In New York and Los Angeles, certain men and boys wait in hourslong lines for streetwear, items like difficult-to-obtain Off-White Nikes or the newest Supreme crewnecks. Each year, like birds, they also fly home for Thanksgiving. Do they wear Virgil Abloh’s inventions back to St. Louis? Is a Supreme cross-body bag good enough for Grandma?
Complexcon, a sneakerhead convention held early this month in Long Beach, Calif., was the perfect place to find out: Do members of the streetwear flock wear their most prized posessions in front of their families?
“Definitely not,” said Dominique Fields, who insisted that he was “not a hypebeast” but admitted that his family knew that he was into “the latest and greatest.”
Not that they get to see that side of him over the holidays. “Thanksgiving’s just a chill day,” Mr. Fields said. “Nothing from Complexcon for Thanksgiving. Definitely got to be comfortable.”
David Shin, a 30-year-old collector who was waiting in a three-hour-long line for an 18-inch Astro Boy figurine from Bait, agreed. “I’m a simple guy,” he said. “I just wear plain black T-shirts, some sweats. I think Thanksgiving is all about family and being thankful for everything we have.”
What about Michael DeSanti, a confident shopper from New York City who celebrates the holiday in central Pennsylvania? “No,” he said, “because my grandmother wouldn’t know what Supreme was. There’s no point.”
Complexcon — which earlier this month was in its third go-round as a mecca for streetwear fanatics — is a two-day event through which Complex, the fashion and culture magazine founded by Marc Ecko in 2002, furthers its influence. Every attendee interviewed at the conference knew what his or her Thanksgiving plans were, and nearly all of them nixed the idea that they might dress for their families the way they had for the convention. A meeting place for streetwear fanatics and hip-hop fans with disposable income and the patience to stand in line for hours is a valuable opportunity to see and be seen; going home for the holidays is not.
The artist Takashi Murakami, who was, in many ways, the spiritual center of the convention thanks to his manga-inspired work and collaborations with Kanye West, was openly bemused by Complexcon’s attendees.
“I don’t think, fundamentally, I really understand what sneakerheads desire,” he said in an interview below the convention floor as, one story up, fans stormed booths, forcing security to cancel at least one exclusive drop.
In his defense, the attendees were hard to pin down, divided into factions loosely structured around age and priorities. Many older fans buy tickets because they genuinely value the rarity of the goods available, hoping to wear them and, in some cases, turn them into heirlooms.
“My parents kind of find it in a way to be kind of silly because they think I’m buying toys,” Mr. Shin said. “But once I explained to them that it’s not toys, it’s things that are collectibles that eventually I can pass on to my kids, they understand it a little more now.”
For younger attendees, Complexcon presents the opportunity to cash in. Attendees stock up on limited-edition wares, then resell them online for substantially more money.
“The older people that come to Complexcon are much more passionate fans, and I think the younger consumers are probably split 50 percent passionate fans and 50 percent resellers,” Neil Wright, the event director, said.
Mr. Shin quietly confessed that he did not approve.
“I actually hate resellers,” he said. “They feed the wrong image of the culture.”
In the seemingly interminable Bait line, Mr. Shin was standing close to Darius Bryant, 19, and Ryan Metz, 23, both of whom were hoping to make money in the resale game.
Mr. Metz said he would not be “wearing hypebeast” for Thanksgiving. (“Usually my family likes to keep it pretty formal,” he said.) Mr. Bryant was less decisive about whether he would swag out on the holiday. “I don’t know yet,” he mused. “Possibly.”
The men had just met, but Mr. Bryant was already charging his phone from a portable charger burrowed deep in Mr. Metz’s back right pocket. Two hours into the wait, Mr. Metz was telling Mr. Bryant about his life goals. Three hours in, and finally close to the front, Mr. Shin had forgiven the resellers, and the group was talking softly about the figurines and clothing they were soon to cop. It was after 4 p.m. and the convention center had become as smoggy as 1970s Los Angeles, a thin veil of Juul and weed smoke clinging to booths and people. Over the course of the afternoon, the men had formed an impromptu family unit in which their purchasing habits were welcome and even admired.
Nick Ziskin, a 21-year-old in a neighboring line (for food), was wearing a Supreme shirt emblazoned with the first few lines of the expletive-laden Philip Larkin poem “This Be the Verse.” When asked if he planned to sport a similar look at his family’s Thanksgiving dinner in Milwaukee, he was thoughtful.
“No,” he said. “I’m not going to lie, I definitely don’t. You wear it when you play the part and you’re at the events. But outside of it, I wear my shoes, I wear my one thing here or there, but not head to toe. Go home, family dinner, dress up, Grandma’s there. Can’t be wearing shirts with profanity on it in front of your grandma.”
Jonah Bromwich is based in New York. He writes for the Style section. @jonesieman
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