Photo illustration by Ben Park.

I Bought Fake Balenciaga Triple S Sneakers and Boy Do They...Smell Weird?

Our new sneaker columnist takes fake hype sneakers for a spin.

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Oct 31 2018, 1:00pm

Photo illustration by Ben Park.

In the series Footloose, Sophie Helf, who does not have feet, dives into the wide world of sneakers.

As a gift to myself for having finally acquired a right leg (a surprisingly arduous process), I decide to treat myself to a nice pair of shoes. My bank balance and baby credit limit expressly forbid me from spending more than $50 or so, and yet I find myself dead set on getting something that will not just be on my feet but make my feet thrive—something cool to the point of looking goofy.

Designer shoes are out of the question and, at any rate, the best I can afford is a plain pair of Converse, so the solution is simple: I decide to cop some fakes.

Per a friend’s advice, I navigate over to Ali Express, home to a sprawling collection of shoes that are of, uh, dubious authenticity. The women’s “Vulcanize Shoes” section, as it’s called, is a veritable smorgasbord of knockoffs: “FINE” instead of “FILA”, Yeezy replicas that are a little too squishy, product descriptions that are stuffed with search-optimized keyword after keyword. After some careful deliberation, I settle on a yellow and turquoise blob that is almost a pair of Balenciaga Triple Ss but not quite—a little narrower, a little less chunky—and smash the “order” button. They’re a sweet $22, gentle on my bank account, deliciously cheap.

Two weeks later they arrive in the mail, all the way from China. Ripping open the flimsy packaging (there is no box; just plastic and tape), I’m hit with a pungent chemical smell so strong that I instinctively recoil. I pluck a shoe out of the plastic and give it a good look. It’s light, incredibly so, and, despite my initial expectations, not poorly put-together at all: the foam soles give it some cushion, and the shoe itself looks comfy (though I wouldn’t know). On the side, instead of “BALENCIAGA”, the words “Fashing BALISG” are stamped on, bleeding a little into the faux suede. How does one fash? What is a balisg? Though the words are clearly just made up to skirt copyright law, I can’t help but laugh a little, muttering them to myself as I slide the shoes onto my fake feet. In honor of their knockoff status, I name them “the Balonçieggos.

I lace them up tight and go for a toddle around the house. Not bad: though the heel is a little high, tipping me a tiny bit forward, the soles are cushy and soft and make for easy walking. Their bright colors contrast well with my monotone wardrobe, too, adding color to what would otherwise be borderline camouflage. They are, simply, very good.

Wearing them out and about—to the library, to Crossfit—feels like my own little in-joke. Barely anyone I know is familiar with the Triple S, the absolute brick of a sneaker that is Balenciaga’s current pièce de résistance, famous for its nonsensically large size and the near religious fervor it’s whipped up on the current fashion landscape. Often, when I tell people my shoes are knockoffs, they say, “Of what?” Then again, the shoes are pretty cool on their own: a nice color pop, easy on my carbon fiber legs (no stumbling!), chunky and bright and over-the-top. My prosthetist comments on them one day as I trundle back and forth between a set of parallel bars: “They’re nice, but the heel is a little high. Be careful.” Whatever. I’ll get used to them. I’m willing to trip over myself if need be, just to show them off. These Balonçieggos are beautiful, so very fake, and forever mine.