Hidden underneath a sushi shop in Manchester’s Chinatown is a little known store selling trainers so rare they’re attracting customers from all across Europe and even America.
Inside, its walls are lined with some of the world’s hypest brands. A Supreme blimp hangs above the counter, sandwiched between a Supreme dinghy and a fan-made Supreme mini-arcade game.
In a glass counter there’s a signed basketball by none other than Michael Jordan himself.
Beyond this, highly coveted collabs from Travis Scott, Para, Vigil Abloh, Kanye West and Michael Jordan (again) wait in the wings.
As we turn up, one of the owners, Jack Chen, has his nose planted in a pair of Jordan 1’s. He and his business partner Dominic Hespe are joking about huffing glue.
“Certain shoes from Nike use a certain glue, and obviously we recognise it,” says Dom.
“There’s some really like top-notch fakes out there, but there’s always faults.”
Sneaker63 is a consignment store where customers can display and sell their rare kicks. Once a sale is made, they’ll take a cut. So knowing how to spot fakes is key.
Nowadays, the quality of some bootleg kicks is almost impeccable. Consumers might be able to spot market knock-offs with misspelt brand names and wonky stitching, but uncannily exact replicas are another matter altogether.
And with much of the resale market moving online, it’s becoming harder than ever to tell the difference between a snide and the real thing.
“When you see youngsters, like kids, when they’re arty that want to get into trainers, and they want to see a shoe in hand, but now all they can do is just Facebook, Depop, they can’t really see it in hand,” says Jack
“So that’s why the store’s here, to help them out as well, to see what the detailing is like.
“I think with a lot of them, especially the younger guys, everyone who’s been buying online like Depop and eBay and the like has experienced a fake or a scam. We take all that responsibility off them,” adds Dom.
There’ve been instances, they tell us, where people have done trades and then brought something in to the shop that’s been fake.
“It’s like a hospital scene when you’re telling them that they’re fake. Seeing them, like they’ve saved up that amount of money and ended up being not right,” says Jack.
“They’re gutted. Heartbroken,” adds Dom.
To counteract this, they offer free checks and give people the option to meet in the shop to do trades.
“It’s a safe environment, no one’s going to rob anybody, there’s the door, there’s cameras, and we can check the shoe,” says Dom.
The pair set up shop about 6 months ago, meeting through a shared loved of sneakers. At the time, both had eyes on setting up their own stores. But it didn’t quite work out that way.
Jack – a sushi chef with an encyclopaedic knowledge of trainers – had the unit hook-up. This, combined with Dom’s connections and ten years’ reselling experience, made for the perfect partnership.
“We’re doing alright. Like one guy said to me he went to New York and they had a bit more variety and a bit more sizing but he was surprised coming in here and seeing the kind of stuff we have. He thought it’d just be like Yeezys and stuff like that,” says Dom.
For the typical sneaker head, the chances of getting your hands on a pair of hype trainers before the release date is practically zero.
But at Sneaker63, if you’ve got the money to spend, the guys are making it a reality – with a little help from their friends in the sneaker community.
They disappear into the stock room and return with a pair of signed Virgil Abloh Off White x Nike Vapormaxes from ‘The Ten’ collab. On the shoes it says ‘Virgil was here. On the box, he’s written ‘not for resale’.
“We were gonna sell them off, and then they contacted us cause they’ve seen the Instagram, or someone has seen the Instagram and told them that we had pairs like that,” says Dom.
Other rare pairs on display include players’ edition shoes made for the Oregon basketball team; a limited, executive-level ‘friends and family’ release of Para’s Nike Airmax 1 collab; and a leaked early pair of the Travis Scott x Jordan collaboration.
Nike has since pushed back the release date on the Travis Scott collab, making them even more desirable to collectors.
Asked how much they’ll go for, Dom tells us “about £1,800.”
“Because they are going to be coming out at some point they’re still going to be expensive but for someone to want them before, you know the cool kids, they’re going to have to pay for it,” he says.
And those Oregon basketball players shoes? Sneaker63 has the only pair in the whole of Europe and the UK.
“No one else has got it. Stateside they’ve got the players pairs, but we’ve got the sample pair. In the whole of Europe. It’s crazy.”
There’s more. “We’ve got something even more exclusive than all of them,” says Dom, and pulls out a pair of Chinese New Year custom Jordans 1’s – one of just 50 pairs in the world.
“They’ve been customised by Bespoke, the only service in the world to be licensed by Nike to do premium customisations on their shoes”, Jack explains.
“This is made with three different leathers, so sorry to whoever’s vegetarian,” he quips, in a sincere but amusing tone.
“Three different leathers: sheep leather, cow leather and pig leather. All premium. So the whole upper is made from scratch, with hand-carved detailing there, that’s the sheep leather, it’s really soft .. full detailing, and says 36 out of 50 pairs so it’s quite crazy.
“Since we had these in we’ve had so many people from London, around Europe asking ‘Are these for sale? Are they designer?
“The owner knows there’s only 50 pairs, and he’s still deciding on the price so there’s no price on it yet so it’s not for sale yet, but I think he will sell these soon so I don’t know about the pricing and that yet so it’s going to be quite hefty.”
The popularity of rare trainers in Manchester is undoubtedly on the rise. When Size? or Foot Asylum does a drop now, there can be queues two or three days in advance.
Dom even tells us that you can sometimes spot mums in line with their kids, instructing each of them to ask for a pair to maximise on how many they can take home with them.
To some, collecting is a real passion. For others, it’s simply a lucrative business move: the right pairs can be resold for thousands of pounds above their original retail price.
Whichever camp you fall into, though, one thing you can rely on is that Sneaker63 is here to hook you up.
Sneaker63 is at 63a Faulkner St, Manchester M1 4FF