Why Are Yeezys So Expensive?

Kanye West didn't write "Gold Digger" about Yeezys, but if the shoe fits, wear it. And if it doesn't fit, shoehorn it in because you'll darn sure need to squeeze your wallet to foot the bill for these sneakers. Now we ain't calling Yeezys gold diggers, but they ain't being worn by broke figures. West ain't calling Yeezys gold diggers, but that's because for him they're breadwinners. West first won over people's feet with his 2009 Nike Air Yeezys. True to their Air-ness, the sneakers had a price tag that could fly like Michael Jordan and dunk on wallets with ease.

In 2009, LA Weekly reported that would-be buyers camped out for days just to snag the limited-edition sneakers, which cost a steep $215. One not-too-happy camper said he received a $950 offer, leaving him conflicted about whether to keep or sell his Yeezys. When the Air Yeezy 2 dropped, the cost sure as hell didn't. With a retail price of $245, a single pair sold for an astounding $90,300 on eBay, per Business Insider. West's subsequent partnership with Adidas also struck gold. The brand's Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Tail Light, released in February 2020, cost $220, according to Sneaker News. It's so expensive to lace up in a pair of Yeezys you might need a prenup before you tie the knot. What gives?

Sneakers are tied to status

High-end sneakers have been bullying wallets long before Yeezys came along. All the way back in 1990, Sports Illustrated highlighted the fact people who couldn't afford Air Jordans would literally kill for a pair that cost $115. These weren't raging Chicago Bulls fans but rather status-seekers who lacked the means to buy their desired image. In the decades since, fancy footwear has continued to be tied to self esteem. To some extent, Kanye West has even enhanced that perception.

When Nike made America want to be like Mike, sneakers offered an air of athleticism. But now that Jordans have made way for Ye, sneakers have a more style-oriented, celebrity-led appeal. Business Insider dubs it the "Kanye effect." Footwear News editor Peter Verry observed in 2019, "Today, some of the biggest shoe releases are from entertainers." According to Nick DePaula, "That's just really made sneaker culture more mass-friendly. You don't have to be an athlete, you could just be a kid that's curious about style." In Silicon Valley, sneakers have become "ultimate status symbol." The billionaire rulers of tech empires, including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla's Elon Musk, sport snazzy sneakers without being sportsmen.

Sadly, the dark side of that sneaker culture still exists. Per Footwear News, in New York, Yeezy wearers became the victims of several armed robberies in 2017. According to Cleveland.com, in 2018, a man attempting to sell two pairs of Yeezys for $800 was fatally shot and robbed.

Limited-edition sneakers create unlimited demand

In 2018, Business Insider hailed Kanye West as "a marketing genius," citing his flourishing Yeezy sneaker empire as proof. Lyst communications director Katy Lubin heaped on praise of her own, proclaiming, "Kanye is a master of social media hype. He's used his personality, plus smart scarcity and exclusivity models to build a cult brand." But West's alleged genius got a lot of help from the dumb quirks of basic human psychology.

Per Psychology Today, people see an item as more attractive when you tell them they can't have it. As Lubin alluded to, the perceived scarcity of that thing causes people to reorder their priorities and maybe order that overpriced item they suddenly want. That's why warning labels on violent movies make kids want to watch them more instead of less. Marketing Yeezys as limited commodities can also result in people using violence, like when a 15-year-old got shot in the foot at a Footlocker for skipping the line to buy a $250 pair. But the limited-edition gimmick is even more likely to incite irrational transactions.

The insane resale market

When Kanye West's Nike Air Yeezy 2s hit shelves, Mad Magazine ripped the rapper and his $245 sneakers. Mad blasted Yeezys as "an easy, convenient way to show the world that you're a superficial, low-functioning [d-bag] with way too much money." It further sneered at the fact that an eBay seller pre-sold a pair for "over 350 percent of their retail value."

Ultimately, someone on eBay paid $93,000, or nearly 369 percent of the original retail value. Business Insider noted that even when the prices didn't climb to Everest levels, they reached an altitude between $2,000 and $7,000. Once again proving the potency of scarcity, it seems that with only 3,000 to 5,000 pairs of Air Yeezy 2s available to the public, instead of attempting to pay top dollar at a store that might sell out, some especially desperate buyers paid over the top dollar to a reseller.

While these represent those most exorbitant examples from the Yeezy resale market, they're far from the only ones. As Footwear News details, in 2018, sneaker consignment store Stadium Goods allowed customers to purchase the then-unreleased Adidas Yeezy Boost 700 V2 "Static" for $1,690. That's utterly mad.

Celebrities sell

It seems like a safe bet that almost nobody would spend a months' rent to net a pair of sneakers made by a nobody named Kahn Yam East. But slap a famous name on that same footwear, not only will you make it rain, the price will snowball to the size of an iceberg. Remember when Scarlett Johansson blew her nose during a late night interview with Jay Leno and decided to auction the tissue on eBay? The Associated Press says she deposited snot and lipstick, and at least 60 people bid on it. Johansson's snotty tissue sold for $5,300, per the BBC.

If Kanye West peed into a Yeezy and tried to sell it, the global economy might collapse in a mad rush to buy a shoe he not only designed but used as a toilet. Luckily for him he doesn't have to go to such extremes for people to piss away their money.