Inside The Dirty World Of Counterfeit Sneakers

Counterfeit sneakers are on the rise. Forums that help shoppers find fakes have become textbooks for counterfeiters across the globe.

Some call them replicas, some call them knock-offs, and some call them fakes.

Counterfeit products have been prominent in the streetwear and sneaker industries for years, but it wasn’t until a few years ago when mainstream media got ahold of the news and made it front page news. The subject became a hot topic when the focus shifted from the effects of counterfeit sneakers on the community to the potential financial benefits of the counterfeit industry.

A segment by Vice called, “We Went To The Fake Sneaker Capital of China aired on HBO, focusing on how the counterfeit sneaker industry was the backbone of the local economy in the Chinese city of Putian. They spoke with a counterfeit vendor, Chan, about his business and his transition from a medical school student in the UK to a now world-renowned replica sneaker seller. The segment speaks on one of the myths behind counterfeit sneakers that was never confirmed.

counterfeit sneakers
YouTube/VICE News

Many brands, like Nike and adidas, have factories in the same city as the counterfeit producers.

With both retail and counterfeit industries having production facilities in the same city, the counterfeit producers have potential access to legitimate materials from the brands’ factories. They even have access to the people who work in those factories. When there is an overlap of that magnitude, it explains why the quality of counterfeit products continues to be on the rise.

counterfeit sneakers
Instagram/@yeezybusta

Even to a sneaker enthusiast, it is becoming increasingly harder to spot the counterfeit sneakers.

Counterfeit producers are taking notes of the details that they have missed in the past and fixing those mistakes for their next batch. Guides on forums and online communities are vital for the average consumer to learn about the intricate details of what differentiates the counterfeit from the actual sneaker. But they have become a textbook allowing counterfeit producers to learn on the fly.

To see how good counterfeit sneakers have become, we can use the video of one of Toronto’s top sneaker YouTubers, Heat Ledger Kicks, as an example to demonstrate the crazy level of details that go into spotting a fake pair of sneakers.

The video begins with a side-by-side comparison of the real sneaker and the counterfeit.

Most people would have thought they were the exact same shoes if they didn’t read the title of the video. From the details on the box — such as the tags, the font on the tags, and the barcodes — most things look identical.

Within the box, you will see that the internal packaging looks almost identical, minus small details such as the thickness of the tissue paper that often go overlooked. It isn’t until you get down to the sneakers that you begin to see slightly more noticeable differences to tell the two apart.

counterfeit sneakers
YouTube/HEAT Ledger
counterfeit sneakers
YouTube/HEAT Ledger

At the end of the day, counterfeit sneakers are nothing new to the community, especially in Toronto and throughout Canada.

Over the years, many international sellers on online forums and eBay have tried to scam Canadians by selling counterfeit products, and later blaming it on the shipping companies or the lack of knowledge by the Canadians. In addition to that, Toronto has been the home of some of the sneaker community’s most notorious counterfeit sellers. They were able to make a fortune, stepping away from it before they got caught.

Having been in the Toronto sneaker community since the mid-2000s, I have seen people within the city get sold counterfeit sneakers countless times — many disputes have come from those illegitimate transactions.

counterfeit sneakers
YouTube/VICE News

Some people may call it a scam, and some people may call it a learning process, but it’s something that the industry will never get rid of.

With the prices of sneakers continuing to rise on the resale markets, there is a larger incentive than ever for these producers. The best thing that sneakerheads can do is to educate themselves.

There are platforms such as StockX and GOAT that have their own authentication processes, but they’re still human, and there have been counterfeit sneakers that made it through their authentication processes in the past.

It’s these reasons that I stick to a very strict philosophy when purchasing shoes these days: If you aren’t able to buy it at retail, it wasn’t meant to be.

Featured Image: YouTube/VICE News