I first found Supreme purely by chance, almost 22 years ago. It was my first trip to New York City in October ’94, and I was cruising the bumpy streets of Soho looking for a skate store where I could borrow a tool to tighten my trucks. The skateboard industry was going through a slump during the mid ’90s, and there were hardly any skate stores in Manhattan.
I found an unusual little store downtown that stocked brands such as Zoo York, Shorty’s and Independent, and the guys working in there seemed pretty chilled. I decided to show my support by buying one of the $19 shirts with the store’s name on it. The simplicity of the red box on a white tee seemed refreshing, compared to other skate brands’ huge logos and multi-colored graphics.
Within a couple of years I had become a regular visitor to the city and would always drop by Supreme. I soon became friends with the OG crew who looked after me with some nice gear in order to rep NYC back in the UK. Shopping at Supreme was all pretty simple up until the early ‘00s. The staff may have always enforced their notorious “no touching” policy, but the shelves were often fully-stocked with the now-coveted Box Logo tees and sweatshirts.
As the store, and subsequently the brand itself, built up a devoted cult following in Japan, there grew an influx of visitors quickly buying up as much stock as possible at Supreme’s original Lafayette Street location. The launch of its first Nike SB collaboration in 2002 brought a new demographic to Supreme, and saw the arrival of the now-familiar lines snaking around the block.
All of a sudden I was becoming inundated with requests of “pick-ups” for Supreme gear every time I was planning a trip over to the East Coast. What started off as a few friends asking me for the odd T-shirt or cap soon grew into a long list of strangers reaching out for multiple items, ranging from stickers to backpacks and skate decks.
Despite its rapidly expanding popularity, Supreme had no official online store, no publicized release dates and hardly any online platforms to discuss, buy or sell its products — bar eBay. If you were in the United States, then this made buying Supreme stuff pretty challenging. If you were based in Europe, though, it was almost impossible!
Looking back, if I had opened an online Supreme UK reseller site I would have probably cleaned up. But reselling culture wasn’t the behemoth it is today, so it didn’t feel like a viable option.
Fast forward 10 years and Adam Bethell and Peter Mitchell are two friends from the North of England, who were both frustrated at the lack of a UK secondary market for the brand they shared such a love for. They formed a Facebook group called SupTalk UK/EU, with the aim of bringing together like-minded people to buy, sell and trade Supreme products, check the legitimacy of goods and share knowledge on rumors, speculate on release dates and talk collaborations.
In 2015 an old friend suggested I check out the group. Having never really purchased any Supreme items on the secondary market, I initially thought this sounded a bit ridiculous. I was surprised to find a vast online community of thousands of Supreme fanatics right under my nose. It felt like I’d just stumbled upon the internet’s worst-kept secret later than everyone else, which is kind of ironic considering I’d been following the brand for the past two decades!
As I looked further into this online Supreme community I was impressed to see it had grown from its humble beginnings to nearly 50,000 members, with their own line of merchandise, popular Instagram account and even a spin-off group called The Basement.
Intrigued with this phenomenal success and their community’s ever-increasing fascination (and obsession) with all things Supreme, I tracked down a few of the group’s secretive admins – Lew Lower, Adam Rose and Ben Hitchborn — to explain the story of SupTalkUK/EU.
How did the SupTalk Facebook group first come about?
Adam Rose: The group first came about during 2012, when founding members Adam and Peter discussed the distinct lack of a UK market for Supreme compared to the States. Online outlets such as Reddit, Strictly Supreme and Someone Talked showed how much was out there and that’s what they wanted for the UK. I was in the group from the start and soon realized both of those guys were actually at my high school.
Ben Hitchborn: I originally joined around May/June 2013, after seeing Peter Mitchell posting about it on various forums. At that time, the other large place to purchase Supreme (apart from the store itself and eBay) was Lew’s Dutty Streetwear group.
Lew Lower: Before the group I ran the Dutty Streetwear page with Paolo. Adam and Peter created SupTalk at the perfect time, considering the London store had recently opened and we had nothing available online in Europe.
Was the main aim of the group to spread knowledge and experiences, or simply to sell/trade goods with like-minded people?
AR: The aim of the group was to create a platform to buy and sell, but with that come the knowledge base of people who were really into the brand.
LL: Its initial aim was to incorporate both. At first it was a lot more selling than discussion, but with each season it grew into more of a community. We used to offer a season-long proxy for anything from the collection. This was before the EU online store had launched so we were the go-to place for people living outside of London. We took way over 1,000 orders, and guaranteed to fulfill them all so every customer got what they wanted.
BH: The main point of the group is for people to buy, sell, trade, discuss and share pictures. I personally collect a lot, which has helped me to connect with a lot of other members and discuss many of the brand’s older pieces. We have loads of members that resell, lots of novices, lots of older members that have been around the brand since the early days. Name it and we have it in our group.
Was SupTalkUK a reaction to the infamous Strictly Supreme forum becoming members-only?
AR: I don’t think Strictly Supreme had much bearing at that time as it was falling a bit flat. Facebook groups became more prevalent and were accessible by everyone so forums began to feel like such a chore to browse through but, that being said, you didn’t see the same 50 tees being sold on Thursdays!
LL: Not really, Pete created the page purely because he believed the EU scene needed a marketplace of our own without having to pay obscene overseas shipping costs.
What does your day-to-day admin role consist of?
BH: Dealing with member requests (usually around 300 each day), striking/banning members who cause problems within the group and resolving any issues such as a member being scammed.
AR: The admins’ role is to ensure the group runs to the rules we set in place, to allow for a fair playing field for everyone. We’ll get messages from ex-members, who feel their removal from the group to be unfair or unjust, so we look through and see why. It’s hard to keep on top of it sometimes as I have a full time job and I also want to live a life away from Facebook! When I was at university I had to deactivate my account in order to concentrate on my studies.
LL: As the community has grown we have expanded the admin team. These admins have all been handpicked as individuals who help out others and are a general asset to the group. I’ve become known for helping out with legit checks for a lot of purchases. We have to be vigilant with people attempting to scam other members and have seen pretty much every attempt, from a single sticker to deals worth thousands.
Do you feel the SupTalk box logo tees are a nice homage to the brand you all love or just a cheaper/more accessible alternative to the real thing?
AR: They’re a very nice homage. I have three tees stashed away, for a day when I need to bore someone with a story of when I was an admin of the biggest Supreme selling market in Europe, if not the world.
BH: They are more of a tribute. These shirts actually resell for more than they originally retailed for in the group.
The Basement was formed as a spin-off group to avoid so many non-Supreme posts cluttering up the group. Now it’s grown into a far bigger beast with its own merchandise range, standalone website and public events. Having said this, Supreme still appears to be the hot topic for The Basement community as well – what are your thoughts on this?
LL: I have seen a common progression from members. They become obsessed with Supreme, then, when they discover high fashion brands such as Raf Simons, Saint Laurent and Visvim, they decide they hate Supreme as it’s too mainstream! Too many people nowadays forget where they started.
AR: It’s all part of the same genre I guess. We can’t stop the discussion, nor do we intend to. I find sometimes you’ll get better interaction on The Basement than you would on Supreme Talk.
What is the group etiquette generally like?
LL: It’s pretty chilled out and hopefully we welcome new people with open arms. If anyone is unnecessarily mean to someone else they will be striked or banned. Some people don’t like any ’fits that are out of the ordinary so will flame the users, but we want a vast collection of different styles posted, to help broaden people’s minds when it comes to wearing Supreme.
AR: The group etiquette is generally very good. Sometimes we have issues with language barriers causing arguments, as things get lost in translation very easily over the internet.
BH: The group is somewhat of a gated community. There are definitely some cliques within the group but so many people have made friends across the globe just through SupTalk. At times the group discussions can get a little hostile, especially towards some of the newer resellers.
How do you feel about some of the negativity that comes from a small percentage of your members – do you agree this is the unfortunate downside of social media, and what sort of behavior will get you banned from the group?
AR: We try to keep on top of any negativity but, due to the amount of members, it can be hard to do that during the busy periods. We have a really helpful community who report issues for us to review in case we missed it earlier in the day. Selling fake gear, racism, sexism and hating on people in general will get you banned. It’s very easy to stay in the group but also very easy to get kicked out!
LL: Online trolls are everywhere now! Anyone being rude/homophobic/racist/etc. will get a strike or a ban, depending on the extent of the problem. We also ask that anyone answering legit checks for others are 100% certain, to avoid confusion. The group has over 2,000 banned members so several hours each day are spent looking into people wanting to get back in the group, and those who feel they have been banned unfairly. We even had to create a Facebook group called “The Resolution Centre” to help deal with this.
BH: That is an unfortunate downside to social media, however, it also has its upsides too. The group has made some members a lot more confident and given them the opportunity to make friends with people from different nationalities and faiths. We have a rules section, so if a member breaks any of the rules three times then they’re out. On drop days, any member that instantly sells from an online order will get banned straight away. If you join SupTalkUK/EU please make our lives easy and read the rules!
Do you feel the dynamic of the group has changed over the past 12 months? The feed feels less about sharing knowledge, rumors and leaks, and more about selling product these days.
AR: Yeah, I can agree with that. You can see how the demographic of the queue outside the London store has changed, and that reflects massively in the group. I’d say 90% of those lining up each Thursday are members of SupTalk. Most are guys under 20 who want some quick cash. It’s always great when there’s a thread with leaks, or some knowledgeable guy decides to share photos of their collection, that’s definitely one of my favorite aspects of the group.
BH: Since Complex did their video series on reselling, prices have been on the rise, and the group grew by 15,000 members in a matter of months. When I originally joined there were less than 1,000 members.
LL: Posts do seem to get lost sometimes, as content is constantly being uploaded, so we encourage members to use the search function. If any Supreme leak gets posted online you can guarantee that within a minute it will get reposted for discussion in the group.
How do you feel about people who line up for this gear simply to flip it at an inflated price the same day on your group? Do you think the group encourages this behavior or is it the inevitable nature of the beast when it comes to Supreme?
BH: As admins, we do not get involved with the price policing of items, unless sellers are encouraging highest offers. What usually happens is the group decides the resale price of a product. If they are willing to pay that then let them, if not then the resellers will inevitably drop their price.
LL: It’s a necessary evil. I always say that without the resellers buying up the stuff and reselling, the brand wouldn’t be as relevant to the people wanting it. One thing I don’t agree with nowadays is that proxies are being put into a separate category to resellers. People seem to think proxies are helping out the community whereas actually they’re doing the same thing!
AR: We have never controlled the pricing that people sell at, and we encourage the members to ignore any silly prices so inevitably they will fall. It has got ridiculous in the last few seasons with lots of guys who believe every item has a resell value simply because most items sell out on the website within a matter of minutes. Stuff that used to sit for at least a week is gone in a heartbeat.
It’s interesting that Supreme’s London store manager Jagger is a member of the group and posts constructive comments for your members…
AR: I think it’s great to have Jagger be a part of the group and I believe we now have some of the Paris store staff on there too. Jagger has always been in the group and he makes quick-witted remarks about events that happen at drops. He also gives people who are planning to line up or campout a time at which they will be allowed to do so.
LL: It’s absolutely fantastic he’s in the group – it’s basically a partnership in which we can use the page as a platform to make drop days that little bit more manageable for our members and also for the staff at Supreme.
Do you feel that being part of this group allows you any privileges at Supreme such as line jumping, reserving stock, etc.?
LL: I wish! People love to say the admins of the page get special treatment but that’s not the case at all.
AR: I’ve never had anything like that personally. I haven’t been down to the store since TNF drop in 2014. I got there at 7 a.m. and it was as calm as anything…now I wouldn’t even consider that due to the volume of people!
BH: Not at all, both admins and members of the group still have to wait in the queue to get their items like everyone else.
Do you see Supreme dropping off in the foreseeable future or do you feel it will continue to grow stronger and even more desirable?
LL: I have said that every season since 2012 it would drop off, but each year I get proved wrong! I would have bet my house that the EU webstore would have killed off the scene over here but I was very wrong!
BH: It’s definitely hitting a peak right now in terms of desirability. Box logos and North Face items are selling for incredibly high prices compared to what they used to go for.
AR: Currently I can’t see it slowing down but five years down the line, I don’t know. I hope there’s a bit of a market crash and resell prices of older items fall back down to reasonable levels.
What are some of your best/worst memories of the group’s members?
LL: Best memories will always be from the meet-ups I have had, through the group, and I’ve become close personal friends with a handful of members. Worst memories are always the ones of people getting scammed, I really hate that shit.
AR: The best memories are when guys, I’ve sold stuff to, repay the favor – there can be a lot of loyalty within the group. The worst memories are of people get scammed out of massive amounts of money. There is only a limited amount of help you can offer, other than give them advice and help resolve the issues.
Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to join the group?
LL: Just send a “join group” request and we endeavor to get back to prospective members within a week. As long as you’re not a blatant fake account we will let you in. A good sign of a fake account is “joined Facebook 4 days ago” and “Member of 1020372 other groups!”
How do you see the group’s development going forward?
AR: The group’s member count is currently just under 50,000 with almost 2,000 requests pending. We get requests all day, every day, and work on a one-in-one-out policy for the most part. Sometimes we mix up that policy with a purge of inactive/spam accounts in order to let in a whole new bunch of people at once. I hope it continues to grow as it is doing, we do a very good job of maintaining it to be the best place to discuss and buy Supreme in Europe – long may it continue!
Ross Wilson is a freelance writer living in Bath, England who has been a friend of the OG Supreme NYC crew since the mid ’90s, and has subsequently amassed one of the largest collections of vintage Supreme pieces in the world. Follow him on Instagram here.
- Words: Ross Wilson
- Lead Image: @juanma_jmse