Ever seen a pair of kicks so fresh that you just absolutely have to wear them straight out of the store? Well, eBay had just the thing for you in Los Angeles during Memorial Day Weekend. eBay’s platform is generally praised for its inventory of new and pre-owned sneakers, but it gave true sneakerheads in the L.A. area the experience they needed.

Last Friday, eBay announced the Wear ‘Em Out Store, a pop-up shop that rewards sneakerheads for actually wearing their new kicks out of the store. On Fairfax Avenue, the Wear ‘Em Out Store featured “some of the most exclusive and coveted sneaker styles for up to 70% off today’s market price,” according to an official press release sent to ESSENCE. Moreover, the Wear ‘Em Out Store offered exclusive pricing on collectible kicks to those who literally wear their new purchases out of the store. Get it?

“I think you have this subset of people who we love, who are our sellers that sometimes will be able to get releases and may not sell them because the sneakers are alternative forms of investment now, where the price appreciates and people feel like wearing them will diminish the value,” explained Garry Thaniel, GM of eBay sneakers, to ESSENCE. “Even in the instances where it does, one, I would say there’s a really strong pre-owned market. Two, there is a natural joy that comes to wearing your sneakers out.”

Not only is he known for being one of the pioneers of the “triplet flow” and bringing trap music to a global platform with Migos, but Offset is often praised for his extensive and exclusive sneakerhead collection. eBay handpicked the “Clout” rapper and trendsetter to co-curate the Wear ‘Em Out Store’s offering – “using his years of sneaker collecting to determine what collectible kicks enthusiasts would most want to un-deadstock,” according to the press release.

“Most of the time my sneakers are the core of my fits. You got to have on the right kicks. The wrong kicks can throw off the entire fit. Over the years as my swag grew, so has my sneaker collection. I’ve been expanding my taste in fashion and sneakers,” the ESSENCE cover star told us. “I’m proud of my collection but I also take pride in the fact that actually wear my sneakers. When eBay wanted my help curating the Wear ‘Em Out inventory, I felt that it was authentic to how I feel about my collection – I wanted to help eBay push this message within the culture.”

ESSENCE had the opportunity to catch up with Garry Thaniel, GM of Sneakers at eBay, over Zoom right before the first day’s launch in Los Angeles. Check out our conversation below about his personal relationship with sneakers, how eBay continues to champion sneaker culture, and why Offset was the perfect partner for this experience.

ESSENCE: What was the inspiration behind the Wear ‘Em Out Store launch?

Garry Thaniel: We love our sellers, but we want people to not only embrace reselling but wearing their shoes. When you look at the sneaker community at a higher level, a lot of people have been like, “Hey, wear your shoes, wear your shoes, wear your shoes.” I’m somebody that has been collecting for close to 30 years now. I tell everyone I got my first job just so I go buy my first pair of sneakers. That’s a true story.

Today, I unboxed my pair of 2015, Jordan One Chicagos to wear them for this event. It’s just a joy that [you] have when you wear them for the first time. A lot of what we do here starts with community. It is really pushing for people to wear their sneakers then what we wanted to do was be able to partner with sellers, and come into a community like here in LA in Fairfax where we could really do something special, and create a whole moment where people not only have a chance get amazing shoes at great prices, but actually can do that and embrace what we’re trying to do, which is wear them out.

ESSENCE: How would you define Los Angeles sneaker culture?

Thaniel: I think [with] New York, you definitely have your Uptowns. There’s a New York sort of like feel in terms of Uptowns, Jordans, and things of that sort. West coast, I think everywhere I’m seeing everyone wear Jordan’s and Yeezy and stuff like that. Their classic silhouettes are a little bit different out here. You see more Cortezes and trainers. Between the coasts, the staples are a little different. The one thing I can say is what we’re seeing in our partners internationally, heat is heat. Everybody loves what is happening with New Balance right now. A lot people love what the Jordan brand is putting out. People love what Adidas and Yeezy are putting out, and what our partners over at Puma are putting out.

ESSENCE: How do sneakers play a role in the way you define your personal style?

Thaniel: Like I told you before, I got my first job literally flipping burgers at McDonald’s so I could buy the Air Jordan 11s. I love all the creativity I see right now in the sneaker world. My favorite silhouettes are the ones that got me addicted. I am a Jordan Ones fan, I am a Jordan Elevens fan. I also like to mix it in with some of the newness and creativity that we’re seeing. I have quite a bit of Off-White in my collection. I have a lot of Yeezy in my collection. Recently, I’ve added a lot more New Balance to my collection, just because I love everything they’re doing.

My style, as I’ve gotten older, is a little bit more classic with the sneakers. I tell everyone, in every outfit, I start with the feet up. Until I know what shoes I’m wearing, I won’t know what jeans, t-shirts, jackets, or sweaters I’m wearing. I start at the foot and work my way up. What I try to do is wear something that I feel fits me, but also something that I have some level of connection to. I feel like I grew up in a time when it was a product of Michael Jordan. You have some just classic silhouettes that will, at least to me, will never get old.

ESSENCE: What influenced eBay’s decision to partner with Offset for the curation of the Wear ‘Em Out Store?

Thaniel: Offset was the perfect partner for us. First of all, in terms of being a culture setter [and] style icon, Offset is both of those things. We knew before, but even after spending time with him today, it’s just that Offset really does embrace our whole theme of Wear ‘Em Out. Offset is somebody who is when we were talking to him, he’s like, “I found a pair of shoes on Deadstock today to wear for the first time,” but he’s like, “It was difficult because a lot of my limited stuff that’s 101s, super exclusive or grills, I’ll wear it. My Jordan 85s, I’ll wear them.”

For someone who not only in terms of the culture, in terms of style, is a perfect fit, but in terms of truly embodying what we’re trying to do with Wear ‘Em Out here, Offset was the perfect partner. He was able to curate a collection of 30 shoes. We’re going to have to feature 10 shoes a day over three days. One of the things that I think both of us noticed is that we didn’t make it easy for people to wear them out. We have some really amazing sneakers in there. We have some heat, some of the most in-demand sneakers that are on the market right now. We didn’t make it easy for people. They’re going to have to make these decisions tough to wear them out because anything that we have on our shelves out there, people would easily want to just buy them and stock them.

ESSENCE: As the GM of sneakers at eBay, how has eBay continued and will continue to amplify sneaker culture through its partnerships and activations?

Thaniel: I think that’s what we try to do every day. In terms of amplifying street culture, we have a team of people who are part of street culture and sneaker culture, and really keep our finger on the pulse of what’s going on and what people want to see. I think one of the reasons why Wear ‘Em Out is resonating is because the culture has had this push to wear your sneakers. When we’re putting a concept behind it where we can do an activation like this, people get behind it. What we want to do is really keep our finger on the pulse. We want to work with our seller community. We’re working with one of our top sellers, Soul Stage, on this activation today to really be able to show up in the proper way in the right communities. Right now, there are not many places, if any, in Fairfax that’s sneaker culture. Why don’t we just go to the heart of sneaker culture, [and] do something where we’ll have an activation that people will be able to really connect with?

You can’t see it, but we have a line down the street on Fairfax. That is taking me back to 34th Street Foot Locker [and] camping out. Well, actually camping out on 33rd Street, because they used to make you go through the back entrance for some of these releases. That’s taking me back to just a really fun time. I think it speaks to people still having that willingness to say, “Hey, I believe in this. I believe in it long enough to wait in line.” I think that’s a pretty amazing thing. When you walk outside, that’s sneaker culture, and you got to appreciate it.

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