Black Friday 2017: Sneakers and Shoppers

The unofficial start of the holiday shopping season was this week, when many national retailers opened their doors and offered major sales. Now it’s Black Friday, traditionally the big day of the week, when shoppers work off their Thanksgiving dinners by sprinting for the products and bargains they covet the most. We’re capturing what it looks and feels like at American shopping malls, retailers and discount stores.

You’ll also find:

• Stories of shoppers and what brought them out to the stores.

• Shopping deals from The Wirecutter, a product review and recommendation site owned by The New York Times.

• History and facts about Black Friday. (Did you know it started in Philadelphia in the 1960s?)

In front of Cool Kicks, a sneaker boutique on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, Jonathan Lindsey reclined in a lawn chair, hoodie drawn snug over a custom fitted cap. A line of about 100 people behind him, stretching around the corner.

Mr. Lindsey, 28, said there were around 15 people ahead of him when he arrived at 9 p.m. Thursday — 12 hours before the store would open. But he paid $60 dollars to move up to second. Like most of the people near the front of the line, he was here not for personal shopping, but for business.

So the Gray Zebra Yeezy Boosts he was there to buy would never grace Mr. Lindsey’s feet. Instead, he had sold the pair in advance to a woman who had driven by earlier in a Mercedes, offering him $550 dollars for a pair that would cost him $320.

“She had her son on FaceTime,” Mr. Lindsey recalled. “She’s like, ‘His birthday is tomorrow, and he wants the shoes.’ They’re sold. Baby boy’s birthday. They’re sold.”

Though patrons would be limited to buying just one pair each — with some pairs marked down to just a dollar, only one of the first 15 people in line at Cool Kicks was planning on keeping his purchase. The rest — mostly teenagers, and all male but one — would be immediately relisting their new rare sneakers on the secondary market, where some pairs fetch more than $1,000.

Several of them worked for Kevin Ikehara, 20, an enterprising sneakerhead from Cerritos, Calif., who said he was camping out at a sale for the fourth time this week. In addition to snatching up additional pairs of sneakers, Mr. Ikehara’s crew turned a profit from the line itself, selling pizza, candy and vanilla Backwoods cigars to fellow campers.

Mr. Ikehara had been at Cool Kicks since Wednesday night and would be the third to enter the store Friday morning. In lieu of Thanksgiving dinner, he said, he and his friends bought $30 worth of McDonald’s.

Mr. Ikehara’s family was understanding about his missing Thanksgiving festivities for work, he said, adding that he didn’t like turkey anyway.

Not far away, on Fairfax Avenue, a short line formed outside Dope Couture, a streetwear store on Fairfax Avenue that was offering buy-one, get-one-free deals the next morning.

On the pavement a few feet from the store entrance, Juan Rodriguez, 42, of Palmdale, was zipped up to his neck in a sleeping bag. An enthusiastic chaperone for the kids despite not sharing their interest in fashion, he had driven his son, his nephew, and his son’s friend to Fairfax for the fourth straight year.

“I learned the hard way,” Mr. Rodriguez said of camping out. “When I first came I was freezing. This time I came with chairs, bags and food; I eat before I come, all that.” — LOUIS KEENE

Our colleagues over at Wirecutter, a New York Times company that reviews products, have a running list of Black Friday deals on everything from trash cans to cameras to artificial Christmas trees.

The best part is you don’t have to get out of your chair to chase them down.

There are suggestions at every price point, so it’s a good resource if you’re buying for a gift exchange at work or a loved one. After all, somebody in your life must need a kayak.

What on Earth possesses people to hit stores when they could be home sleeping off a turkey dinner? The psychology is complicated.

Richard Larson, a professor at M.I.T. who has spent years studying line behavior — he’s known as Dr. Queue in academic circles — said that the enthusiasm for Black Friday lines “makes sense, in some weird way.”

The once-a-year lines are “exhilarating,” he said. “They’re the kind you might tell your grandchildren about.”

The scarcity of bargains means shoppers can enjoy a sense of accomplishment after braving the lines.

“People’s willingness to wait is, in some sense, proportional to the perceived value of whatever they’re waiting to acquire,” Professor Larson said. “Even if they don’t know what the line is for, they reason that whatever’s at the end of it must be fantastically valuable.”

Is that enough to lure Professor Larson into this weekend’s lines? Nope. “It confuses me,” he said. — TIFFANY HSU

So how is it that the term Black Friday has come almost universally to denote joyous commercial excess, stupendous deals and big profits on the day when people head out to shop for the holidays after Thanksgiving?

It wasn’t always this way. The New York Times first used the term Black Friday in an article in 1870 to refer to the day the gold market collapsed the year before.

Ben Zimmer, executive producer of, who has researched and written about the term, says its association with shopping the day after Thanksgiving began in Philadelphia in the 1960s — and even then, the reference wasn’t positive. — HILARY STOUT

Content originally published on by THE NEW YORK TIMES