Photo: Martin Argles for the Guardian
Queuing is a quintessentially British pastime. But it is it merely a pastime? Many have taken to London’s streets, armed with Argos tents and North Face jackets to brave the cold and the kebab-brandishing late night public. They queue all night for the latest trainers, fashion collaborations and art. Not because they want the hyped items on sale, but because they can resell them. They are the pro queuers. And they’re making an impressive profit. Is this the solution to university financial woes? We talked to James Bryant, a final year Language and Linguistics student who is trading his time for an impressive paypal account balance.
Hi James, when did you start queueing?
I was 17 and I queued out for my brother who wanted some t-shirts from a shop in Birmingham called Candy Store. He didn’t sell them on, but I got given a signed poster for being first in the queue, which makes you feel a bit special!
Is there a pride in being first in line?
Well sometimes there are perks, when I queued for the Noel Gallagher Adidas those who were first in line got signed posters. In the queue for the Versace and H&M collaboration the boy in front of us, who was first, got to meet Donatella. He deserved it too, he was a big fan of the brand. We were just there to grab the dress Cheryl Cole wore and the jacket Kanye West was seen in. We knew those would sell the best. Mostly, being first in line is less about pride than about getting first pick of the stuff. After a while doing this you learn the best sizes to buy, and sometimes if the item is numbered it can be worth a lot more.
What’s the longest you’ve ever queued?
I’ve only ever done a night on the street, which is pretty exhausting. I’m planning on queuing out for as long as I need to for some upcoming launches though. Soon a Banksy print will be released (they do that every year) and it could be four or five days on the street. I’m also hoping to camp out for a pair of Nike Air Yeezy’s – in the States people have already been queuing for three weeks and the launch date hasn’t even been announced yet. They’ll be there until June. It’s kind of crazy, but they’re the sneakerheads more than the resellers I think.
Air Yeezy launch in South East Asia
Is the actual queuing the only time investment you have to make?
Not at all, I’m constantly researching the products [James is continually checking ebay and hypebeast during the interview]. It takes up a lot more time than you’d think to be on top of things. You also just need to have a bit of sense, we queued for the Noel Gallagher Adidas on Carnaby Street because we knew there would be a huge demand for them in Manchester and Japan as those are the places where there are the most Oasis fans. If you wanted to make a lot of money, you’d have to have expertise in a lot more fields than I do. Art and Technology are really lucrative markets, but I mostly stick to clothes and sneakers as that’s what I know about the most.
Are you a sneakerhead?
No, not at all. You see these guys in the queues who completely live for it. The more I queue up the more you see how nerdy people are about it. Their pride in their collections isn’t really that attractive. That’s why I steer clear of the forums and why I tend to queue in a group, because we’re not part of that community.
Is there an issue with safety? Is that why you go in a group?
You do feel like things could get a little bit sketchy sometimes. Nothing’s happened before, but if you’re standing in London all night it’s stupid to not consider the dangers. The more sought after something is, the more hostility there is within the actual queue. For example, one of my friends queued for a week outside Nike Town in central London for a pair of Foamposite Galaxy’s. It was pandemonium. People threatened to burn his tent down because he was first in the queue. I think it was a mixture of troublemakers and other queuers who were a bit jealous.
What is the atmosphere like in the queue? What do you think about?
I mainly just ponder the meaning of life (!). The atmosphere varies depending on the release, and usually it’s pretty predictable. The Nike releases are usually quite sober, but at the Noel Gallagher Adidas launch people were having a kick about with a football. People queue up a lot at Supreme store, and they all think they’re Tyler the Creator. They attempt to embody the lifestyle and act a bit weird which can seem fake. They have this front on, they sit there with cans of beer, smoking spliffs and being teenagers.
How do you feel about the professional queuers in places like China? There are some who are paid by the hour, others who sell their place in the queue moments before doors open.
Well there’s a demand for it, so why not? Often Nike devotees and fashion nerds get annoyed about the presence of us in the queue, they see reselling as dishonest. But why do they have more of a right to be there than us? The hype wouldn’t be there in the first place if it wasn’t for the resellers. People say that they don’t think it’s right, but the people who call themselves collectors just buy the sneakers and sit them on a shelf, then a year or two later they will sell them on anyway. At least I’m making them available to the people that might not be able to get there - often the train ticket down to London would cost the buyers more.
Where do you send stuff too?
Australia, Malaysia, China, Japan, Norway, all over the place. It’s quite interesting because ebay tells you their name when you get their delivery details so you can search for them on Facebook. It’s quite nice to imagine the person and why they’d be buying your product. Sometimes there are mutual friends because it’s not that big a scene, which is pretty amazing.
Would you sacrifice a social occasion for queueing?
In an instant! It’s a bit of a weird addiction, because you rarely keep the thing you’ve queued out for. I guess you feel you’ve accomplished something. I’d much rather have a normal income, but until I leave Uni this is a pretty good way of making some extra money. I usually double my investment, which is definitely worth a night on the street. I’d advise people to dip into their overdrafts if they’re certain of an item’s value. It’s tiring, but it takes the pressure off you financially.
Fancy being a queuer? James uses Pictures on Walls, Hypebeast, SlamxHype, High Snobiety, High Snobette and Better Never Than Late to get his info.