Here’s how to spot a fake

Fake sneakers are big business. New sneakers from top brands like Adidas and Nike are already quite expensive, but when you factor in the low supply, high demand, and insane markups that popular models receive in the secondary market, the demand for counterfeit shoes less expensive is easy to understand.

According to some sources, the market for fake sneakers is worth up to US$450 billion, and sneakers are by far the most counterfeited commodity on the planet. These days, counterfeits are getting more and more sophisticated, and it can be exceptionally difficult to tell the fu-fu from the real McCoy.

It’s also hard to tell which new sneaker releases are more likely to be counterfeited than others. It’s even gotten to a point where counterfeiters are so good that they can reverse engineer sneakers from press material and circulate counterfeits before the official release hits stores.

Well, now we have hard data. Market leader in sneakers and luxury goods StockX recently published a report in their authentication process and the counterfeit market, revealing shocking statistics on the number of counterfeit products they intercept, as well as the 3 most counterfeited sneakers they’ve come across – and they all have a few things in common .


In the last 12 months, the 3 most counterfeited sneakers intercepted by StockX were all Nike Air Jordans. More than that, they’re all Air Jordan 1s, and they all have a connection to popular Houston rapper Travis Scott.

Images and data: StockX

#3 and #2 are the Jordan 1 Fragment x Travis Scott, in down and top of the line shape respectively. It’s no huge surprise: all of Scott’s signature Nike sneakers rank among the hottest and most sought-after sneakers on the market. Fragment is also an incredibly popular brand, and all of their collaborations, whether it’s watches, cars, or sneakers, are highly coveted.

A little more surprising is the most faked sneaker: the Jordan 1 High ‘Dark Mocha’. While not explicitly a collaboration with Travis Scott, it closely resembles Travis Scott’s incredibly popular “Mocha,” which is why the style is so popular (and therefore why it’s clearly been such an important target for counterfeiters).

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StockX’s 11 authentication centers around the world reportedly rejected more than 300,000 products worth more than $100 million last year, but not all of those rejected products were counterfeits. The most common reason products were rejected by StockX was manufacturing defects, which accounted for 24% of all rejections. The next two main reasons were damaged boxes at 20% and used products (i.e. not in perfect condition) at 16%.

Counterfeits accounted for 14% of rejections, for comparison – still equating to 42,000 products, the majority of which were sneakers. Oh, and before you ask, StockX authenticators boast an accuracy rate of 99.96%.

Real versus fake Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 ‘Beluga’ (real on the left, fake on the right). Gift? The ‘SPLY’ text on the right is a bit off. Not all fakes are easy to spot like this, though… Image: Solecheck Leo

How to spot a fake?

While large markets like StockX have huge authentication teams inspecting every sneaker they receive, how can the average buyer determine what’s real or what’s fake? Well, it’s not always that simple – that’s why sneaker authentication services or “legit verifications” are in such demand right now.

Some of it is common sense. If you find a sneaker that regularly sells well above retail price for a price that’s too good to be true, it probably is. Use your senses: if they smell very chemically, seem poorly constructed, or the box/product looks weird, stay away.

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Also, make sure it’s a colorway or design actually produced by the brand and not a tribute (e.g. Supreme has never collaborated with Yeezy, so if you see a “Supreme Yeezy”, it’s a fake).

Just like artwork, specific sneakers will also have specific characteristics that can be used to discern a fake. For instance, legitimate grails indicates that the applied “Air Jordan” logo on the Jordan 1 “Dark Mochas” is a good way to see if a pair is fake or not: fakes tend to have different, less precise letters with sizes and shapes inconsistent.

Tip: Join an online sneaker community. Most sneakerheads will be happy to help you “verify the legitimacy” of your sneakers, as well as provide or endorse trusted sellers (or help you avoid dodgy sellers). Oh, and probably don’t shop on Taobao. It should be obvious…

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