Last month, ASOS became the latest platform to offer customers a selection of new Nike Dunk styles. Mirroring the frantic annual attempt to secure Glastonbury tickets, ASOS wished shoppers "good luck" ahead of the trainers’ first come, first served 9am release. Though capped at one pair per customer, the e-commerce giant’s Instagram account was soon flooded with hundreds of comments stating that the shoes had sold out in less than a minute, with some users claiming that the three new colourways had surfaced online hours before the drop was meant to go live.
It might sound like standard drama on the sneakerhead scene but this incident is the latest example of classic kicks being sold in the same way as coveted designer collaborations. Created in increasingly limited numbers, many brands are starting to capitalise on the popularity of long-established styles by limiting the supply and demand chain for new iterations. This strategy is particularly prevalent when it comes to retro-inspired trainers, which enjoyed a style renaissance over the course of 2020. Beloved by those in the know for some time, old school kicks have now crossed the threshold from streetwear staple to Gen Z wardrobe must-have, leading to many brands gatekeeping the classic silhouettes and leaving consumers empty-handed.
In the same vein as the North Face's 1996 Nuptse puffer jacket revival, celebrities such as Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid have been crucial players in solidifying the mass desire for old school sneakers throughout the last year. Sporting colourful iterations of Nike Dunk Lows and Air Jordan 1s with everything from leather trousers to overcoats, the hype around chunky, logo-heavy sneakers seems to have been replaced with a pining for comfortable, effortless cool. The surge in popularity of leather '90s classics, in particular, is hardly surprising as the shoes have long been associated with the Americana aesthetic. 2020's The Last Dance cemented Michael Jordan as the GOAT not only of basketball but of fashion too and his Parisian chic sporting vibe is more lusted after than ever before. But with vintage pairs costing a pretty penny, the latest releases are in serious demand, meaning the reasonably priced footwear has become almost impossible to cop.
Thankfully, a series of apps and sites are offering another way to enter the footwear fold, with a select number of retailers holding 'sneaker raffles' for savvy shoppers. These raffles invite customers to enter a 'prize draw' via email sign-up; if they win, customers are guaranteed a chance to purchase the shoes. Sound complicated? It might do at first but the process is actually pretty simple, allowing the average shopper a fair shot at securing popular styles through a randomly allocated ticketed draw. Most importantly, it stops affordable styles from being upsold at astronomical prices on resale apps (because who seriously wants to buy £89 Dunks for £300 on Depop?).
Although secondhand shopping platforms offer a solution to the fashion industry’s mounting sustainability issues, they often end up locking normal people out of the shopping experience altogether, becoming a playground for those with large disposable incomes. Raffles aim to eliminate this problem by offering customers a level playing field for purchasing at the market rate. Luxury retail giant Selfridges saw this as a major component in launching The Yellow Draw in 2018, a raffle service operating through Instagram and the Selfridges app.
"The Yellow Draw is our way of giving everyone a fair shot at getting their hands on product," says Bosse Myhr, Selfridges' director of menswear and womenswear. "When stores are open we can sometimes see queues beginning the night before a launch and we wanted to create an experience that felt more considered and in the end more enjoyable for our customers." The online space also means that launches are no longer confined to flagship stores, which is great news for those who live outside the capital. "Due to the limited numbers, often stock is only allocated to our Oxford Street store," says Bosse, "so we were keen to give those customers living outside of London more opportunity."
There are, of course, many other platforms offering sneakerheads the chance to snag the latest drops, with one of the most popular being the Nike SNKRS app. Listing upcoming draws daily, the app allows users to sign up to notifications, which alert you when the raffle opens. Plenty of designer stockists are now jumping on the Nike hype, too. Dope Factory, which sells the best of brands like Jacquemus and Marni, also hosts a 'drop' page, allowing customers to enter ticketed draws for the latest Air Force, Air Max and yep, you guessed it, Air Jordans.
There are raffles that step beyond the retro world too, with some supplying new wave styles from big names like Converse and adidas. END Launches is one of the best examples of this, giving users the chance to purchase trainers from coveted sports labels like New Balance, Saucony and Reebok. END ventures outside the sneaker space, too, and is currently advertising a draw for the latest Dr. Martens x Suicoke sandals. Spanish site SVD is also bringing more brands into the mix, running raffles for ASICS, Vans and Veja alongside classic Nike kicks.
Like most things in the fashion world, the raffles move fast, meaning you need to know which date your chosen kicks are coming out to secure a place in the draw. Or you could take to checking the apps like you do your Instagram news feed. "I check Nike SNKRS every other day to see if there is anything I want to cop," says 25-year-old student Safa, who recently secured a pair of Air Jordans. "I sign up to the draws on my boyfriend’s, dad’s and sister’s phones at 8am and then by 8.15am you know if you’ve won a lucky place to purchase them."
It might seem like a system more suited to gig tickets than trainers but raffles offer a glimpse at what a more democratised shopping experience could look like, one free from professional fashion flippers and pesky bots. For those looking to secure a pair of Dunks ahead of summer, raffles offer your best chance on the internet – but like everything in life, you’ll still need a sprinkling of luck.