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Gold OVO x Air Jordan cost US$2 million: so why are men’s luxury sneakers more colourful – and more expensive – than women’s?

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 4 days ago Daniel Langer
a group of shoes on display: Put your feet up, you don’t wont to get these sneakers dirty. Photo: @sneakershypesp/Instagram Put your feet up, you don’t wont to get these sneakers dirty. Photo: @sneakershypesp/Instagram

This story is part of STYLE's Inside Luxury column

Christian Dior's CD1 sneaker in pink and blue dye print is a head turner. All but muted, it's a colourful expression of the (male) owner. They retail at a whopping US$1,150, a price point unthinkable for a sneaker just a few years ago.

Off-White Odsy-1000 sneakers are no bargain either, selling at US$900 and boy, you won't go unnoticed in its signal red colour. Maison Margiela's Men's Paint Replica lace-up sneakers are almost a bargain, compared to that, a bit shy of US$400. However, in bright red with a hint of dropped paint, you will surely make a statement.

5 of the rarest sneakers in the world " not your average Yeezy or Air Max

No One, the ultra-rare, and extremely hyped sneaker brand from Los Angeles, comes in a snow leopard print for US$750 and will make an exotic statement wherever you are.

If you want a pair of Kanye West's Nike Yeezy 2 Red October, another colour blocking option, you better have around US$7,500 at hand. And if you are into green, the Macklemore Air Jordan 6 will set you back US$25,000. Finally, if all of this is not enough, the solid gold OVO x Air Jordans have an asking price of US$2 million. By the way, they weigh 50lbs and are coated in 24-carat gold.

Compared to that, women's sneakers seem almost a little boring. Mainly in white, black, or some muted pink colours, the collections of Dior, Louis Vuitton and others seem rather stealth compared. And they seem to command much lower prices compared to the fancy, colourful men's sneakers. So what's the deal? Why do men's sneakers seem to be more colourful and more expensive?

Similar to women's handbags, the secret is not in the cost of materials but rather in the value those shoes create. And sneakers have become for men what handbags are for women. The right brand at right occasion in the right style signal that you are part of a very select tribe.

Why do women's handbags cost so much more than men's bags?

The rarer a shoe is, the more exotic it looks, the more you will stand out. The sneakers add extravagance, they make an impression. An otherwise boring outfit gets elevated.

And, the shoes allow you to emulate the lavish and cool lifestyle of ballers, rappers and other influencers of the zeitgeist. They enable men to make a statement and they are definitely a conversation starter. The sneakers become more like a piece of art than a shoe. This creates enormous value for consumers.

Many brands underestimate the value that these exceptional pieces create. Which is another expression of how difficult luxury pricing is. As the sum of its pieces, most of these sneakers should cost a fraction of what they are traded for. However, if you see them as a limited edition artwork, and a symbol of belonging to a certain group, many of them could be priced dramatically higher. After analysing the sneaker category with our pricing algorithm, I would argue that a lot of the examples mentioned above could be priced at at least double what they are. This indicates, that also the most expensive sneakers are too cheap and that enormous profits are left unrealised.

Why limited edition sneaker collabs resell for a fortune

What many of these exceptional and colourful items have in common is a unique story, often connected to a celebrity or a specific moment in time. In other words, they are part of history. Drake, for example collaborated with Nike on the OVO sneakers and helped to propel their fame.

A post shared by Jordan (@jumpman23) on Jan 19, 2020 at 9:47am PST

As a result, sneakers have become for many men the most critical luxury item, maybe apart from a wristwatch. They can be worn in any situation " from the board room, especially if you work in a creative business or in tech to a casual weekend outing. They become defining items, with a value far beyond the materials, the craftsmanship, or the size. And colours help men to express themselves even more.

Similar to women's handbags, colourful sneakers that create extreme value drastically increase the willingness to pay. For luxury brands it is critical to understand their role in people's lives to avoid being too cheap.

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