If you have watched YouTube videos or joined forums related to sneakers, you’ve probably heard the term “UA.”
So, what does UA mean in shoes? What are these people talking about?
UA is the abbreviation for “Unauthorized Authentic,” and it is just one of the many words in the sneakerhead vocabulary. Let’s dig deeper, so you can understand whether it’s something worth buying or not.
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What Does UA Mean in Sneakers?
Unauthorized authentics (UA) refers to a product (in this case, sneakers) that is made by the same manufacturing facility where the ‘real products’ are made.
Typically, a footwear brand will order a specific number of pairs of a certain model. However, it is a common practice among factories to produce higher quantities. This ensures that it can meet the quota without repeating the whole manufacturing process if the brand chooses to reject a couple of pairs.
Whether they are tagged as rejects or leftovers, UA sneakers would be sold to merchants who have online or brick-and-mortar stores—hence the term.
Because the factory workers used the same materials and construction techniques, you can expect UA quality to match the OG to a high degree, which stands for ‘original.’ It’s not surprising that many consumers want to get their hands on these.
Quality and Value of UA Sneakers
Now that we discussed the UA shoes meaning, I’m sure you’re wondering whether they are the same as other types of replicas or authentic models. Here’s our take on this:
Considering the definition provided above, UA is not the same as the OG even if they are nearly identical. Sellers cannot distribute UA kicks in the same stores where the genuine ones are displayed or pass them off as the ‘real deal.’
But if we are going to rank all the reps, UA is just right below 1:1. FYI, 1:1 is deemed top-tier, given that they look exactly like the original with flaws that no one would easily identify.
So, when it comes to whether UA shoes are real or fake, the answer is neither, since these products do not undergo proper quality control of the brand that ordered them.
As pointed out earlier, the same skilled shoemakers used the exact materials to create the UA sneakers. However, they did not meet the requirements or undergo quality control. This means that you will likely find some differences that others may not even notice from afar.
For instance, you may notice that the soles of the UA Air Jordan 11 Retro Low have a light yellowish tint while the OG soles look bluish-white. Other times, the height of the UA sneaker’s uppers would be shorter or taller by a few millimeters. We’ll get into other attributes in the “Identifying UA Shoes” section later.
No matter how identical the UA and original kicks are, they do not have the same value. Original shoes are expensive, since brands have to pay for all the costs that went into designing, production, packaging, shipping, marketing, retail markup, tax, and many more.
By contrast, UA dealers do not hire A-list celebrities or supermodels to wear their sneakers on the runway or photoshoots for advertising campaigns. Because of these reasons, sellers can keep the price of UA kicks low.
So, let’s use the Air Jordan 11 Retro Low as our example. On online retail stores, you would find UA versions at $18 while the original is priced at $180 on Nike’s website. It’s a huge difference!
Identifying “UA” Shoes
Here are the five signs that the shoes you’re checking out might be a UA:
- If the price is dirt cheap, that’s a sign that they might be a UA.
- Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, and other known sneaker brands sell their products on their official website, flagship stores, or through authorized distributors. If the products are only on Instagram and Facebook, they might be reps.
- Original brands include the Style, Serial, or SKU Number in the size tag on the underside of the shoes. Reps do not include such information.
- Besides the small differences in color or shape, inspect the stitchings. OGs typically have perfect stitching lines. Meanwhile, some UAs have irregular sewing patterns. Aside from that, check every inch of the footwear for glue residues. Big brands typically reject those with excess glue.
- If the shoes emit a strong chemical odor, it’s a sign that they didn’t meet quality standards. Authentic shoes don’t smell like that
Are UA shoes worth it? Well, it boils down to your preference. Many people like to collect sneakers and wear them without breaking their savings. After all, the OGs are very expensive.
Ultimately, the goal of this article is to answer our readers’ most frequently asked questions: What does UA mean in shoes? How do they differ from the originals and other types of reps? This way, you can make an informed decision when you go shoe shopping.
Veronica is our content editor. She is a talent in delivery. Her main work is editing and writing articles that are both informative and simple to follow. She is in charge of synthesizing our understanding of what personal protection equipment (PPE) is needed in each job, how to best apply it, and how to visualize that equipment.