How Safe of an Investment Is Streetwear, Really?

A recent piece by Highsnobiety wonders if the current fervor surrounding the streetwear resale market is inadvertently creating a soon-to-burst bubble.

Though the answer is unclear, the lack of confidence from experts interviewed for the article was notable. When asked about the future of the vertical, “most commentators grow cautious,” bristling somewhat at the prospect of predicting a market predicated on obsession.

As the piece explains, even as more stable brands are “gaining popularity among streetwear-focused resellers,” the entire market is “inextricably bound up with the brands that produce it,” which means that even the biggest resellers have little to no control over the design, production quantity, or anything else when it comes to the things they actually sell.

(Kinda wonder if all the VCs that just pumped billions into streetwear resale platforms know that?)

And it’s this fundamental inefficiency that caused the Highsnob piece to compare the streetwear boom to the Beanie Baby boom before it. “More than any other consumer good in history, Beanie Babies were carried to the height of success by a collective dream that their values would always rise,” the story said, one buoyed by limited-edition releases and shop-exclusives. (Sound familiar?)

In 1998, the story said, Beanie Baby sales made up 10 percent of all eBay transactions; now they “trade at around 50 cents.”

And that is the “most alarming threat,” the story said. For instance, when “Kanye and Adidas decided to ramp up production and ‘democratize access’ to Yeezys in 2018,” the resale price fell dramatically and “far fewer pairs flipped.” (While the brand course corrected this year with regional releases, it’s also probably worth noting that it’s not incumbent upon Adidas or Kanye to drive up resale prices — they only are required to move shoes on initial sale.)

So, even as the secondhand apparel market is forecasted to grow to $51bn by 2023, and even as “streetwear is entering the canon” and “important infrastructure is being laid down,” it’s not hard to envision a world where the bottom falls out of a $500k sneaker investment, or one where a 162-piece Supreme collection is just that and not a retirement portfolio. Until then though…

You can read more about it at Highsnobiety.

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