Sneakerheads, and their parents, hit Wheaton mall for newest Air Jordan release

Sneaker collectors and shoe lovers explain the appeal of the new Air Jordans while waiting in line at Wheaton Mall to be one of the first to own a pair.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 23, 2010; 7:22 PM

Starting about 7 p.m. Wednesday, clusters of young people, a few loners and some nervous-looking parents appeared on the second floor of the Westfield Wheaton shopping mall near the Foot Locker, one of the few stores in the region that would start selling $185 Air Jordan Retro 11 Cool Greys at midnight.

They kept a respectful distance from the store, trying not to look too obvious. Trying not to look too anxious.

They fooled no one.

Mall management, in an effort to avoid a tussle that marred last year's midnight release of the Air Jordan 11 Space Jams, had set up ropes and instructed people not to start lining up outside the store before 11 p.m., when the mall typically closes.

A blatant ploy to gin up sales, yes. But for the people waiting for a chance to wait some more without any guarantee of success, it was the hunt that mattered.

The last time Air Jordan Retro 11 Cool Greys were reissued was 2001. The window to get a new pair was 24 hours.

Competition was fierce because of the Cool Greys' wide appeal. Serious collectors were less likely to covet them, said Duk-Ki Yu, owner of Major, a designer sneaker boutique in Georgetown. Because of the wider interest, however, Yu scaled back his planned midnight release to only kids' sizes because he didn't want to see fists flying on his doorstep.

The day before, the store had received about a 100 phone inquiries, some of them quite belligerent, from people inquiring about the number of Cool Greys that would be available. Die-hard collectors, by contrast, "are more polite," Yu said.

Most of the people lined up at the Wheaton Foot Locker were a fairly orderly bunch.

The ones who gave themselves a four-hour lead time stood around in hopes of getting as close to the store as possible. Security was wise to them, however, and kept shooing them away. Take a walk, they said.

Juanita Guerrero, 32, of Beltsville, who had come to snag a pair of size 91/2 Cool Greys for her 13-year-old son, returned after a brief jaunt and spied a man in a baseball cap reading a newspaper in front of the store. Even though Guerrero, a nurse, was a rookie at queuing for designer sneaks, she could tell the guy was not there to catch up on current events.

"You look kinda sneaky," she said. He turned out to be another parent, willing to endure a few indignities for the sake of securing a killer Christmas gift for one of his sons: a pair of Air Jordan Retro 11sto wear on the first day of high school. Guerrero borrowed the sports section to use as a ruse to stay put.

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