Anyone that has to regularly walk through Soho on a Thursday will be familiar with the seemingly endless queue of people snaking through the streets leading to the Supreme store. The hype that surrounds their weekly drops and the ever increasing number of people turning up has apparently led to animosity with local residents and the council — rumors of their displeasure, and the threat of closure have been circulating for the past year or so. The archaic queuing system in place had long been outgrown and was in need of serious overhaul.
The New Way to Queue for Supreme
A new system was recently quietly introduced with the aim of alleviating the pressure on Soho’s streets. The new process involves attending a signup event at the start of the week in order to secure a place in the queue for the Thursday drop.
News of this new system spread via word of mouth, on the forums, and Facebook groups frequented by Supreme fans. Acquiring the details of the Monday signup event involves to signing up to a mysterious mailing list devoid of any mention of the Supreme brand. I was skeptical about the authenticity of the mailing list until Monday rolled around and I received an email informing me that, due to the bank holiday, I would be sent the details of the signup on Tuesday this week instead.
The Pre-Queue Queue
The following morning at 10:00 on the dot, an email dropped into my inbox instructing me to head to BaySixty6 (the skatepark forever known as ‘PlayStation’ to anyone born in the ’90s). I jump in my car and head over to Portobello as quick as I legally could. After ditching my vehicle I hot-foot it down Acklam Road, arriving at about 10:20 to an already considerable throng of people waiting to get in. What was clearly a line five minutes ago seems to have grown in width rather than length, with kids sprinting in from every direction to join.
The security guards appeal for calm with that age old adage ‘No one’s going anywhere until you all stop pushing.’ A few minutes later, with a relative level of stability and calm achieved, people begin to be let in to the skatepark, one by one. Once through the gate I’m given a laminated card with the number 177 on it, indicating my place in the queue. I file through and join the line of people, many of whom are sporting T-shirts and jackets acquired at other recent Supreme drops, coupled with their box-fresh VaporMaxes and Air Max 97 Silver Bullets. I feel distinctly out of place in my pair of knackered ASICS and some dusty old jeans, as I was all set for a day of moving boxes in a warehouse.
Chatting to my neighbors in the queue, they tell me that they were waiting in big groups at central London underground stations, waiting for the email, so that they could hop on the tube en-masse and head to the necessary location. I find it unbelievable that despite getting here only 20 minutes after the email was sent that I find myself 177th in the line. Apparently a few people were hedging their bets and waiting near to the skatepark anyway, as it isn’t the first time the signup event has happened here. After handing over my ID I’m told to head to the store for 10:30 on Thursday, and that I’ll be 174th in the queue there.
The Actual Queue
Thursday morning arrives and the streets of Soho are eerily quiet. The pavement outside the Supreme store on Peter Street is empty save for a roped-off area and a couple of security guards. I ask where everyone is and am told to head round the corner, into the quieter residential street, Ingestre Place. A hundred or so people are already waiting, and I’m told by the security supervisor that I’m probably a bit early, so I head off and get a coffee, arriving back at 11:00-ish.
Overhearing people discussing their numbers in the queue, I slot myself in at roughly the right place. A few chancers are milling about with much higher queue numbers or even no number at all, on the off chance of blagging their way in. There’s no way this is going to happen though, and the whole operation seems to be very slickly run.
“I find it unbelievable that despite getting here only 20 minutes after the email was sent that I find myself 177th in the line.”
After finding a rough place in the queue it’s merely a waiting game. Eventually, nearly two hours after my arrival slot, I’m funneled into a more structured queue, where we’re placed in chronological order. As the security guard calls out numbers, it’s interesting to note the number of people who haven’t bothered turning up. I imagine the fact that school’s went back today maybe has something to do with that, although maybe these are the lucky few who had the foresight to realize that a place in the high 100’s is pretty useless anyway if you want to grab the most hyped items.
After providing the requisite photo ID, the name I provided the other day is checked off on a list and I’m given a card with my number on. From here I pass into the next section of the queue, and after a little more waiting I’m allowed to walk around the corner and on to Peter Street. Here they’ve set up three separate orderly queues, situated on quieter sections of pavement and out of the way of the bemused passers-by who regularly stop to inquire as to why we’re all stood in a line that seemingly leads to nowhere.
Eventually I make it to the final queue, outside the store. Everyone starts gawping through the window trying to get a glimpse of what the people at the checkout are buying, to get a sense of what is still available. It all looks pretty thin on the ground by now, and the rumors that had spread through the queue that all the good stuff had gone were clearly correct. Finally I’m let into the store. I file down the stairs and past the final stage of the queue, which snakes all the way from the till down to the basement level shop-floor. When I get there I see that it’s pretty slim-pickings, and all of the items that I had my eye on are long gone. I’m not adverse to a bit of reselling, so could have easily picked up a couple of the dregs and bunged them on eBay, but seeing that the final queue will take about half-an-hour to clear is the straw that breaks the camel’s back for me. I decide to call it quits and leave empty handed.
All in all I’ve spent about five hours queuing this week, and at the end of it all have nothing to show for my efforts. To my mind, the new system is a marked improvement from the old one on a number of levels. Not least of which, it’s likely to appease the council, as it succeeds in taking a lot of the strain off the already crowded streets of Soho. Look for reactions online though, and it’s clear that this new system does have its detractors. Some have complained that it alienates those who live outside of London and are barely able to make it up once a week, let alone twice. It therefore also requires taking two mornings off work, which many won’t be able to do. For now though, this seems to be the best and fairest option available, and as long as the security guys continue to manage it in the same professional manner which I experienced, I can see this system lasting for some time.
- George Stewart-Lockhart
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