Sneakerheads can say a lot of things about Kanye West – but love him or hate him, you can’t deny that he knows how to design a pair of shoes! Did you ever wonder how this subversive celebrity got involved in the sneaker industry to begin with? It’s a long and interesting thirteen-year history, and might enlighten you as to the true value of the stars of your sneaker collection!
If you’re curious about how far Yeezy’s have come, this article is for you. Read on to learn the whole story behind this iconic athletic footwear, and how Yeezy’s transformed into some of the best sneakers on the market.
Kanye’s First Kicks
As it turns out, Yeezy sneakers weren’t Kanye’s first foray into the fashion industry. They weren’t even his first pair of sneakers! His first sneaker release was Kanye West x BAPE “Dropout Bear” Bapesta, way back in 2006.
If you were expecting something that looks similar to the Yeezy’s on the market today, you will find these disappointing. The sneakers feature a Japanese street art style, boasting the image of a cartoon bear. If you haven’t seen them before, it’s because they were ultra-rare even at the time, making them an elusive find for true sneakerheads.
Unsurprisingly, Kanye has referenced his first pair of sneakers in his music. In his song “Stronger,” West croons the lyrics “Especially in my pastel, on my BAPE shit.”
Truthfully, the style of these sneakers wasn’t uncharacteristic of Kanye’s style at the time, even if it has transitioned since then. Sixteen years ago, you could expect to see Kanye decked out in brights and pastels. His overall aesthetic was a lot more over the top than his current subdued style.
Shifting to High Fashion
Even if you’ve never heard of VAPE, everyone has heard of high fashion designer Louis Vuitton. That was Kanye’s second collaboration. He was able to design three thoroughly unique pairs of high fashion sneakers, each named for a person important to Kanye.
Each pair of shoes came out one at a time, and they became progressively more sought after.
The first pair was “Don,” named for Don C, Ye’s tour manager and a talented DJ in his own right. It was a low-top style that came in three colors – a solid red, a black and white, and a multicolor with hot pink accents.
The second pair was in the style of a boat shoe or slipper, and named “Mr. Hudson,” after Heartbreak composer Benjamin Hudson McIldowie. It came in two colors. One version was all white, while the other was grey and pink.
Finally, the most popular iteration of all was “Jasper,” a pair of chunky-strapped high tops named for Kanye’s barber Ibn Jasper. These iconic kicks came in three colorways – all black, grey and pink, and off-white.
The Air Yeezy Era
The iteration that most sneakerheads will be familiar with is the Air Yeezy, which was a collaboration with Nike. These iconic kicks emerged at the 2008 Grammy’s, where they immediately garnered a great deal of attention.
Their unique look was enough to attract interest. The shoe featured a translucent sole and a contrasting lace lock in crimson. This version of the Yeezy was never released to the public but is most likely responsible for the widespread interest in subsequent releases.
The first would be the Air Yeezy, with a strap that most likely took inspiration from the popular Jasper design that previously got so much attention. The first release came in three colorways.
Air Yeezy 2: The Sequel
It would take three years before Kanye released the Air Yeezy 2. Rather than another luxury sneaker, the Air Yeezy 2 had a more casual style. Even so, it maintained many features of the original Yeezy.
The most memorable new feature would be the heel counter, with a distinctive spiked appearance. The original Yeezy 2’s came in both platinum and red colorways.
It would be another two years before the rumored third colorway would make its way onto the market. This release, known as “Red October,” remains the most exclusive of any Yeezy release to date. It would be the final time that Kanye collaborated with Nike on a release.
The Adidas Yeezy
As it turned out, Kanye didn’t have as much creative input into the design process as he wanted while working with Nike. He moved to Adidas because, in addition to more creative freedom, they were willing to pay him royalties. Their first collaboration would be the Yeezy Boost 750, a high-fashion and streetwear mashup in two colorways.
This is the first iteration of the Yeezy to feature Kanye’s innovative lacing system. It utilized the Adidas Boost technology for added comfort and featured a side zipper and Ye’s signature chunky strap.
These sneakers did so well that Adidas produced them in three more colorways. Furthermore, a knit version of the Yeezy, the “turtledove,” came out shortly after. By the end of 2015, Kanye would be working with Adidas to produce duck boots in a military-style.
By 2016, Adidas had released the Yeezy Boost 350 V2, featuring a stripe and the words SPLY-350. Over the years, Adidas would manufacture this version in more than twenty distinct colorways. Several of these were exclusive regional releases and are exceedingly rare.
Most recently, Kanye entered what we can only call his “dad shoe” phase, which includes the release of both the Yeezy 500 and Yeezy 700. These shoes aren’t seen as valuable and don’t come with any of the features that Yeezy’s featured in the past. As a result, they aren’t worth much.
This seems to be part of Kanye’s new aesthetic. They’ll probably go well with the simple $90 Gap Sweatshirt he’s recently released.
What’s Next for Sneakerheads?
A few other small releases have come out since the 500 and 700, but sneakerheads are still waiting for the next big, valuable drop. With so much evolution, there’s no doubt that Kanye has something big on the horizon. Make sure to check your social media to anticipate when the next big release is coming!
Can’t wait that long? Check out the rest of the blog for more fashion news. You might find the next pair of kicks for your collection!