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Counterfeit kicks are big business. Can you spot the fake?

Sneaker Con is a premier event for sneakerheads from all across the globe to buy, sell, and trade some of the most sought-after sneakers in the game. On Saturday, March 16, thousands of sneaker fans will descend upon the Huntington Convention Center in Cleveland, Ohio for the latest installment of Sneaker Con.

Roughly 20,000 pairs of sneakers are sold at Sneaker Con events — and despite the organizer’s best efforts, some of them are fakes. (Shoes sold by Sneaker Con itself, however, are fully authenticated.)

Shoes are among the most counterfeited goods in the $461 billion “fakes” industry. To that end, Sneaker Con has become expert in spotting counterfeit sneakers.

“When we look at these shoes we take more of a scientific approach where we actually delve into the concept of what makes up a shoe. So we weigh sneakers, we get color codes for shoes. We really go deep into what's inside the sneaker. We examine very deeply what's behind the insole, how the shoe is stitched; we have photos to match up certain stitching patterns,” Sneaker Con co-founder Alan Vinogradov told Yahoo Finance.

So just how hard is it to spot a fake pair of kicks? Vinogradov put Yahoo Finance anchor Zack Guzman and reporter Sibile Marcellus to the test on YFi PM (see video above). Vinogradov brought six pairs of sneakers: a real and a fake pair of Yeezys, Jordan 1 Unions, and a black and red (bred toe) Jordan 1. The two correctly identified the fake pair of Yeezys, but got stumped when it came to identifying the most counterfeited sneaker in the world, the Air Jordan I. Things like stitching, color, and even the smell of the shoe can be used to spot a fake. According to Vinogradov, the glue used to bind the shoes together omits a specific smell.

Sneaker Con beginnings

Vinogradov’s love for sneakers started in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York. He was obsessed by the sneakers Michael Jordan wore during his last season with the Chicago Bulls.

“Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, that was the norm. When I went to junior high, I had every single Jordan 13 and just followed M.J. through the playoffs and really was super pumped about putting this shoe on my feet. It was at a point where I was trading shoes in school off of my feet, not realizing that I was really into sneaker culture at the time 'cause it really didn't exist.”

Vinogradov’s love of sneakers would bring him to Japan, where he became immersed in the budding sneaker culture, getting exposed to brands like Supreme and Bathing Ape, which were picking up steam overseas.

In 2009, Vinogradov had a vision of creating an event that could bring the entire sneakerhead community together. Later that year, the first Sneaker Con was held in a comedy club in New York City.

The company also has an expanding digital platform with the Sneaker Con app, which serves as a mobile extension of its online marketplace. The future looks bright for Sneaker Con. The event has taken place everywhere from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Vancouver, Canada. And in May, the event will be held in China for the first time.

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade

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