I’ve always been a little obsessed with Nike SB Dunks. But by the time I started to make enough money to afford them, the reseller market took off, making them impossible to get.
As a forgetful skater, how am I supposed to remember the dates for each release, let alone type my credit card information fast enough to even cop a pair? This led me to the place that many have wondered about but never actually seen with their own eyes: The Dark Web.
The Dark Web is a global web platform completely separate from the regular internet. It comprises of hidden content that does not show up on Google and requires a special web browser called Tor to access it.
While notoriously known as a place to buy drugs or other illegal goods, it is also rumored to be a resource for communication between oppressed countries or groups of people to spread important information while staying under the radar of their government.
If the rumors were true that you could truly buy anything on there, I wondered: Could the Dark Web potentially be the plug for future SB drops?
I began by ordering myself a burner laptop off eBay. There’s very little security on the Dark Web and I wasn’t willing to risk my own identity and passwords that are saved throughout my usual laptop. This little thing arrived in a box that smelled like cigarettes and had cat hair lodged between the keys, but it did the trick.
I’m glad I ordered it because after a week of googling Dark Web tutorials, the burner laptop’s mouse and keyboard stopped working after clicking on a phishing link and getting hacked.
Days later once I got a substitute keyboard and mouse working, I went full cyborg and began chipping away at the Dark Net Bible.
The Bible is a 140-page guide of dense computer vocabulary and acronyms that were completely unknown to me. You can find it very easily on Reddit, although you have to look through the archive because r/DarkNetNoobs was banned from the web in 2018.
While the guide was extremely helpful, the process is not very intuitive, and I didn’t trust anyone online to give me their tips and tricks. This made the whole ordeal very slow. Before I could even search for what I was looking for, I had to understand the precautions and necessary steps to remain incognito. If I was going to buy anything illegally and order it to a location that was somehow related to me, I wanted to make sure everything was done right.
Although I had a burner laptop, the stakes of using my address were high. Who knows what could happen if that information got into the wrong hands. After reading stories of someone receiving a message from an unknown user saying, “I’m watching you” or the numerous accounts of identities being stolen, I knew it was nothing to fuck with. Whether these tales were real or not, I took precautions and covered my screen camera up immediately.
The Nitty Gritty
First, an operating system called Tails had to be downloaded onto a USB drive in order to replace Windows 8. The USB allows you to unplug the system and boot it into other computers. I went through three USB sticks before I found one that worked several hours later. That was merely the first step, and to add to that, Tails is very slow and susceptible to crashing, so I had to be on my toes. At this point it had fully settled in that I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. My only hope was Googling whatever came up on the screen and hoping someone had the answer.
Then I had a few drinks at my buddy’s place and decided it would be a good time to set up all my encryption keys and Bitcoin accounts. This was stupid because I forgot all my information the next day and had to start over. I had to create something called a public PGP key in order to encrypt and decrypt messages between a seller and myself.
If I wanted to reach out to someone for a potential order, the message had to be encrypted, and then I had to decrypt whatever was sent to me. If my PGP key was lost, I’d lose all the information in my messages because I could no longer decrypt what was sent to me. Needless to say, I lost it all first try.
Before I could go shopping on the Dark Web, I had to set up a Bitcoin account. Bitcoin is the main currency on the Dark Web, as it is untraceable and decentralized. To be safe I set up three accounts in order to remain completely under the radar. I set up a normal account on my phone, then set up two encrypted accounts on my burner laptop. I sent the Bitcoin first from my phone, then to the second account, encrypted it, and sent it to the final account in order to be completely detached from my bank routing number and identity.
Once on the Dark Web, there are multiple sites that one can visit. Most of these sites are marketplaces for drugs, stolen credit cards, fake money, etc. These different products were organized in a completely random order, things like 1000 MDMA pills could be found right next to a set of DIY instructable books. I couldn’t help but get a bit distracted. In order to find the Nike SBs, I began my search in the clothing section of a multitude of different sites.
Each Dark website has a URL that is typically 100 letters long and looks like someone just smashed their hand on their keyboard and added “.onion” at the end. This made finding market places pretty difficult. When looking for a Dark Web market, you often have to search through different online forums to find the link, and even then there is always a very high chance that the link is fraudulent and you shouldn’t click on it. These are known in the Dark Web world as phishing links, something I learned of right off the bat, after losing my keyboard and mouse to one early on.
In addition to this, finding clothing is extremely difficult. I would say out of all the stuff sold on each market there was only 3% of the site dedicated to clothing or jewelry. Within this category, it was pretty hard to find Nikes, let alone SB Dunks.
I actually found multiple sites on the clear net (the normie internet you’re using right now) that sold “replica” Dunks. They had every single pair I could imagine, but the quality seemed suspect and they cost twice as much. On the regular internet, a pair of fake Dunks from China go for about $150, but the seller I found on the Dark Web was serving them for half the price at $75.
Securing the Goods
After a week or two of searching, I finally found a pair of Civilist color-changing dunks right next to an eBook about how to cook pure meth. The store had many different kinds of dunks: the Grateful Dead, The Chicagos, Lobsters you name it. The seller only had a few reviews but I said fuck it and sent in the order. I was curious about how they’d skate. Would they hold up? Are the insoles going to crumble like cardboard?
In addition to ordering the dunks, I made an impulse purchase and bought some fake money out of curiosity. On a marketplace called Torrez, I placed an order for five fake $20 bills. I was expecting to get completely played when I placed both orders, but two weeks later I got a package from China and one from the Netherlands. I was hyped to see that my chosen vendors came through. Nice job guys.
After ripping the packages open Monday morning I couldn’t help but feel let down by the counterfeit items that I ordered. The bills looked okay, but the second you felt the smooth paper you knew something was up. The vendor sent me some extra goodies like a fake $10 and a few $50 bills, which made up for the shit quality of the goods I guess.
The Dunks turned out alright too, but nothing to be too thrilled of. I ordered the Civilist color-changing collab, but what came in the mail was the Staple Pigeon V2s. Disappointing to say the least. They also felt closer to a pair of Airwalks from Walmart. The insoles were rock hard and the shape was more of a box than anything else. They got the visual aspects almost right, but that’s about it. I guess I got what I paid for at the end of the day.
In conclusion, the Dark Net is an endless rabbit hole of hacky fake bullshit. You can buy all sorts of drugs and paraphernalia, but it still has limits. While it may be a shortcut for getting things that you typically have to work hard for, the items reflect this in their quality and production. I felt like this is what I got for trying to cheat.
It’s definitely easier to throw on a reminder on your iPhone for those new Dunks, and you will probably get the right pair in the mail at the very least. Also, work hard for your money because holding a bunch of fake bills just felt pathetic, like paying for Monopoly money.
If you are as curious about this stuff as I was, or enjoy the world of drugs and scams, maybe the Dark Web is a good place to visit. It entertained me for a couple of weeks, but I will warn you that you probably won’t get much more out of it than that.