why we spent so much time queuing-up in 2017
Long queues might be something the uninitiated struggle to get their head around, but they’re indicative of a much bigger subcultural movement.
Photography Henry Gorse
15 minutes in the post office; 10 minutes in the supermarket -- there’s something about queueing that always fills us with dread and anger. But in 2017, the gruelling experience we wouldn’t dare subject ourselves to voluntarily transformed into a cultural badge of honour. The things we wanted, even in the overexposed realms of pop culture, became limited and hard to get hold of; brands and musicians were putting us through our paces, asking us to prove our loyalty in a seemingly more archaic way.
This year, international superstars played intimate venues; one-day-only pop up shops became the place to buy this year’s ‘must have’ garment; and limited runs released by streetwear labels were being snapped up twice as quick thanks to their mainstream breakout.
i-D has been on the frontline of some of the most hysterical clothing drops and pop concert queues of 2017. From Harry Styles’ monumental two-night sell-out in Hammersmith to the highly coveted Supreme x Louis Vuitton launch in the summer, we’ve been there to meet the die-hards who queued for hours -- sometimes days -- to proudly don the ‘I Was First’ badge.
These hideously long queues might be something the uninitiated struggle to get their head around, but they’re indicative of a subcultural movement the wider world doesn’t really need to ‘get’ anyway. In terms of streetwear especially, they’re the physical manifestation of a community that tends to grow online nowadays, speaking through Instagram DMs, in the comments of YouTube’s fashion bloggers and on the r/streetwear subreddit, where almost half a million aficionados gather.
Today’s brands are bringing them back out onto the streets, dropping collections, styles and silhouettes that are often exclusively available in store. Dover Street Market, for example, regularly release collections from brands like Palace and Gosha on digital and physical platforms simultaneously. Although the internet is still an accessible, if unreliable place to grab something from these drops (bad internet connections and the rise of bots are contributing factors to that), the regulated in-store experience can increase your chances of coming out on top. All that they ask is that you’re first in line to secure your most coveted piece.
"Although the internet is still an accessible, if unreliable place to grab something from these drops, the regulated in-store experience can increase your chances of coming out on top. All that they ask is that you’re first in line to secure your most coveted piece."
But these queues also harbour a more depressing side to the industry too. Scalpers, interested in buying up streetwear to sell on for profit, are still an inevitable part of the in-store system. Tapping in to the fact that a) these store’s digital outlets can be unreliable and b) not everybody lives in London, these scalpers can cater to the decentralised, but still streetwear thirsty market.
Would you queue overnight to pick up the latest streetwear drop if you knew you could sell it on later for ten times the original price? We spoke to Thomas Kwofie, a stylist who we first met outside the Supreme x Louis Vuitton launch in London this summer, who gave us his two cents on the issue.
“When it comes to Supreme and so many other hyped brands, people are willing to wait around for ages in big queues for the reselling game,” he tells us. “[Anyone] can buy an item from an important drop and make up to £6 or 7k of profit on it. That’s what drives three quarters of the people to do so much for a hyped item: they will wait in a queue -- even for 24 hours -- as long as they know they will be making money off of it.”
Surely that doesn’t make up the majority of the people queuing every Thursday for the Supreme drops, though? While Thomas doesn’t tend to cop much from the brand anymore, he does say loyal fans still make up a big part of the line’s DNA. “In the last couple of years, the queues have been growing and growing [outside] Supreme. There’s still a lot of people who go there for the culture and love for the brand.”
While streetwear fans and sneakerheads like to be a little more chill with their queuing habits, mixing an ex-One Directioner’s most fervent fans with a considerably small venue resulted in one of the most obscene displays of pop star queuing loyalty we’ve seen in years.
"In 2017, the desire for fans and followers to prove their dedication with a physical act is altogether more potent."
We met 18-year-old Ariana at the front of the line for Harry Styles’ gigs at the Apollo in Hammersmith. Flying from Spain, she queued for six days, sleeping under a bridge with her friends, to be front and centre come showtime. I dropped her a Twitter DM to see clarify why she was hellbent on being so close to him. “I queued for so long in London because Harry is my everything, and this tour was so intimate,” she writes. “What I [experienced] was so special. It was the best night of my entire life. I would do it all over again, and I don’t regret anything.”
We knew to expect fan-fuelled hysteria of some sort from Harry Styles’ homecoming gigs. There were bound to be dozens of teenage girls, donning Harry T-shirts, some having camped overnight. But by midday, there were already hundreds upon hundreds of people waiting. Surely they weren’t all going to be front row, so why would they be here so early if they'd still be several rows back from the stage?
In 2017, the desire for fans and followers to prove their dedication with a physical act is altogether more potent. Anybody can spend their spare time tweeting radio stations for artist support, or updating their Instagram with a shot flexing the latest hoodie they just bought, but how many can attest to having waited for days to be the first outside a show, or having slept in the streets to cop the latest Supreme?
It’s an act that brings us closer to a musician or a brand. For fans, the opportunity to permeate the artist’s inner circle is such a far-flung idea that we feel the need to satisfy our obsessions in other ways. Omnipresence and unwavering loyalty is essential, isn’t it? As die-hards, we appreciate the artistic influence of designers, yet dream of being involved ourselves: maybe if we wait long enough they’ll notice us; ask us to come backstage; let us have first dibs on the latest collection without waiting for several days in the freezing cold.
Is this a precarious move by fans and the creatives that cause it, or one that helps us find something sweeter in the consumerist culture that surrounds us now? Behind whoever’s first in line, there stands a serpent-like queue; a group of people who all derive pleasure and satisfaction from the same thing.
“It’s not about rivalry,” Thomas tells us of the burning desire for fans to get their hands on the latest Supreme drop each week. “It’s just a group of people hustling, doing their own thing with passion. In a London queue, you can meet a lad who’s come down from Liverpool -- that only makes you respect him. [The experience] could connect people from all over the world.”
You see, where there’s a line of fans, waiting for a musician, sneaker or a new streetwear collection, there’s a community. And in today’s age where our appreciation of the physical experience is so rare, we should be thankful that the World Wide Web hasn’t taken everything from us yet.