From behind the counter, Mikey Nguyen slides four high-school-aged boys a shoebox. They exchange cash and the boys slip out of the Chinatown storefront.
âWe do legit checks here,â explains Terrence Ricketts, the other shoe fanatic behind Index sneaker consignment on Northwest Third Avenue. âPeople bring in their shoes, whether they want to sell them here or not, and we tell them if they are real.â
There are a lot of fake sneakers on the market, and for consignment stores and connoisseurs, spotting knockoffs is priority number one. Nguyen oversees deals regularly. People connect via Craigslist and meet at Index to make sure the shoes they are selling are real before any deal goes down. Index charges nothing for this service, and it welcomes anyone to do a shoe trade at the shop.
Nguyen and Ricketts started as eBay traders themselves. Buying limited edition sneakers and flipping them for a good profit. âWe started an eBay account in 2006 to sell some excess shoes in our collection and to buy other shoes we wanted," said Ricketts. "It lead to helping our friends sell their shoes.â
The store is unfathomable for someone unversed in sneaker subculture. This isn't Foot Locker. With pairs of Jordans asking for $45,000, Index is a bona fide art museum for the hypebeast kid who worships sneakers.
"Rarity, history, hype, pedigree, design, marketing, social media, and the name behind the shoes make a pair of sneakers command such a large amount," according to Rickets.
At Index, every shoe is covered in a thick shrink wrap that shields it from hand oils and accidental damage. Except one special wall.
Ricketts opens the glass case that holds the most expensive shoes in the store and picks one up. It's a red high-top with markings on it, a sample, Ricketts explains. The designer just happens to be one of the biggest names in street and popular culture. The shoe is Kanye West's Red Octobers, from when he worked with Nike.
"He is one of the biggest influencers in sneakers," said Ricketts. "Anything he touches is gold." Kanye single-handedly drove up the prices of specific Nikes and Jordans, and now he's doing it with Adidas, said Ricketts.
Index stocks four different variations of Kanye's Nike shoe, totaling over $11,000. What they don't have is the new Yeezy Boost from Adidas or the new Ultra Boost All White that's been making its rounds online. When Kanye released his signature shoe, the retail asking price was $350. That was expensive for your average shoe buyer, and now the shoes run over $2,000 online.