Thoughts on long line-ups

I was inspired to write this post after the recent Travis Scott x Jordan 4 “Cactus Jack” drop at the Toronto Jordan store. Originally, I was going to write about all the things that went wrong but now that I have a little sleep and I’m wearing the shoes I’ve got a slightly different perspective.

I don’t camp for sneakers. I know that I’ve got a low tolerance for disorganization, lack of sleep and people not following rules and that those are all things that are omnipresent in sneaker line ups. I also really value my time – I work a lot of hours at a reasonably stressful job and really like having my Saturdays to do what I want. Finally, I wear a size 7 mens and go up to an 8 if I need to. That means there are only a few sneakers available in my size even for big drops. Counter to popular opinion the two sizes left at the end aren’t 8 and 13! There are usually very few size 8s and while they don’t go first, they do go fast.

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The ‘line’ that inspired this post

But I’ve never lined up for sneakers, not really, and I wanted to give it a shot. I also figured I had a pretty strong shot at getting a pair if I lined up and we had to be up at 3am anyway for the nike.ca drop. So, off to the Jordan store we went, arriving at about 4:30 am. A few caveats on the upcoming constructive advice:

  • I know I could have been there earlier if I wanted to be sure to get my size.
  • I know that some things are just the way they are because they have always been that way.
  • I know that many people are happy to trade their time and sleep to get sneakers at retail.

But I do think that going forward there are only a few kinds of line-ups that are really worth my time (personally).

 

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Signs of a line-up I am willing to join:

A narrow line

This seems intuitive but a line is not the same as a crowd and definitely shouldn’t be a mob. A line should be 2-3 people wide maximum. The recent lineup situation was almost 10 people wide and more of a mob than a line. That means its impossible to tell who got there first, and to let the person at the front go into the store next – because there is no one person at the front. Security had to resort to pulling people at random out of the tightly packed crowd in front of him and yelling to prevent more crowd surges. I’m sure that no one had fun doing it this way.

 

Barricades/stanchions

Again, this seems obvious, but a line needs to have a defined edge to be a line. If there is no barrier then anyone can join at any point (especially if the line is wide). This is probably how I managed to start at about number 250 in line and end up being about number 500 into the store. (yes, I am also a sucker and not aggressive in pushing or line-jumping and yes, that is on me). TBH, I can’t honestly blame people too much for not going to the end if there is no barricade. I mean, why would you?

Good security

I’m not looking for some unrealistic version of perfect security and perfect compliance, but a general observation of the line by someone with a professional interest in maintaining it tends to make things run more smoothly for everyone. In my recent experience, the only security looking at the line was at the very front. This resulted in very tight, crowded conditions in the middle of the line – at some points it was a challenge to stand facing fully forward or hold your phone in front of you due to the crowd pressure on all sides.

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So close to the front! (there is another, smaller line ahead)

 

Signs of a line-up I am happy to join:

Wristbands/numbers:

When staff come down the line and give out either numbers or wristbands it gives a sense of security that you are not lining up for nothing. Best case is when the numbers are linked to specific sizes – you know early whether you can get what you are looking for and don’t need to waste your time.

Enforced barriers/stanchions:

I didn’t go to this one, but apparently the JTH drop at the Jordan store was handled pretty much smoothly. The security was actively enforcing the barriers of the narrow line and wouldn’t let people even approach from the side, even just to say hi to a friend. This was similar at the recent TDE x Nike event at Livestock in Toronto.

Ideal line-up experience:

After the Jordan store line, we decided to be gluttons for punishment and head over to Capsule Yorkville for the live raffle. There was a line of about 150 people or so and we all got raffle tickets (so there was no cutting in line because it made no difference). Raffle tickets were chosen one by one (each winner selecting the next ticket to eliminate accusations of cheating) and the number was written on a big whiteboard. The atmosphere was positive even amongst those who didn’t win (despite their disappointment). Obviously this only works with a moderate stock amount but it is the best drop I have personally experienced.

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A terrible, blurry pic of the store taken by sleep-deprived me. I’m clearly not cut out for this.

Final thoughts:

My line-up experience was not great, but to be fair, I didn’t expect it to be great for me and in the end I did get the shoes so I can’t really complain. I know my personal preferences are not everyone’s and what I really took away from the weekend is the fact that I am not cut out for lining up. If someone had come up to me on Friday night and given me a choice: pay them $150 and then get to have a nice dinner with my fiancé, watch a movie, sleep in, go out for brunch, run some errands, grab a beer on patio and then have dinner with friends OR I can save the $150 but I have to stand for 6 hours in a crowd on Yonge st. at 4am – I would take option 1 every time.

This was a really helpful experience for me because I used to doubt myself every time I skipped an early line up or campout but now I have a clear sense of my personal priorities. I’m glad that line-ups exist for those who don’t have the extra money to spend to get the sneakers they love. I also don’t want to do it again.