In his parents’ basement on a frigid Friday afternoon, Buffalo High School senior Kollen Milmine sorted through a cardboard box he described as his college fund.
“These are my investments,” he said, as he reached into the box and pulled out plastic-wrapped T-shirts, fishing lures, a lock and key set and even a shower cap.
Every item in the box was emblazoned with a logo from popular streetwear brand Supreme. While that might not mean much to some, for Milmine and other collectors, it means $30 fishing lures, $200 used T-shirts and $250 backpacks.
“Usually if it has a big icon with a Supreme shirt on it, over time it just shoots to the moon (in price),” he said. “The cheapest one in here would sell right now for like $50, and I paid anywhere from $35 to $40 on those.”
These items can increase in price so much, Milmine said, because the companies deliberately release limited quantities of the items to increase the hype around them and make people willing to pay more.
Next to the box of Supreme merchandise, roughly 75 pairs of high-end sneakers were sprawled out across the Milmine’s basement floor, ranging from the Air Jordan 1 to Kanye West’s Yeezy.
Milmine said he first got into sneakers when his brother started bringing home retro Air Jordans.
“I hated them at first. I thought retros were ugly, but then I got into them,” he said.
And this past year, Milmine has invested his time primarily into buying and selling those shoes, joining with his friend Tyce Dahlberg to grow an Instagram page called “@plugofwyo” to sell these shoes. This means Milmine and Dahlberg can easily connect with sneakerheads across the country to sell their shoes nationwide.
Sneaker culture first took off in the United States in the 1970s when shoe companies began collaborating with sports stars to create new styles of shoes, according to Forbes. The first, more serious collecting began in the 1980s with the release of the Air Jordan shoes.
Milmine said he joined Dahlberg in March when the Instagram page had around 1,000 followers. The page has nearly 10,000 followers now.
“We don’t split stock or inventory; we don’t go half and half on a pair,” he said. “I have my stuff and he has his stuff, but we both promote. We basically have two hands working on one thing, so it just helps with efficiency.”
With Milmine in high school and Dahlberg in college in North Dakota, sharing the Instagram page allows them both to respond to messages and grow the page while the other is busy.
Some of the shoes Milmine buys come from secondary apps or brand drops, but he said the Instagram page has gotten so big, the majority of the shoes he buys come from sellers who approach them. Their reputation is even good enough now that sellers will ship them the shoes before receiving payment.
But the shoe-selling trade isn’t without pitfalls, because fake shoes have become an increasingly prevalent problem.
“I probably get at least a pair a week that I have to send back,” Milmine said, of the four to 20 pairs he receives per week.
But his dad, Ken, said he’s gotten good at spotting them. Ken pointed to a box Yeezy Boosts on the floor.
“That box came,” Ken said, “and he looked at the box and he went, ‘Dang.’”
Milmine said the knockoffs were obvious because the label on the box was not correct.
“I didn’t even have to open the box, and I knew they were fake,” he said. “But then I opened them, and ... you can tell one’s just a lot higher quality.”
Milmine said he doesn’t know of many others in Wyoming selling sneakers, outside of a friend in Green River, but as his page started growing, he has seen a few new sellers pop up, though his appears to be the biggest in the state right now.
And as the next few months go by and he prepares to graduate and head to college, he’s still trying to figure out exactly how he can keep his business going from a dorm room.
“If I do end up at a college with like a single dorm option, then I’ll definitely just get that and pay the extra to get my stuff,” he said. “If not, I’ll find a friend that’s cooperative enough.”