Why Is Supreme So Expensive?

Legendary brands often come from humble beginnings: take Walt Disney, who started his legacy in a garage, or Mark Zuckerberg, who co-founded what would become Facebook from his college dorm room. Believe it or not, the global streetwear phenomenon Supreme was once a small skateboard shop in New York City just 25 years ago. Now, the brand has quickly evolved into one of the most recognizable names in street fashion and has garnered a cult-like status among teens.

But as iconic as the red-striped logo is, the hefty price tag that typically accompanies Supreme gear is equally identifiable. In fact, tee shirts from a May release now go for up to $300 online. 

In reality, the retail price of a standard Supreme item isn't all that bad, according to Business Insider –- most tee-shirts retail for around $38, with sweatshirts averaging $138. It's only when these popular items begin to sell out that the values of each item begin to increase dramatically.

Generating hype

It's a simple truth: with an exclusive and limited supply, the demand will follow.

Although Supreme only offers limited releases of products, there is no shortage of the brand's presence online. From collaborations with other cult names like Nike and Vans to viral images of celebrities like Tyler the Creator and Kanye West rocking Supreme in music videos and on red carpets, Supreme's occupation of pop culture is far from over. 

As consumer psychologist Dimitrios Tsivrikos told Business Insider, "The more we've been exposed to a brand, the more likely we are gonna be developing an association, a familiarity, almost a sense of connection with it. With Supreme, there's no element of status, and they went completely for what a logo should be all about: standing out, being identifiable."

If you've taken a trip to New York City in the past decade, you've probably seen a line wrapped around a Supreme store ten times over. Maybe you've had this thought as you walk by: whatever they're standing in line for must be worth the wait. Whether or not that's true is totally subjective. 

Playing hard to get

Supreme doesn't just have a following, but a subculture among wearers. Due to the brand's limited releases, fans get to feel like they're a part of something highly exclusive, as is the case with most rare products, such as exclusive Nike footwear.

In fact, the process of buying straight from a Supreme store –- which there are only 12 of in the world -– includes an online application which, if approved, will grant the shopper a ticket to wait outside a store for hours. According to Paper, these wait times can sometimes start 48 hours before a big release. It's not uncommon for fans to fly in from different countries days before just to sleep outside of the store, as Vice UK reported.

While the coveted Supreme logo is immediately recognizable, the brand's catalogs of items are purposely hard to obtain and are kept in high demand. In fact, the lofty prices commonly associated with Supreme merch are often not the retail price but the resale price, which can be up to 30 times more expensive than what the item originally sold for. As these products typically sell out online in milliseconds, Supreme fans can be found scrambling on eBay or popular Facebook resale groups for items considerably more than its original value. In fact, via Upper Room Boutique, it's not uncommon to find a $40 tee-shirt reselling for $400 within minutes.

Sold to the highest bidder

The insane resale value that Supreme currently commands has led to some interesting developments within this stylistic subculture — Paper notes that "with massive markups in retailers like CopVsDrop and Unique Hype Collection, some Supreme buyers have made significant enough profits to create retirement plans."

Of course, once word gets out that you can retire from reselling hoodies — it's going to be a pretty popular thing to try and do. The hype is essentially multiplied by these resellers, who get to the store first, and often end up selling their newly purchased gear as soon as they've left the store. 

To all this, Supreme founder James Jebbia told Cent Magazine that the company only offers limited releases because "we don't want to get stuck with stuff nobody wants." From its current valuation at $1 billion to the apparent eBay market for a $750 denim jacket with "F*ck" written all over, it looks like Jebbia's reign of supremacy will continue, for now.