Why are Air Jordans sitting on shelves in China?

Why are Air Jordans sitting on shelves in China?

Images posted up by @shanghaisole have gone viral on Instagram, showing some of the most sought-after Air Jordans sitting on shelves in China. What was the reason for this? We reached out to @shanghaisole’s Jay Shuang to find out more.

Air Jordans sitting in China? @Shanghaisole Explains The Phenomenon

Something strange is happening. Air Jordans have been sitting on shelves in China, and, no, it’s not the Team Jordans, take-down models, or the vilified Air Jordan 1 Mids. As shown in images shared by Chinese American sneakerhead @shanghaisole, the shoes that are sitting are coveted models like the Air Jordan 1 Pollen, Air Jordan 1 Metallic Purple and Billie Eilish x Air Jordan collaborations.

The images reflect a reality that’s in stark contrast to most other sneaker scenes around the world, where these sneakers were sold out in seconds. Curious to find out more about this interesting phenomenon, we reached out to Jay Shuang, the man behind @shanghaisole. His account titled “Kicks from the +86” sees him documenting what’s hot and not in Shanghai, where Jay has been based for 11 years now. It enjoys a following of 49.2K.


The photos you shared of Jordans sitting on shelves in China have gone viral. Are Air Jordan sneakers not as popular in China?  

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Jordans are actually extremely popular in China. They always have been. Basketball is probably the most popular sport here and the sneaker game is very strong ­– comparable to America. There are a lot of factors as to why Nike and Adidas aren’t doing so well here. Political reasons combined with the effects of the Covid pandemic have put a pause on reselling and it just never picked back up. Asia may also have larger stock numbers as they can’t be shipped to other countries due to shipping delays.


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What motivated you to start sharing images of Jordans sitting on shelves?

I thought it was really interesting to see that people in other parts of the world are struggling with being able to pick up shoes and I wanted to show that reselling has really slowed down a lot for sneakers. Hopefully, that will be a sign of things to come. Also, I know people are very curious as to what is happening in other parts of the world, especially such a big sneaker market like China.

What sneakers do Chinese sneakerheads seek out?

A lot of the same shoes are as popular here as they are in the United States. Air Jordan 1s do well, a lot of OG silhouettes are still very popular. Dunks are incredibly sought after here as well. There are some local brands that are starting to take off. Li-Ning and Anta do very well in the basketball market – their shoes are actually incredibly comfortable and well made. I own a pair of Li-Nings that I use for b-ball and I really like them a lot.

Which of the Air Jordans you saw sitting on shelves in China was the most shocking to you?

I think the most shocking to me was originally the AJ1 Pollen and Purple Metallics. Once I saw those sitting, I knew something was different. Then a lot of Air Jordan 3s and the Raging Bull Air Jordan 5 sat. Most recently I saw the Air Jordan 4 Lightning. Those are just a few of the big-time releases that have been readily available. A few collaborations have sat as well, the Aleali May 14s and both the Billie Eillish Jordans have been seen in stores.



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On the other hand, was there a sneaker that sold out quickly that surprised you? 

Not really, pretty much every single non-collab big release has been seen in store. Each store has a different set of stock – one Nike store may not have it, but, down the road, that Jordan store might. It’s hit and miss, but even resell prices are almost under retail so you can get them anywhere online as well.


Are sneaker drops as chaotic as they are in other countries? Are ballots and line-ups as common? 

It depends on the store. Some boutiques still do line-ups to build hype and marketing. For the most part, Nike and Jordan stores just accept text entries and they will call you to pick them up on release day. What’s interesting is that I always strike out on raffle day, but I wait a few days later and the shoes are restocked or people didn’t pick them up and I can still buy them from the store. It has been pretty amazing to not have to rush and feel anxiety over this. It has made me buy a lot less because I can get it when I want to later.


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Do you find it easier to score hype Jordan, Nike and Yeezy sneakers in China as compared to back in the States?

All the hype stuff still flies. Travis collabs and Off-White collabs will still sell out in seconds. The local resellers will go after those because they are much more limited. But for GRs there’s no profit to be earned, so they don’t care about buying it. Certain Yeezys also sat in Adidas stores, a few 700s and 500s are readily available because the retail price is so high for them – much higher than USA retail prices.


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Are sneakerheads in China more open to other brands like Li-Ning, Anta, and New Balance?

There’s a lot more national pride for their own brands now than before. Li Ning and Anta do really well in the basketball sector. Li Ning also has a streetwear branch that a few influencers are wearing and promoting. New Balance does well but we don’t get a lot of stock on those and the prices for the hyped collabs are really expensive. At the same time, Chinese consumers are very sensitive to the politics between western brands and China which has caused a huge halt in buying their product.


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Which is more important to Chinese sneakerheads: Comfort, design, hype or story?

Much like the States, hype is important. OG Jordans do very well here so I guess people care about the story as well. An AJ1 isn’t the most comfortable shoe, but one of the most popular around the world, so I guess that answers the question about comfort.


How are Chinese sneakerheads different from other sneakerheads who look to the West or even Japan for their influences?

We get a lot of our influences from the US, Japan, Korea, and Europe. The biggest is probably Japan and then the USA. The oversized tee paired with baggy cropped pants and dad shoes is the look nowadays.


Is reselling culture prevalent in China? What platforms do they use for reselling?

Reselling is still big here, just not with shoes anymore, which is really refreshing to see, actually. I am enjoying the fact that I can buy what I want, sneaker wise. In the USA, high school and college kids are trying to make money and if they can flip a pair of shoes for 50 dollars they will. Here in China, kids and young people don’t have 200 dollars lying around so they can buy shoes to flip. Resellers here are the big dogs who buy hundreds or thousands of shoes to make money. Since there aren’t profits in shoes lately, they’ve turned to other things like streetwear apparel. This is why Air Jordans are sitting on shelves in China and how we can buy them off the shelf for retail prices. Where it comes to online platforms, we mostly use something called Poizon — it’s like StockX and Instagram rolled into one amazing app. I enjoy using it over StockX and Goat because it offers more than just buying and selling, it’s a whole social media network.

How resale value became such a big part of the culture: Can we talk sneakers without talking resale value?


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Did you experience any culture shock, specifically in the local sneaker culture?

At the height of reselling, I definitely did. It was really difficult to get shoes and I wanted to stop buying entirely. Everything was always sold out and everything was marked up and impossible to buy. Since Covid, things have really slowed down and the hype of shoes has really dropped off. I guess it’s a new shock now that things are on the shelf and I really feel bad for people on the outside who can’t get what they want. It doesn’t even have to be hyped, it’s just impossible to get shoes now and that’s unfortunate. I hope that what’s happening here is a sign of things to come for everyone else around the world, but the pandemic and low stock probably will leave a lasting effect for quite a while.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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