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An $800 Sneaker Plays Hard to Get | WSJ

The sudden appeal of Buscemi—a year-old, $800-a-pair sneaker brand that has been snapped up by Justin Bieber, Sean “Diddy” Combs and other celebrities—marks a new chapter in conspicuous consumption. In the digital age, where nearly everything is a click away, there is growing pressure to flaunt possessions that no one else can buy.

“You ain’t got THESE!!! Na na na na naaa!” tweeted Mr. Combs to his more than 9 million Twitter followers in October, linking to a picture of his new chocolate-hued Buscemis on Instagram.

Buscemi is just one of many brands benefiting from the popularity of sneakers. Shoe makers have spurred demand by issuing more limited-edition models each year, offering consumers an “opportunity for uniqueness,” according to Matt Powell, a sneaker-market analyst at SportsOneSource, a market-research company. The average price of the 300 million pairs of men’s sneakers sold in the U.S. last year was $65, Mr. Powell said. But according to retailers, there is virtually no price resistance at the highest-end of the market.

The 200 sneaker models that Saks Fifth Avenue will price above $700 this fall are made by 25 mostly well-established designers, such as Prada, Alexander McQueen and Jimmy Choo. Buscemi’s basic high-tops, which were priced at $760 in January, now have a suggested retail price of $865 at stores such as Barneys New York and Neiman Marcus.

The 39-year-old Mr. Buscemi grew up skateboarding and playing lacrosse in Uniondale, N.Y., a middle-class area of Long Island. He dropped out of college to work at a brokerage firm, and quickly amassed 600 pairs of sneakers on his six-figure salary before he left in 1999. Typically, he would buy three pairs at a time—one to wear immediately, one to wear when the first pair got dirty and one to save for his collection.

“Everything in my life is about trying to be cool,” said Mr. Buscemi.

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An $800 Sneaker Plays Hard to Get.

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