Before he’d even reached his assigned post, the front-of-the-line bouncer was already yelling at the cluster of boys up top, most of whom wore floral hoodies in some fashion-forward rendition of Hawaiian print. “Do you know if they still have the bomber jacket in white?” one of them asked, wringing his hands in apparent agony over the stock status of his desired item. “I don’t know -- I been out here with you all day,” the bouncer answered, crossing his arms and turning back to face the store.
To keep the hoard of streetwear worshipers from blocking crosswalks and getting in everyone else's way, the line gets broken up into sections. A different bouncer mans the front of each of these sections, offering stamps to the front members as proof that they have, in fact, waited through the line’s full course. “Where’s your stamp?” I heard the front-of-the-line bouncer deadpan several times. There were a handful of excuses -- “I put on hand sanitizer and it came right off!” -- but for the most part, the stampless kids hung their heads and backed out of the line, knowing it had been a futile endeavor.
“The difference between this line and any of the others I’ve worked,” my bouncer friend told me, “is that these kids all think they’re tricky. Normally, you either gotta wait, you gotta be beautiful and famous, or you gotta pay a bribe that makes it all worthwhile. These kids think they can get away with cutting the line or batting their eyelashes and shit.” He shook his head disapprovingly, eying the family of tourists taking iPhone panoramas of the absurd crowd gathered around the storefront. “But we all been bouncers before, we know what's up, and we don’t let nobody cheat their way in... ”
I watched as he directed a handful of pretty girls towards the back of the line. “Sometimes you feel bad for some kid who wants a pricey-ass keychain for his girlfriend or a wallet for his dad or something -- and you can see it in his eyes how bad he wants it,” he brought his fingers up to his eyes before pointing them back at me, “but after a while, you can’t give a shit anymore. Everybody has some reason they gotta get in over everyone else, and in the end, it don’t make no difference.”
Supreme apparel is intentionally “dropped” so that it remains available solely to the dedicated few willing to wait. Whether or not the articles themselves are worth the trouble, the very act of owning them serves as a badge of exclusivity -- one that, according to these bouncers, can feel even more validating and selective than entrance through the front door at a major New York club.
“I don’t know what it is,” the same bouncer explained to me, “but these kids will stop at nothing to get their stuff.” Their bribes may be meek, but their willingness to wait, to scheme, to cut school and sleep on the sidewalk, speaks volumes.
“While you’re doing all your journalist research and what not,” my bouncer friend called after me, as I began to head towards the Broadway-Lafayette station, “I would love to know why all these little kids are spending all their time waiting to buy $200 white tees. Doesn’t that sound pretty damn silly to you?”