For the Love of Sneakers


The group of young men camped outside the Longmarket Street store, Shelf Life, draw inquisitive stares from passers-by.

Their light banter and the occasional joke shared do little to give away that they had been camping for two days outside the sneakers and accessories store.

“We’ve been camping out here to be first in line for the sale,” says Alfonso September.

The reward for their determined patience (reduced prices on limited edition sneakers) is, however, not one they are there to claim for themselves.

Says Alfonso: “We’re here to buy for someone. Basically, a buyer calls a group of guys together and gets them to buy these sneakers for them whenever there are sales here.

“They then either resell them or hold onto them for a few years. Because they’re limited edition, they’ll probably be worth much more in a few years.”

Although the unemployed Mitchell’s Plain resident appears satisfied with the R400 he is paid for the days-long camp-out-and-shop session, he concedes: “It does get cold out here.”

For this reason, he adds, “you have to come prepared – chairs, blankets, food – just like you’d do when you go camping.”

Dispatched to camp out for a different buyer, Dalian van Wyk, a Bishop Lavis resident, has done this “about 10 or 11 times”.

Dalian says: “No, the buyers must be willing to make sure we’re comfortable – with food, cigarettes, whatever.”

So are they told to buy anything in particular, I ask?

Kevin Rhode, also a Bishop Lavis resident, says: “We’re told to buy anything that suits us, but have to get one or two of what the buyer wants. Today, I have to get the Adidas City Sock. It’s about R3 000.”

If it was their money, what would they be spending it on, I ask?

Says Alfonso: “There’s a mooi Jordan in there,” he says, lifting his chin in the direction of the store, adding: “But it’s very expensive… Very expensive, my broer.”

Others seem less enamoured with the high-end sneakers.

Says Kevin: “If I had the money, I’d take the cheapest takkie, my broer, because I’d wanna go home with some money at the end of the day. I don’t really like expensive takkies. All Stars are alright; Idlers are alright.”

So, I ask, who are these buyers? Although Alfonso offers, “I only know him as ‘Bash’”, Kevin holds his cards even closer to his chest, saying firmly: “That’s confidential. But let’s just say most of them are really well-known people.”