"He does everything from memorizing colorways to learning the exact measurements of shoeboxes."
By the time Sadelle Moore, one of StockX’s lead sneaker authenticators, arrives at his office in downtown Detroit at 10 a.m., a team of unboxers has already extracted the thousands of highly coveted shoes Moore and his cohorts will be asked to authenticate that day.
StockX, launched in 2016 by Josh Luber and Dan Gilbert (founder of Quicken Loans and chairman of the Cleveland Cavaliers), is the biggest online reseller of new, unworn sneakers in their original boxes, an industry that has ballooned to more than $1 billion in the last five years.
I’ve seen thousands and thousands of shoes. I can often tell from just looking at the box.
Moore, 31, examines only the rarest and most expensive sneakers. He leaves it to Level I and Level II authenticators to wade through the Vans and Chuck Taylors. Over a 90-day course, he has taught the Level II authenticators the ins and outs of the 30 different Nike colorways and the numerous releases of Adidas Yeezys.
As a highly trained Level III authenticator, Moore has the job of scrutinizing the rarest specimens: 2016 Nike Air Mags that sell for $22,000 to $33,000 a pair, or rare “friends and family” sneakers, such as the Pharrell Williams Homecoming Human Races. “There are only 500 pairs in the world,” Moore says with gusto. “So you know this one came from either Pharrell himself or someone in his inner circle.”
IMAGE GETTY IMAGES
With Jay-Z’s Blueprint keeping him company on his headphones, Moore casts a practiced eye on everything from font size to box construction. “I’ve seen thousands and thousands of shoes,” he says. “I can often tell from just looking at the box.” For instance, with a quick glance Moore notices that a box of purported Jordan Ones is smaller by a few millimeters than an authentic box. The red is slightly darker, and the cardboard bears more ridges.
Before he even examines a given shoe, he gauges the thickness of the crepe paper in which it is shrouded. “By this point I can do it by feel,” says Moore, who is a sneakerhead himself, with 400 pairs at home.
For the next few hours all of Moore’s senses are attuned to the sneakers in front of him. “Back when we started,” he recalls, “I might look at 20 pairs a day, and up to seven of them would be fake.” Today, of the hundreds of pairs he typically works through in a day, only about one or two percent are ersatz. But, he says, his job has become more difficult, too. “We see great fakes every single day.”
“Part of my job is to keep track of the fake factories,” he says. This he does via the internet. “I follow every one, across China and Vietnam. And, just as he is monitoring them, they’re keeping tabs on him. “They pay attention. They read interviews with Josh Luber. They watch YouTube videos dissecting their fakes, and then they try to fix them.”
Often the factories making fake sneakers are literally next door to factories making real ones.
What makes StockX’s task particularly taxing is that often the factories making fake sneakers are literally next door to factories making real ones—and they’re working with real sneakers smuggled out by employees during production. “They look identical right next to each other,” Moore says, “but there’s always a tell.”
After lunch Moore oversees his fellow authenticators. If one makes a good catch, he shares this information via group text with the other authenticators, who work in Detroit or in a satellite office in Tempe, Arizona; a new facility will open soon in New Jersey. And if a new fake appears, Moore carefully documents it for StockX’s fake book, an exhaustive catalog of every bogus shoe that has come through the company’s doors since its founding.
Depending on the season, Moore’s workday can stretch late into the night. “My friends and family know,” he says, “that if there’s a new Jordan coming out, they won’t be seeing me for three weeks.” Even after he leaves the office he’s still working. “I can spot a fake at the mall or a club,” he says, grinning. “But I’m not going to say anything. You have to pay me for that.”
This story appears in the October 2018 issue of Town & Country.