jordans. They’re shiny. SHINY! The terms of both acquisitions are unclear. I may not have been of sound mind when purchased. But both were sub-$100 buys. I can’t walk out of my house to drop off my son at carpool without somehow spending a hundred bucks, and half the time I drop him off while I’m still in my pajamas.
Chapter IV – The Reveal
A few weeks ago we had dinner with some friends. The husband is a rather successful patent attorney who specializes in counterfeit products. With a proven track record of tracking down shysters around the world, he represents huge brands to protect their copyrights. It’s a legal whack-a-mole – once you shut down one seller, another is sure to pop up. I found it fascinating – how does he find these retailers? What is the process to shut them down? How does settlement work? In outlining the process, he starts mentioning various obvious stones to turn over to look for branded fakes. As he does so, my Nike collection comes to mind. In fact, I was wearing my Chunky Dunkies while talking to him. I’m thinking this is the moment of truth…I sure hope he doesn’t mention DH Gate…please say something like “most of these sites are fake but there’s this great site called DH Gate that, amazingly, offers nothing but the real thing…” But he rattled off some of the greatest sources for counterfeit products and sure enough, included DH Gate. “Oh, um, all the stuff on DH Gate is fake?” I asked sheepishly. “DH Gate is 100% fake” he replied, confidently. I pointed out my kicks. “Those are sweet, but fake” he noted. He went on to tell me about a Fender Stratocaster he was checking out online that proved to be inauthentic. The thing is, these days, with computers and such, copying products has never been easier. The copies look as real as the breasts on the Playboy Playmate of the Year in 1974. Copies seem real, and they’re spectacular.
It doesn’t take a post of a photoshopped Instagram model to know that the internet is the playground of the inauthentic. What’s real? Does it matter? Lord knows I’ve spent a small fortune on real Nikes, just like how I spent a ton on Led Zeppelin vinyl records, while also owning a few Led Zep bootlegs. Bootlegs are procured by the biggest fans of the band, so by buying (unwittingly at the time, I might add) fake Nikes, aren’t I pledging my allegiance to Phil Knight and the boys up in Beaverton?
Here’s where I net out on it – I love my “Fikes”. Every time I wear them I get a compliment, often from a kid less than half my age who reminds me of myself, back in the golden age of youth fashion – the mid 80s, in all of it’s Guess and Ton Sur Ton glory. And there’s a bonus – if they get scuffed, who cares – they’re fake! If I ever was in a situation where someone liked them a bit too much and I was forced to choose between my sneakers or my life, would not only confidently declare their fake-ness, I’d airdrop them a link on DH Gate to score their own pair. Everyone wins.