Steady Soles has become more than a profitable side hustle for Hayden, though. “The idea of working at an hourly rate for the rest of my life is beginning to be harder to justify, and my college degree is slowly becoming more of a second option,” he says. He doesn’t plan to lurk on Steady Soles forever—it’s more that the group has lit a fire for deal-making in him. The real goal now, he says, is getting into real estate. No matter his next move, though, the cook group has soured his taste for a more traditional nine-to-five. He ticks off all the benefits: “The hours, being your own boss, not being financially limited by your salary, and growth potential.”
Hayden is just one of the many users who’ve quit their regular gigs to pursue reselling as a primary source of income. These folks pour their gratitude out in a channel called #testimonials. “I’m the main caregiver of my three kids,” one user writes, “and Steady Soles makes me feel like I can eventually do this full time and not just pay the bills, but spend more time with my family and not at some office or factory.”
If you were ever bullied in middle school, the tone on Steady Soles’s main channel for chatting might sound familiar. While I’m waiting for my Travis Scott Jordans, things take a strange turn.
“I remember i tried to get my homie some jubilee jordan’s,” one user writes.
“Shut the fuck up. Idiot. No one cares,” another responds.
“Ur moms a milf,” the first user replies.
In turn, the second user posts a photo of a cake that resembles Spongebob Squarepants with, there’s no easy way to say this, male genitalia.
Mercifully, not long later, we’re finally alerted to a Travis Scott drop. It’s a link to the rapper’s webshop but it doesn’t have sneakers, not yet at least. For now, it’s merch—T-shirts, a varsity jacket, and a rug—made in collaboration with the artist Kaws. Users and moderators quickly shelve their argument to debate the resale value of the items, separating the “fire” from the “trash.” Mostly, folks wait impatiently for the real prize to appear.
What’s happening on Steady Soles no doubt mirrors what is happening on multiple cook groups. The internet is filled with these groups, promising users an avenue to easy money. There are so many of these groups that cook groups now spring up with the exact purpose of combating other cook groups. Pralica created SoleSavy to help those who simply wanted to buy sneakers. He caters to folks who don’t want to flip them for higher profit, but instead hope to do something nearly unthinkable in 2021: wear the shoes they buy. SoleSavy is meant to give collectors a fighting chance.
While cook groups have helped turn sneaker reselling into a hugely profitable business, Pralica feels that they have had an equally negative impact on sneaker collecting as a hobby. “I think a lot of people feel like, ‘This isn’t fun anymore,’” he says. “‘I’ve been punched in the face 100 times, and I don’t want to do it for 101st time.’”
Speaking of getting punched in the face again: I spent most of a summer Wednesday waiting around for that last, best chance to buy my Travis Scott Jordans. Steady Soles’s moderators kept us updated, delivering news of minute changes to Travis Scott’s website, where the shoes would be dropping. Eventually, the shoe finally loaded there—but when I navigated over, I found only a link to subscribe to a newsletter. A couple hours later, Scott’s website finally changed over again. There was no advantage to be had, no magical link that would take me straight to the checkout. Instead, I was routed to a raffle. I entered, and I lost. I think I’ll stick to my day job.