The Kicks You Wear, Vol. 16 — Complex is building a sneaker empire

Why Complex is diving into the secondary market on sneakers

Good morning! Happy Black Friday! Welcome back to The Kicks You Wear. Thank you for giving me a bit of your time today before you go chase down some great deals. Hopefully, you copped those Yeezys you wanted so badly this morning.

Today’s shoutout goes to everyone who might have spent their Thanksgiving alone or without some of their lost loved ones. Sending my love to you, family.

With that out the way, let’s dig right in.

The secondary marketplace is getting a little bigger

Complex and the sneaker marketplace have flirted with each other a lot over the last few years. Now they’re both finally leaning in.

Complex is throwing their hat into the aftermarket game. The company currently in the process of building out a sneaker marketplace and editorial app under the Sole Collector name, according to a scoop from my former Axios colleague Sara Fischer.

They’re looking to expand their e-commerce footprint. A 15% chunk of its annual revenue comes from e-commerce, Fischer writes, and the company believes this strategy will help that number grow.

Here’s how it will work:

  • A spokesperson at Complex told mewe’ll be working alongside a number of premium sneaker marketplaces,” when I asked if they’d be partnering with another singular marketplace.

  • When it launches in 2020 and it will be built off of the Sole Collector brand that we’re used to.

  • Like other secondary market spaces, it’ll put a premium on high quality, authenticated and exclusive sneakers that hit the market after selling out at retail.

  • The wrinkle that they believe will make it different is that the app will include an editorial wing like Sole Collector does now. It’ll feature content like Joe La Puma’s Sneaker Shopping and other pieces that we’ve seen come through the site.

It sounds like this could be a situation where Sole Collector aggregates the best prices from different places like StockX, GOAT and Stadium Goods and presents them to the consumer for a percentage in return. That's just me speculating, but that would be a pretty amazing tool if that's the route they choose.

In the grand scheme this is great for the consumer. Having somewhere to compare prices, or even just having a new seller around, completely changes the marketplace and helps sneaker heads find the best deals possible.

  • The content part is interesting. It’ll be a test case to see if people are actually interested in their market spaces providing them with content and community. On the other hand, it might prove that they’re only interested in a retail-like experience.

  • Content is becoming a popular strategy. We’ve seen it with GRAILED and we’re seeing it with SNKRS now. We’ve even seen it, a bit, on StockX with their blog and on GOAT a bit, too. None of those are close to the scale Sole Collector is on. Complex is a content powerhouse.

If this works, it might change the way we think about the secondary marketplace and how things work within it. Ultimately, with the way things are going now, I think that’s great for the culture.

The Ultra Boost is still kind of boring

The Ultra Boost has become one of Adidas’ staples over the years and for great reason. The functionality of the shoe is on another level — it’s easily the best runner on the market as far as comfort and wearability.

Yet, it hasn’t changed much since its launch in 2015. The functionality of the shoe has gotten better, but the look is really just about the same. The company unveiled the Ultra Boost 2020 this week and its design is a bit underwhelming. Take a look.

(Ultra Boost 2020 via Adidas)

Now, here’s the 2015 version.

The most obvious change are with the lacing system and the heel counter. And the shoe, functionally, is probably better than the 2015 version — Adidas deserves a lot of credit for that. But there’s no pop to this design at all.

In 2015 they flew off of the shelves as a fashion and function piece. In 2018, the brand tried to retro that look and it didn’t sell.

  • These, along with the NMD, were Adidas’ hits outside of the Yeezy brand. Now, they’re just not as popular aside from a few exclusive consortium drops.

The Ultra Boost just isn’t that interesting anymore. Adidas is facing the same issue with a lot of their other sneakers. Outside of their classics and the Yeezy line, they’re just not hitting the nail on the head like they were in 2015 as far as new designs go.

The Ultra Boost and NMD were both forward thinking, but every shoe since then has essentially been molded from that same silhouette. Complex’s Matt Welty hit the nail on the head in a piece from a year ago.

“Adidas needs the next product that’s going to feel like the next Ultra Boost or NMD or Yeezy Boost, not just another shoe that looks like one of three,” Welty writes.

That same problem exists going into 2020. The Prophere wasn’t it, the Nite Jogger wasn’t it, the Lexicon wasn’t it, the Yung-1 wasn’t it. It’s still unclear what the next thing is for them.

That’s a fine problem to have, honestly. The success they had four years ago is difficult to replicate and it takes time to do so. I just hope that, whatever their next big thing is, they figure it out soon. Because when Adidas is on fire? Man, are they good.

PJ Tucker is heading back to Nike

We all knew this was coming, right? PJ Tucker has always been in love with Nike. It was only a matter of time before they got this deal done. He announced it earlier this week with Uninterrupted.

There were folks telling me throughout the process that Adidas, Puma and New Balance had legit shots at Tucker with solid offers. But, ultimately, Tucker has always been a Nike athlete and it’s become part of his off court brand.

  • Most of his massive sneaker collection is OG Nike’s and that matters. Moving away from that wouldn’t have been great for his brand — he wouldn’t be able to wear those publicly anymore.

We need to watch out for what comes next from this deal. Tucker is the rare role playing NBA player that has turned himself into a star off of the court behind his passion for sneakers. They’re very much his brand and what he loves to do.

If Nike is smart, which they are, they’ll probably give Tucker an opportunity to design something down the line — whether it’s just a player exclusive model or a signature shoe of some sort.

  • A signature shoe sounds ridiculous on its face for a role player, but it shouldn’t be out of the question. If Victor Cruz can get a shoe, so can PJ Tucker.

Shoutout to PJ for finally securing his bag. Hopefully, we see some dope things coming from it down the line.

Fam, this is why I hate designer sneakers

Adidas partnered with Prada to bring us the ultimate designer shoe. Turns out the ultimate designer shoe is just the Adidas superstar with “Prada” written on the side of it. FOH.

The best part, you ask? The shoe comes in a bundle with a Prada bag — look at how much they sell for.

There is no fucking way. I can easily write “Prada” on the side of my superstars and be done with it before I pay, at most, $100 for something like this. It’s literally just a normal shoe and a bag! I wouldn’t even wear the bag, probably!

This ain’t for me, clearly. It might be for you if you have that kind of bread. I don’t. If I did? It wouldn’t be wasted on this.

This is exactly what people talk about when they say some folks attach a name to a thing and the price just jumps up. It’s sickening. Clout chasing at its finest. Seriously, how much would these be worth if Prada wasn’t written on them?

Don’t let me catch you in these. I’m finna roast you for wasting your money if I do.


YO! These are the kicks we’re wearing this week! I love this community and I hope y’all keep submitting! I’m really enjoying it. Let’s dive in.

The Melody Ehsani’s are fucking fire, just like we knew they’d be.

Gary Harris is back out Denver with the Igloo 1’s. So cold — pun definitely intended.

Jared Dudley is out here snapping with the Kyrie 6’s. I am shocked that these look this good on court.

Keep em comin’, y’all! I love seeing this heat every week, I swear.

That’s it for this week, y’all! Thank you for reading! Travel and shop safely this weekend.

A bit of news in closing: We’re inching closer and closer to 500 subscribers. Once we get there, I’ve got a special treat for y’all! So tell your friends and their friends to subscribe so we can get this thing on and popping!

Talk to you on Monday! Peace and love. Be kind to each other, always.

Signing off.

Sykes 💯