The man walking around our office has his face hidden, with black sunglasses and a cap pulled low masking his identity. He’s in all black, down to the Yeezy sneakers on his feet. It’s not a terribly uncommon sight in New York City media circles, but this guy different. He’s wearing black gloves too, the accessory looking like a signifier that he intends to leave no evidence of his presence behind. And he doesn’t want me to use his real name.
Why the spy act? The man in black is a thorn in the side of Adidas as the leader of
replica Yeezy Mafia, an online group dedicated to leaking release dates and info for high-profile shoes (like those from Kanye West’s Adidas Yeezy Boost line) months before the brand announces them. Since its start in December, 2015, the group has amassed 140,000 followers on Twitter and 233,000 on Instagram. Its members are staying anonymous to avoid detection by Adidas, which could threaten the team’s ability to access sneaker info so early.
While the social media accounts replica Yeezy Mafia runs are public services of sorts, there’s a profit aspect involved. For one, it sells add-to-cart services for releases that help people trick websites and buy shoes more easily. Mafia members also resell some of the Yeezys they buy, and there are occasional merch offerings. But the man representing the group sees what he’s doing as a net plus for the community.
“It’s exciting to do because, besides us, there are very few leaks concerning Adidas,” he tells Sole Collector in a foreign accent. “That’s really, really confidential. I think we’re bringing something positive to the game ‘cause people can plan their upcoming months. We all have lives.”
What, then, is the life this shadowy spokesperson leads outside of the internet? As with most topics, he’s not saying much. He used to work as a developer, but left that career behind to dedicate more time to the pursuit of shoes. He decided to quit after discovering an exploit on a sneaker site and realizing the potential for profit that acquiring and reselling hyped sneakers through online trickery represented.
“I copped like four or five pairs on the same website, it was revealing to me,” he remembers. “I was like, ‘Damn, if I could just use my knowledge to get some pairs and make money off that…’”
His interest in cheap Yeezys is relatively new—he used to collect Jordans, but started buying Yeezys at the 2015 release of the “Moonrock” Adidas Yeezy Boost 350. He says that he’s been able to buy most Yeezys since. A lot of them too—the Mafia’s founder claims to have purchased around 40 pairs of the 2016 “Beluga” Adidas Yeezy outlet Boost 350 V2, which represents an initial investment of $8,800 that would be worth around $34,000 on the resale market today.
He asserts that none of the advantages he uses to purchase pairs or leak info come from a personal connection to Adidas and that nobody in the Yeezy Mafia works for the brand. Where does all the info come from? He is cryptic again on this point: “We just got a crystal ball, that’s it. We are fortune-tellers.”
Replica Yeezy Mafia’s crystal ball has been unable to accurately predict the future a few times, the group is willing to admit that. It’s tough to tell though when they legitimately had bad info and when Adidas has merely moved dates in response to leaked info. Or if any of the other things that can delay a shoe—production issues, shipping delays, etc.—caused dates to move. Take the black and white “Oreo” Adidas
cheap Yeezy Boost 350 V2 for example, a sneaker that the Mafia pegged as a November release in several tweets. November came and went without the shoes, which eventually arrived in the middle of December.