EARLY ON A STEAMY June morning in Plantation, Florida, Matt Steiner sits working at his parents’ 10-person dining room table. It’s the start of summer vacation, and he is joined by his buddy Chris, who is freshly home from his first year at college. Between yawns the two send tweets and check emails, but mostly they wait for 9 am. That’s when the pair will open access to their website for 60 minutes, just as they do every Thursday. During that hour, and that hour only, people can buy the use of Matt and Chris’ web bot.
Finally the time comes. Within one minute, 10 orders have rolled in. By 9:04, that number has doubled. People are browsing the site from the UK, South Korea, Hong Kong, looking at images of limited-edition products. If they’re interested, they enter their address and payment information. If they want a hat, it’ll cost $10. For a T-shirt it’s $15. Hoodies are $20. To be clear, these aren’t prices for the shirts, hats, and hoodies; they’re the prices would-be shoppers pay to have a shot at buying the damn things when the apparel brand Supreme opens its own website and stores at 11 am.
More than 1,200 miles up the coast, in downtown Manhattan, people—mostly guys—are lined up outside Supreme’s NYC store for the same reason others are clicking on Matt and Chris’ website: to get their hands on gear. On the Supreme subreddit, photos are filtering in from shoppers who al