Monday, February 17, 2014
Walking through the mall last Saturday it was easy to spot the lines beginning to form at the various stores that specialized in athletic shoes. Already at half an hour before opening, there were over a dozen eager customers waiting outside one grated entrance and maybe five or six at another. The atmosphere was calm and even a little festive, with mostly guys standing around smiling and chatting to one another. The one exception was the first in line, who must have arrived particularly early, equipped with a folding canvas camping chair where he sat slumped down with his smart phone busily engaged in some game or text exchange. From his posture and demeanor, he did not strike me as a particularly athletic type, but maybe he was just saving his energy for the big game.
This observed behavior was all the evidence of a new sneaker release. As it turned out Saturday was the very day when “the Jordan Brand would be bringing back the White/Infrared Air Jordan 6's once again, much to the delight of those sneakerheads who may have missed out in previous years.” Ah-ha, that explains part of the mystery – these were not ordinary shoppers; they were heretofore frustrated sneakerheads ready to spend $170 for a pair of basketball shoes. They were eagerly anticipating a new-found ability to “jump their highest and run their fastest”, as an old sneaker ad back in the Sixties used to put it. (By the way, Nike, infrared is not even in the visible spectrum, but it really sounds impressive!)
Actually these so-called sneakerheads more resembled a row of large fish behind a deep sea fishing boat with the hooks firmly secured in their mouths ready to be reeled in. Unlike the fish, however, they were not fighting for their lives with an eye on the future, but dociley submitting to the will of the fisherman, in this case, Captain Nike. New shoes today versus college or retirement in the future? That’s an easy one.
Sadly, this display of behavior typifies the American consumer. A lack of perspective makes him a sucker for the latest fad, the big hype, or the concocted sale – mark it up, then mark it back down again with lots of big percent-off signs. When will we stop letting ourselves be so manipulated by the lure of advertisers and the promises of smooth politicians?