For many sneakerheads and hypebeasts out there, shoes are a way of life. And for the five individuals at Ox Street who quit their full-time jobs to dedicate their focus to the brand, it’s no different. Today, I met with Gijs, the founder of Ox Street who showed me around their cosy Singapore-based sneaker space tucked away in a storage area-turned-office—an innovative take on the minimalistic aesthetic.
Part of what makes the sneaker and apparel industries so tricky is that it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate an authentic piece from a knock-off. So while you may be salivating over the latest Yeezy 350s, there will always be an element of doubt regarding its authenticity when buying from online listings or marketplaces.
Luckily for us, Ox Street has recognised this challenge and promises to act as a trusted middleman for buyers and sellers of authentic sneakers in Singapore and the rest of SouthEast Asia. Ever so careful in their authentication process, you can think of them as a local alternative to StockX or GOAT.
At Ox Street, only the sharpest eyes and the most conscientious hands are equipped to carry out the authentication checks. Gijs walked me through the process of sneaker authentication—which is a lot more intuitive and detailed than I’d expected.
A typical day at Oxstreet starts with sneakers from sellers arriving in the morning. These fresh kicks are placed neatly on a labelled shelf, patiently in wait of earning their authentication badge. Before commencing work on any pair, the authentication team checks the size, make, and labels of the shoe against the buyer’s order to make sure that the seller has shipped the right pair of shoes. On this day, we are looking at a pristine pair of Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG ‘First Class Flight’, amongst others waiting to be “legit checked”, or LC-ed—the jargon used amongst seasoned sneakerheads.
First, the overall shape is examined—which includes the curvature of the shoe’s base down to the very construction of the high tops, each possessing a structure that is oh-so subtly unique. It may be difficult to explicitly categorise each variation in the shoe’s shape, but Ox Street’s sharp eyes can spot even the slightest deviance in detail.
“As you can see here, the back silhouette of an authentic Air Jordan has a distinct ‘hourglass’ shape,” Gijs explains, “With Air Jordan 1 models, the back view has proven to be most difficult to get right for counterfeiters.”
Once the shape is verified as good as authentic, Gijs mentions that the next course of action is usually to observe the stitching details—a feature that should run consistently and neatly throughout the piece, almost like the living veins of a shoe, if you will. In this instance, the stitching is supposed to be tidy and impeccable—something that many knock-off factories fail to execute.
The Yeezy Boost 380 ‘Alien’ is a great example of immaculate stitching, and any less than perfect would make the overall look of the shoe unfinished and downright messy. According to Gijs, most of the time, anyone who has been trained to authenticate shoes would look straight to stitching as one of the key places to weed out a fake.
Checking other unique features
Naturally, other extremely tell-tale signs of a genuine sneaker are none other than the specific features that are unique to each model and make.
Next up in our authentication work for the afternoon at Ox Street was the coveted G-Dragon PEACEMINUSONE x Air Force 1 ‘Para-noise’. Ironically, the embroidered daisy on the tongue of the shoes should actually look imperfect and messily stitched on the authentic pairs. “Many sellers of fakes get this one wrong,” Gijs’s laughs, “it often turns out too perfect, and that’s when you know it’s not authentic for this particular model.”
The PEACEMINUSONE kicks also have a printed motif located on the inside of the shoe itself, which looks wrongly constructed on most fakes of this model that are circulating the market.
Quite literally diving deeper, we look on the inside of our all-time fave, the Air Jordans. There are several things the team looks at here—for example, the size label, and the way the upper of the shoe is stitched to the midsole.
Also, if you were to peep into the underside of the shoe’s tongue, you’ll find a string of specifically spaced text that imitators of the Air Jordans lack the meticulousness in copying.
Using their sense of smell and touch
Authenticating a pair of sneakers is not just a visual process, and you might be surprised to find that one’s sense of smell and touch also play very crucial roles in the authentication process. Weird as it sounds, smelling the shoe is one of the surefire ways to tell real from fake—provided that you’ve taken enough whiffs of shoes to know.
Even between different brands and models, each pair smells different depending on the material which they’re made out of. With adidas’ Yeezys, you’ll get something that is described as ‘“a bit sour-smelling”, while most Nike models would be more glue-like. We have the strange pleasure of smelling a pair of the coveted Sacai LDWaffles which immediately invoke that childhood ‘new shoe smell’.
“When you know what an original smells like, it’ll be much easier to tell when you’re smelling bootlegs,” Gijs explained. So go forth, smell all the shoes—we don’t kink shame in here.
Where touch is concerned, subtle cues such as raised embossments on both the sneakers and their boxes are also useful in the authentication process. For example, the PEACEMINUSONE sneakers come in a box with the Nike logo embossed just across its surface.
Tag of Legitimacy
Once the shoes have undergone the Ox Street authentication process and are officially declared legit, an authenticity tag is attached to each pair. This further cements Ox Street’s promise to their buyers that they have done their due diligence, and that each product’s quality and authenticity is a guarantee.
The final steps involve placing the shoes back into their original packaging, throwing in a bunch of customised Ox street stickers, and finally topping it off with a hand-written note before sealing them for shipping.
I’m given the honour of writing Jack’s thank you note as Gijs explains the rationale behind every hand-written note. This is done to add a personal touch to the buying experience at Ox Street, something that he feels is generally lacking in the sneaker industry. With that, these Ox Street verified kicks are soon on their way to their new owner. (Shout out to you, Jack).
As someone who only treats herself to a good pair of sneakers every now and then, learning about identifying genuine sneakers from fakes was quite an enlightening experience for me. It made me think twice about where my sneakers come from, and perhaps to leave verifying authenticity in the hands (and noses) of the professionals.
Also, If you’re looking to shop sustainably, purchasing a pre-loved yet well-maintained pair of shoes is a great place to start. Ox Street has recently launched their ‘Used Shoes’ category, where buyers can look to for wallet-friendly options. Saving the environment one sick sneaker at a time admittedly sounds like a great way to live—after all, not all heroes wear capes, but they sure as hell have on some sweet looking kicks.