The past decade’s sneaker game has had a lot of kings: Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, and most recently, Virgil Abloh. But over the past year – pretty much out of nowhere – Travis Scott has been making his claim to the throne. And on the heels (no pun intended) of his most recent SB Dunk release, his case is pretty compelling.
Travis’ story with Nike is all about timing; the pair started working together more broadly right as he was skyrocketing into hyper fame. His most successful drops came after Astroworld went triple platinum and saw nominations for Best Rap Album, Best Rap Performance, and Best Rap Song at the 2019 Grammys. Two years later, he’s putting up all-time great numbers in sneaker resale and shows no sign of slowing down.
Last last year though, things started to look a little shaky. Travis and Nike dropped the Jordan 6s in October, and resale was not amazing. In a few short weeks, average resale premiums across all of Travis’ sneakers were cut in half (!), falling from 6.7x retail to 3.6x. There was definitely some uncertainty in the air. But that was quickly dismissed with his latest release: the SB Dunks have a shot at being his best-reselling sneakers to date. In their first few weeks on the market, they’ve been flipping for a tasty 8x retail. Travis Scott x Nike is hot as ever.
Young LaFlame, he in sicko mode
Travis Scott was born in Houston as Jacques Berman Webster II (a little less catchy). After six years in South-central Houston with his grandmother, he moved in with his Mom (worked for Apple) and his Dad (a soul and jazz musician) in Missouri City; by all accounts a nondescript start. Fast forward 20 years and he’s in the discussion for best sneaker collab of all time. What happened, exactly?
Over the past two years, Travis Scott has completely turned the sneaker world on its head. His drops have become Nike’s defining ones as things with Off-White have slowed a bit, and his AJ1 Retros are selling for a thick $1,700 on the aftermarket. Scott’s story is one of timing: he’s used merch to propel himself into stardom, and the story of his sneakers is really just the story of him.
That’s just all he know, he don’t know nothin’ else
Travis Scott’s sneakers follow a familiar story: as he got more popular, his drip did too. Cactus Jack released his first full-length mixtape (Owl Pharaoh) in 2013; his first #1 album came three years later, titled Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight. But Astroworld (2018) was when things really started taking off, and that’s (not) coincidentally when the Nike hype started gaining ground.
Astroworld – which went triple platinum and got nominated for three Grammys – released on August 3rd, 2018, exactly a week before Scott’s AF1 in Sail debuted (current resale value: $1K). But this wasn’t his first release: his cool blue suede Jordan 4s dropped two months prior, and his first widely available Nike collab – the AF 100 – was already reselling for $1K+.
Travis’ choice to drop a pair of Nikes just one week after the release of his life’s work was no coincidence: he’s given the world a masterclass in how to hack the music business. Dan Runcie at Trapital has already extensively laid out how Scott used daily merch releases to game the Billboard system, as well as run his own festival with no artist list just to accrue brand equity to himself. In short, Young LaFlame isn’t just a rapper: he’s an empire, and his sneakers are just along for the ride.
Five hundred shoes for the drip I invest
As big of a year as 2018 was for Travis, 2019 was when his sneaker game really started taking off. After a shaky start with the Jordan 33 (why even try), the AJ1 Retro High dropped in May to incredible fanfare. Nike let Jacques switch up the direction of the swoosh and add a little velcro pocket to the otherwise standard Jordan 1 silhouette. The sneaker world went nuts.
The 33’s weak numbers didn’t help Scott’s overall brand, but the AJ1 Retro made it clear that this was just an aberration. In fact, the resale prices for the average Travis sneaker had been climbing well before the AJ1 released, despite the 33’s average figures. The following chart shows the average resale multiple – that is, the increase in resale relative retail – for all Travis Scott sneakers since 2017.
As you can see, that May 2019 release of the AJ1 High is when Travis’ resale game exploded to a new level. At his peak that summer, Travis Scott x Nike sneakers as a group were doing an average of more than 7x retail prices. That is far and away the most successful multi-release collaboration the sneaker world has ever seen.
Of course, highs from the Highs didn’t last forever. The next two releases after the AJ1 High – the AJ1 Low and the Jordan 6 – brought that sky-high resale numbers a bit closer down to earth. The Jordan 6s, in particular, started out reselling for around 3x retail, at an average of $750 a pair.
Now, 3x retail is still pretty steep for a pair of sneakers. It just wasn’t quite up to snuff with the hype that Cactus Jack’s collabs had generated thus far. And so over the course of a couple of months, average resale multiples for Travis Scott’s sneakers floated back down to around 4x. These were still amazing numbers, but barely more than half what they were.
I was hot as hell up in the heat
As 2019 came to a close, questions were circling about the future of Travis’ brand, and his last two releases hadn’t lived up to the AJ1 High hype. The following release – a third take on the AF1 silhouette – resold for even less than the previous two. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this story: Nike x Off-White had rough patches with weak numbers from the Vaporfly and Terra Kiger. Perhaps Travis hype was destined for a similar taper.
But February 2020 quickly laid those concerns to rest and brought the resale numbers to a whole new level. The SB Dunk Low Travis Scott has proven itself one of the most hyped sneaker releases of all time.
Pre-release numbers on the SB Dunk Lows are astronomical – there were Bids on StockX for well over $1,000 in almost every single size. But here’s the kicker: because these are SBs and not AF1s or Jordans, they carry a much lower retail price of $150. So $1.1K at resale is good for an 8x resale multiple, which is (again) in hyper-hype territory.
If you look at the previous chart, you can see the effect this had on average Travis resale numbers. The Dunk numbers pushed the overall Travis average to close to 7x retail, across all sneakers – an all-time high.
I feel like I’m chosen, I’m covered in gold
It’s worth taking a step back to appreciate exactly how historic Travis Scott’s numbers with Nike have been. The AJ1 Retro Highs – the ones that changed the brand’s 2019 – are the 8th best-selling Air Jordan 1 in StockX history. The other Jordan 1s on that top ten list, because they sold in such large supply, tend to have fairly pedestrian resale prices: the other nine bestsellers, on average, flip for around $280 on average, and none resells for more than $350. But the Travis Scott Jordan 1s? Those carry an average resale price of $1100. Simply put: you hardly ever see a sneaker sell at such high volume – over 25,000 StockX sales to date – while continuing to fetch four-figure prices. It just doesn’t happen.
Of course, it isn’t just the Jordan 1s. At the time of writing, the average resale multiple for all Travis sneakers was 3.88x retail. That’s even higher than the average multiple for Off-White x Nike sneakers, which currently stands at 3.4x retail. After 2018, it looked like nothing would match Virgil’s performance on the secondary market. But Travis has actually exceeded it. This is, without question, one of the most impressive sneaker collaboration relationships that’s ever been done.
An interesting detail to look at is Nike vs. Jordans. When you dig into the numbers, it turns out that Travis’ Jordan brand collabs do better, on average, than his Nike AF1s.
Even if you remove the AJ1 Highs (the outlier here), Travis still works better with Jordan than he does with run-of-the-mill Nike.
I’m the highest in the room
We mentioned Off-White but we’re not done with Virgil, because there’s some tasty irony here: both Travis Scott and Virgil Abloh owe a lot of their early success to Kanye, but sneaker brand paths are on the opposite trajectories. Travis started off with GOOD music – Kanye’s label – while Virgil was his sort of “creative assistant” early in his career. Today, Travis and Virgil are the kings of the sneaker world, while Yeezy is dealing with a coming of age journey.
As Travis’ brand continues to evolve, it looks like he’s turned a corner with Nike. The SB Dunks are the pair’s first collab that didn’t release on any Nike properties (SNKRS app, Nike.com, etc.). Instead, they were only available via Travis’ own site as well as skate shops across the country. This is a big deal: it signals Scott’s increasing power as a celebrity, just like it did when Kanye started dropping Yeezys on Yeezy Supply instead of adidas.com. Keep an eye out for Travis as he keeps the wheels turning.