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The Ox Street Authentication process

Buying Guides

Gijs Verheijke
May 2, 2022

One of the recurring questions we receive at Ox Street is how we authenticate the sneakers sold through our platform. The key behind authenticating sneakers is having intimate knowledge of the real product. Building 'an eye for it' through experience is obviously important, but there is no substitute to a detailed comparison with the real thing. If you look at a structured set of key elements, making sure they ALL line up with what the real deal looks like, you will be able to sniff out even the best fakes.

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One of the recurring questions we receive at Ox Street is how we authenticate the sneakers sold through our platform. If it's so difficult to tell the real sneakers from the fake, how can we be so sure? In this post I wanted to take a moment to give you a peek behind the scenes, although of course I can't give away the entire secret recipe...

Ensuring we don't let a fake slip through, while saving time (= money) where we can, comes down to two key principles: Documentation, and process layering.

It all begins with our detailed documentation process

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The key behind authenticating sneakers is having intimate knowledge of the real product. Building 'an eye for it' through experience is obviously important, but there is no substitute to a detailed comparison with the real thing. If you look at a structured set of key elements, making sure they ALL line up with what the real deal looks like, you will be able to sniff out even the best fakes.

Having personally gone through the struggle of buying on the 'raw' resale market (eBay, Carousell, Facebook) as an individual, I can tell you it is almost impossible to be 100% sure a pair of sneakers is authentic, if you don't have the real pair to compare with. Especially when seeing a certain pair of shoes for the first time, nobody can be 100% certain without the tools we have built here at Ox Street. This is one of the reasons we started this business; by building a system for authentication, we can take away that uncertainty for individual buyers.

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At Ox Street, we have access to any pair of sneakers from a trusted source, giving us that necessary reference for what the real product should look and feel like. We developed a proprietary protocol to capture all key details of the shoes in high resolution. This database then serves as a reference when we encounter the same shoes again later.

After a sneaker is entered into our Authentication Database we can greatly speed-up the process

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After we have a sneaker in our database, it takes us only a few minutes to verify the authenticity of the shoes, by referencing the existing authentication images. We check the overall shape, materials, stitching, colors, as well as all the labels and serial numbers.

The key is to make sure that everything matches-up. Even authentic sneakers can have small manufacturing flaws, but also interesting tiny details that can signal whether a shoe is real. If you will indulge me going full nerd mode for a minute I'll give you an example. Look at the photo on the left. That's the inside size tag of an adidas Yeezy. The highlighted 'dot' above the QR code is a feature of all real shoes of this model. The dot is not always in the exact same place, but it's always there.

Unfortunately, the highest quality fakes have already come to realise this dot is used to authenticate Yeezys, so the best fakes now also feature the dot. This shows that you can't rely on just one 'favorite' tell, because fake sellers are constantly catching-up.

A layered process to save time where possible

To make sure we don't spend all our time staring at dots, we designed a process with layers of authentication. The first layer is our standard check against our database. Depending on the sneaker we work through an 8 to 16 point checklist. If any doubt arises here we first pull everyone together in the authentication team for a detailed look.

The second layer has more to do with the seller than with the product. If we have a good relationship with the seller of the sneakers, and they have consistently shipped us genuine items, we can be fairly sure that their next item is also going to be authentic. This is the main reason our seller fees go down over time as sellers build a positive trackrecord.

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For our third layer, we ask outside sources, starting with our sellers. We check with at least 3 sources who have the real item and/or know it intimately to verify our opinion on the legitimacy of the shoes. We also check back with the seller to ask more detail on where they got the shoes in the first place.

There are several things that can trigger our third authentication layer to start. Obviously, if there is anything about the sneakers that seems off we will go as far as needed until we are sure the shoes are legit (or fake). Second, if we see a pair for the first time, we always make sure to get the comfort we need that we are in fact looking at the real thing. And lastly, when we are authenticating high value sneakers, we are always extra careful. High value sneakers offer a much better profit for counterfeiters, and are by definition rare and hard to get. As a result, the % of fakes is simply much higher.

Scalable and fool-proof

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The next question I always get about authentication is how we will scale it up. By applying image recognition tech to automate the first layer, we can save more time in the future. However the gains here are limited. Since Machine Learning tech needs so much data to train, and we are dealing with highly limited releases, we would have to feed our AI possibly the entire global stock of a certain sneaker before it becomes reliable, which obviously is not realistic.

Luckily, we have seen plenty of examples of 'computer augmented' authentication scaling very far. We know for example that the biggest player in our space (StockX) is processing several thousand transactions per day without fundamentally changing the way they do it from our system. With the right tools and operational process, the cost per authentication is well below $1 per order.

Hopefully you enjoyed reading this.  As sneaker-heads ourselves, the Ox Street team takes great pride in our processes and ensuring our community has a great place to come to for their grails.

Gijs (pronounced “guys” with a “k”), is the Founder and CEO of Ox Street. Since falling in love with the Nike Air Max silhouette at age 10, he went down an all-too-familiar path of buying way too many shoes. An occasional DJ and low-key music historian, Gijs loves the many different aspects of how ‘culture’ manifests, often through some combination of music, fashion and location. Gijs is an ex- Private Equity investor and Rocket Internet alumnus, where he cut his teeth launching and scaling various marketplace platforms across Asia. Through hunting down a coveted pair of kicks while in Myanmar - he realised there was a gap in the sneaker ecosystem across South East Asia, a growing segment powered by the region’s ravenous growth in digital networks and an increasing wave of online commerce. Gijs alongside everyone at Ox Street, is excited for the future of streetwear in the region and we’ve only just begun.