OGs vs Fake Sneakers – Does it really matter?
By Rebecca Noronha
The urge to fit in. It’s frustrating. It’s intense. Because what do you do if you’ve finally managed to fit in but it’s basically…. a lie? That’s just a part of owning replicas of popular, well-known products. Sneaker culture has evolved a lot, and what was once a niche interest, has now become a global phenomenon with a dedicated community.
So, the age-old question yet again. Does it really, truly matter?
Of course, it does. Sometimes knockoffs are just downright disrespectful with how they look. No effort whatsoever. Super easy to spot, low-grade ripoffs sold for a couple hundred bucks on the street, made half-heartedly. But what about the almost indistinguishable replicas at super inflated prices that have weaved their way through roughly every website and store that exists?
Currently, reps have the insane skills of fooling even the most refined sneakerheads on the block. Disappointing but true. “With the knowledge that a person gains with buying a number of pairs over a long period of time, and with helpful people in the community, it surely becomes easier in identifying fake pairs”, says Shivang Chopra (Doctor and sneakerhead). But what are some of the differences between basic knockoffs, high-grade replicas and the originals?
Well, cheap knockoffs are something people are well versed about, so here we go into the world of reps and OGs, which are a little more complicated than that.
Where do the replicas even come from?
The odds are, labourers are constantly at work in sweatshops making cheap products with low priced, imported materials. It’s difficult to imagine how fakes could be so inadequate given that they are frequently produced under the same conditions / in the same factories and both are mass produced.
It’s assumed that the original factory enters into agreements with counterfeit creators to produce unauthorised batches using cheaper materials. Sneaker collector, chef and restaurateur, Akshay Arora has been scammed into buying fake SB Dunk Low Mummy. “I wore it a month after buying them. It was super uncomfortable. It got my feet hurting within like an hour of walking around.” Breaking down an original pair and reproducing it, or just paying the manufacturers to pass over the samples of the originals are two common ways in which these businesses thrive. Copycats may easily access similar sources that brands do for materials and fibres; as a result, most changes are minimal. Always take note of improved packaging as well. Some high-grade replicas may also come with packaging that mimics that of genuine sneakers. This includes shoeboxes, tags, and other accessories. However, the packaging alone is not a reliable indicator of authenticity.
Since fakes are being sold months before a retail pair and have quality that is comparable to the real thing, many people are paying more than retail to get the best of the best or to make a quick buck before they hit stores. Fakes were sold at a considerably lower rate than the originals. But quality is an obvious factor too. Will the pair hold up and remain durable? Customers constantly pay high prices for high-quality goods, so quality clearly has a significant influence on value. It's also extremely profitable. Counterfeit goods sales have been linked to sex trafficking, drug trades etc.
Purchasing authentic sneakers supports the brand's innovation, research, and development efforts. It also helps ensure that workers involved in the production process receive fair wages and working conditions. Conversely, buying fake sneakers supports illicit activities, counterfeit markets, and unethical practices.
Fear of missing out
Purchasing reps and fakes have a lot to do with FOMO. We’ve all wanted to just fit in and not feel out of place, hence, buying fakes have been the easy way out for some. A common phenomenon among sneaker enthusiasts and collectors. “I really don’t care what people have to say and nobody should, about your purchases or whatever you’re doing because no matter what you do, there’s still people that are gonna criticise and try to put you down.”, says Akshay Arora. “But I think if you’re buying fakes to flex and get clout, that’s just stupid. You will get called out. The only reason I feel okay with people buying fakes, is because they can be super expensive. Not everyone can afford it and some don’t feel right paying a lakh for shoes that retail for 12k.”, Arora goes on to say.
The limited availability and high demand for certain kicks have fueled this fear of missing out. The shaming and calling out does get a bit excessive though, at times. As content creator Aahana Sharma says, “My mom once bought Yeezy slides from Bangkok and boasted about how cheap she got them for, while I spent thousands on footwear. As a sneakerhead, that’s offensive but coming from your mom, it’s funny. We obviously won’t go around embarrassing our parents, so why do it to others?”
Yatin Srivastava, lawyer/musician/stylist stated that, “Especially in India, the classist undertones of such a ‘call-out’ culture is similar to the white-washed narrative of cancel culture, where real issues are never dealt with. It’s more interesting when you realise that shoes get ‘faked’ very quickly or even before a release because ‘official’ and ‘non-official’ shoes are made in the same factory in most cases and the only thing differentiating a genuine product is a QC stamp at the end of a production chain.”
Limited Edition Releases: Sneaker brands often release limited edition or exclusive sneakers in collaboration with artists, athletes, or popular culture icons. These generate a sense of scarcity, making them highly desirable among collectors and even people new to sneaker culture.
Social Media Influence: Sneaker release hype is often amplified through social media platforms. Showcasing one’s latest acquisitions, and influencers/celebs endorsing releases, creates a fear of being left out if one doesn't acquire the latest pair.
Resale and Price Inflation: The secondary sneaker market is a lucrative business. The existence and prevalence of reps, actually help the resale market in terms of price inflation of the originals. Take a look at the fake market of Yeezy’s, for example. It’s so expansive, that the value for the originals soars. People worry that if they don't purchase the sneakers immediately, they’ll have to pay inflated prices later.
Artistic value of Originals –
Brands could get rid of the replica market by simply creating enough sneakers in bulk, but this would shrink the value. Artistic value is the main focus, but is not paid enough attention to. Art is impactful. It demands a high price from those who care enough. According to founder of Dame and Max, Ridhii Paul, purchasing counterfeit sneakers is completely unacceptable. “As someone who works in the design industry, I comprehend the immense amount of work involved in crafting something unique and it is undeniably disheartening to witness one’s creative efforts being shamelessly imitated”, says Paul.
Since the artist creates the piece, it is only because of them that it has any worth at all. You can't remove certain elements from the art since they are so inextricably linked to the artist. It's a combination of who they are and what they can do. There are specific aims the artist sets out to accomplish with their work. Reps, despite having the same aesthetic, will never be as valuable as originals because they are less closely associated with the artist. “Fake sneakers, at the end of the day, are a big slap in the face to the original artist who has put years of work into creating these amazing pieces. Buying originals means you’re respecting and celebrating the artist & brand. Personally, I don’t want to compromise on the quality, even if the box needs to be in top notch condition”, says Aahana Sharma.
Sneaker design involves a fusion of creativity and craftsmanship. From the choice of materials, colour palettes and patterns, designers create visually striking sneakers with intricate details or creative storytelling elements. Collaborations between sneaker brands and artists, designers, athletes result in sneakers that blend fashion, art, and popular culture incorporating elements and reflecting the creative vision of both the sneaker brand and the collaborator. Sneakers, associated with specific eras or historical moments, hold significance, making them more than just footwear, but symbols of cultural identity and expression.
“Even our favourite designers bought fakes – not as a means to unlawfully gain money but because that was the only way to involve yourself in the culture. Virgil Abloh had fake Birkins and fake Rolexes until he got real ones. The fashion world in itself relies on and gives a nod to replicas every other year to showcase how an inherent part of an industry was completely exclusive, but is now an open non-gatekept community-based environment”, says Yatin Srivastava.
Ultimately, the artistic value of original sneakers lies in the eye of the beholder. Some may view them purely as functional items, while others may see them as cultural artefacts or creative expressions. The beauty of art is its ability to evoke emotions, spark conversations, and inspire individual interpretation, and sneakers have undoubtedly achieved this in the realm of contemporary culture.