Illustration by Andrea Chronopoulos
Turns out cryptocurrency investors love streetwear—and streetwear retailers love being paid in cryptocurrency.
19-year-old Erik Finman is about to be the subject of a new CNBC documentary chronicling the lives of Bitcoin millionaires. This, he tells me, is what viewers can expect to see: “I wake up and I’m just in my blanket made of hundred [dollar bills] and I get up and they fall off my face and I jump into my Yeezys as soon as I get off the bed and brush my teeth with a Supreme toothbrush. It’s just a day in the life, so if it so happens to be flexing in that day in the life, then what a coincidence,” he says with an immense amount of swagger. Finman says he’s only kidding about blanketing himself in hundred dollar bills (not that he hasn’t done it—that’s, like, first day millionaire stuff) and the ‘Preme toothbrush (not that one hasn’t come out of the brand’s mad science lab of accessories), but it wouldn’t be too far removed from reality. As Bitcoin booms, cryptocurrency and streetwear are intersecting in horrifying, hilarious, and circular ways: kids are learning how to invest by picking up streetwear, buying into crypto, accumulating riches, blowing said riches to flex in rare streetwear, and going on spending sprees. And in the process, they’re encouraging more retailers to accept the currency.
Finman says he started investing in Bitcoin—the emerging currency that seems to be minting a new millionaire every day—when he was 12, and claims he had enough to sell off $100,000 worth of it by the time he was 15. A few years after that, at 17, he got into streetwear. (Some time after the release of Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo, is where he places it.) In the roughly 18 months since then, Finman’s stockpiled streetwear at the rate of an A-list rapper. “Probably too much to say,” he says when I ask him to estimate the value of his collection. “I don’t want to, I’d feel awful. Definitely the tens of thousands of dollars.” He bought the Kanye-designed Yeezy 750s first, before snapping up Adidas Stan Smiths, Yeezy 350s, and some “silly Bape stuff,” he says, before inevitably spiraling into Supreme. He stopped himself short of buying the Louis Vuitton and Supreme collaborative bags. “It’s not out of my price range—that’s not the problem,” he says. “It’s more like, it’s become an addiction—this is what alcohol is to some people.” Prices don’t seem to worry Finman. “I think I’m going to get the Red Octobers. I’ve been super busy. I’ve been doing a lot of crypto stuff recently but I do need to get back into it,” he says. “They’re outrageously expensive. But,” he laughs, “I feel like, why not? If you can, why not splurge a little?”
Finman’s copping spree is fueled by his own love for clothes, but he also acknowledges that he buys to keep up with his contemporaries in the crypto community. “The new crypto money is getting into all the streetwear stuff and the Lamborghinis,” Finman says. He believes cryptocurrency has the power to completely upend financial institutions, but before that happens, he’s going to use the coin to cop some really rare garms. And he’s not alone: Finman is just one of the newly minted crypto millionaires who are looking for any way to flash their new digital riches. A lot of this spending is happening around streetwear, which crypto millionaires are buying into to show off their wealth. “They’re like nerdy rappers,” Finman says of his peers. “Just the way that people flex in the crypto community, [streetwear’s] become a huge status symbol in the new crypto rich.” And retailers are popping up into the void to attract these big spenders.
The list of apparel retailers that accept cryptocurrency so far is short, but the ones that have started accepting Bitcoin and the like are particularly bullish on the technology powering it, blockchain. (Let’s get this out of the way: Blockchain cuts out middlemen like banks or Venmo-type apps, allows parties to trade directly, and keeps a running list of all those transactions.) Retailers are as gung-ho about the technology behind Bitcoin as any cryptobro on Twitter, and these aren’t just random stores investing in Bitcoin—huge players like Overstock.com have also enthusiastically gotten into the mix. “We think (with no hyperbole) that blockchain technology will have a greater impact on society than the internet has had once the full potential of the technology is realized,” says Jonathan Johnson, the president of Overstock’s blockchain-investing arm Medici Ventures, tells me over email. Overstock started accepting Bitcoin in late 2013, but Johnson says only 0.25 percent of the site’s revenue comes from Bitcoin purchases, mostly on bedding and home decor. For now, shoppers using Bitcoin are going elsewhere to find clothing that will impress their peers.
The ecommerce shop Finman frequents when he wants to drop crypto on…