The doors wouldn’t open for another hour Thursday morning, but the sartorial zealots – numbering in the hundreds – packed up their folding chairs and scanned leaked photos on Instagram, anticipating the booty to be claimed inside the Supreme clothing store.
The line snaked down North Fairfax Avenue, around a corner and down an alley. The lucky ones near the front – some of whom had camped outside the store for four days – would enter a promised land of limited release skater apparel and coolness with a price tag. Those farther back would very likely feel supremely disappointed about missing out on so much “dope stuff.”
Near the head of the line, Devin Trapp, 25, showed his friend his iPhone and bragged.
“That’s coming in the mail,” he said. “I’m super hype for this Supreme dog bowl.”
Down the line, a rumor traveled that a Supreme crowbar and chrome Supreme lunch box were “dropping” as well. These would not be the kind of lunch boxes in which construction workers would be packing their ham and cheese sandwiches, or fifth-graders their peanut butter and jelly and boxed juices.
The Supreme company started in New York City in 1994 and opened its Los Angeles branch near West Hollywood 10 years later. Its followers are fanatical. With time, the company’s style and sensibility have come to represent a generation of skaters and fashionistas who preach “streetwear” as a way of life.
In the grand scheme of fashion, Supreme clothing is not terribly expensive. Hats might sell for $40 and hoodies for $170. But the aftermarket is white hot. Young men – and most of the shoppers on Thursday were male – were taking orders on their phones from all over the world, marking up the retail price several times over depending on the item. Some said they weren’t sure how much of what they bought they would resell. Others griped about how employees were selling merchandise out of the back of the shop.
On Reddit, those in line advertised their services as buyers or simply as people who would stand in line to save the spot for someone else. The first person in line, Chris Lam, 23, of Sherman Oaks said he would spend between $4,000 and $5,000 and planned to sell most of his 40 to 50 purchases to consignment shops in Korea.
“For every drop, I’m first in line,” he said. “I’ve proven to my customers that I can get them dope stuff. Now I’m just going to need a lot of bags.”
Trapp, the soon-to-be dog bowl owner, came from Arizona in his Prius. But others came from much farther away. Clad in floral shorts and a blue Supreme sweatshirt, McKinley McGregor, 18, flew in from Vancouver on Wednesday afternoon. The photographer immediately grabbed an Uber ride to his Airbnb in Anaheim and got in line around 5 p.m. with more than $1,000 in his pocket.
“This is the first drop of the season,” he said. “You got to be here.”
The line began forming Monday, and the day before, the smell of marijuana -- and anticipation -- hung outside the clothing store. Dozens of mostly young men wearing flat-brimmed hats, Vans sneakers and brightly colored T-shirts of their skateboarding tribe camped out. Now the big day was upon them, and for the private security hired by the store, that meant making sure things didn’t get out of hand.
(Thursday’s fanfare, which involved only part of the store’s fall and winter release, will be repeated every Thursday over the next few months).
Thomas Sherrer, a burly guard who towered over most of the shoppers, said the guards recorded a video of the line the night before. That way, they would know who belonged where in line.
“This line is really tame,” he said. “We don’t generally have to get the cops involved.”
The video method was an imperfect science, and Sherrer along with several others recalled when Supreme dropped its collaboration with Nike called the Air Foamposite 1, which sold for $250 in store and now goes for $799 on EBay. That line, Sherrer and others said, broke down fast, with 50 or 60 people rushing the store’s entrance like the Scottish warriors in the movie “Braveheart.”
The line Thursday was, by contrast, tame.
Nemrod Clark, 53, was probably the oldest person in line – by a couple of decades. Clark had claimed his spot in line Monday, and the father of five said he would spend $1,500 to outfit his kids in “dope” threads.
“They’re getting ready to get back to school,” said the Long Beach resident. “Maybe I’ll get a hat or something small for myself.
For the last 28 hours or so he hadn’t left his folding chair. He drank from a massive green jug of water. Dinner consisted of pizza, and he slept only sporadically, he said. Clark said his youngest child is 8, his oldest 30 years old. He said his own interest in Supreme started when his 18-year-old daughter said he should start dressing more fashionably.
As one of the security guards screamed at the line to stop bunching, Clark said this would all be worth it once he left the store, his hands full of bags.
“It’s been a tough long haul,” he said. “But I just got off the phone with [my daughter]. I know she will be happy.”