Ahead of the official unveiling of Kanye West’s first collection with adidas tomorrow, we take a look back on Yeezy’s history of blockbuster sneaker collaborations.
Utter the words “Kanye West” and “sneakers” in the same sentence and you’re likely to be met either with frantic reaching for credit cards and Paypal accounts from fevered sneakerheads, or rolled eyes and queasy looks of disgust from the rapper’s many detractors. Like the man himself, Kanye’s contributions to the sneaker world are divisive to say the least.
With his debut collection for adidas set to be unveiled this week, we reflect on Yeezy’s long line of collaborations, brought to life by sneakerhead illustrator Stephanie Morris who has highlighted the key points of each of Kanye’s sneakers in her own inimitable style.
From his early forays into footwear with Nike and Louis Vuitton up to the blockbuster Air Yeezy series and soon-to-drop adidas line, Kanye West’s sneakers have left an indelible mark on the world of footwear. His lineage of designs, while fluctuating in line with his personal style (let us not forget, this is the man responsible for bringing shutter shades into the spotlight), all share a common flamboyance and left-field eccentricity that so many lazily co-branded projects lack these days.
FAO trigger-happy sneakerheads: before you jump to the comments section with corrections and omissions, we have only included official collaborations that were worn by the man himself – so that means no Giuseppe Zannottis or Balmains that Kanye may or may not have designed, no bespoke Huaraches for the “Glow In the Dark” tour and none of the countless Air Yeezy sample colorways that have never graced the foot of the good Lord Yeezus himself.
The first installment of Kanye West’s sneaker projects, the Nike Air 180 “College Dropout” celebrated the success of Ye’s lauded debut album and was available only in his own size 12 as a highly exclusive friends-and-family release. The shoe sported a playful mishmash of bold colors and leopard print upon the upper, with the record’s bear mascot branded on the tongue and insole. While a far cry from the game-changing pandemonium that surrounded the release of the Air Yeezy series, Ye’s spin on the often-overlooked Air 180 sneaker embodied his personal style at the time – swaggering confidence mixed with playful Ivy League pep.
Yeezy’s first shoe to officially hit retail, the “Dropout Bear” riff on the Bapesta landed right in the middle of the BAPE craze that gripped the streetwear world in the mid-2000s. A limited release but by no means as sought-after or groundbreaking as his later projects, the Air Force 1 bootleg was adorned in yet more College Dropout branding, channeling West’s fondness of BAPE’s streetwear in all its petulant, childish glory.
The Dropout bear strikes again, this time making an ignominious appearance on the heel of a dark corner of footwear history – Jay Z’s long-forgotten “S.Carter” signature Reebok shoe. The sneaker dropped in four colorways that took ’00s streetwear’s propensity for bold colors to nauseating new levels, climaxing with the luminous patent leather monstrosity you see above. Unsurprisingly, these haven’t aged well and mark a low point of Yeezus’s sartorial history, with its shutter shades and awkward forays into design with the since-abandoned “Pastelle” clothing line.
When Kanye stepped out for his 2008 Grammy performance performance which paid tribute to his recently departed mother Donda, he did so sporting a murdered-out sample colorway of his yet-to-be-released Nike debut, with a translucent sole unit and a bright crimson lace lock (the very same red that would grace the Black/Solar Red Air Yeezy 2 colorway). The sneaker never saw an official release and the sneakerhead community was buzzing with rumor on whether this new silhouette would ever see the light of day. Countless other unreleased Yeezy 1 samples have since surfaced, although none at such a pivotal moment of Kanye’s career.
After months and months of speculation and rumor regarding whether the samples seen on Kanye’s feet would ever see a public release, the Air Yeezy 1 was finally announced and (understandably) sent the sneakerhead population into a frenzy. Taking the blueprint laid out by the “Jasper” sneaker and pairing it with a vertically dissected upper and space-age textured cross-strap, the Air Yeezy 1 stepped away from the luxurious swagger of Kanye’s Louis Vuitton days and into altogether more progressive territory.
Landing three years after Ye’s initial foray with Nike, the Yeezy 2 took the Yeezy 1’s DNA into more abstract territory, marrying the Air Tech Challenge II‘s sole unit with an upper comprised of technical mesh and reptilian textured paneling, finished with a warped heel counter and signature cross-strap. On constant rotation during the blockbuster “Watch The Throne” tour, the sneaker initially dropped in two colorways (both of which sold out in a heartbeat, naturally) – the most memorable of which was the Black/Solar Red version which would later go on to appear on Air Foamposite 1 and SB Dunk releases, after Yeezy’s relationship with Nike came to an end.
A year and half after the original Air Yeezy 2 release, the closing installment of Kanye’s Nike sneakers released in February 2014 after months of speculation and cancelled release dates. By far the most coveted of Yeezy’s sneakers, with an average resell price of over $3,000, the Red Octobers marked a fitting end to Kanye’s relationship with Nike, as he finally completed his transformation into the frenziedly-outspoken, Kardashian-marrying, paparazzi-beating style icon that we know and love today (or at least love talking about).
Lightyears ahead of previous designs, the Yeezy 750 Boost marries previous designs’ cross strap, dissected upper and exaggerated silhouette with a bizarre Boost sole unit, side zips and rope laces. Sporting a gratuitous dose of visvim-esque raw suede, the sneaker features almost no branding and would not look out of place on the runways of the many highbrow designers who Kanye so openly strives to emulate. While we are yet to know the full drop details, if the hysteria surrounding the sneaker’s announcement is anything to go by these will be just as hard to get hold of as Yeezy’s previous Grail-status releases.
First released in Turtledove in June 2015, After he left Nike ,the adidas Yeezy Boost 350 was very different again – far more traditional and understated. A low-rise lightweight every day sneaker, the adidas Yeezy Boost 350 was similar to Nike Roshe Run, it’s soft look created using a one-piece primeknit construction. The shoe featured one visible line of stitching on the front, canvas detailing on the heel, black YZY detailing on the inner side and adidas boost technology in the rubber sole. Retailing for $200, the sneaker was available in a range of stores The Pirate Black colourway followed Turtle Dove in August 2015, with Moonrock released three months later，and the oxford tan release after then .
2016: Kanye unveils yeezy season 2
The Yeezy Boost 350 V2 was revealed at the Yeezy Season 3 show and was released on September 24, 2016. It is considered a remake of the previous Yeezy Boost 350 and features several outer changes, such as a different pattern, removed heel tab, and a large stripe running around the outer side of the shoe with the words “SPLY-350”. The sole also has been updated to be transparent and features full-length visibility of the boost material midsole through a grid-pattern opening on the outsole. In September they released the “Beluga” featuring an all Grey outsole and primeknit, with a large colored orange stripe with the words “SPLY-350”. On November 23, 2016, three new colorways released, “Copper”, “Green”, and “Red”, featuring an all black outsole and primeknit, with a large colored stripe with the words “SPLY-350”. A Core Black/Core White colorway, dubbed “Oreo”, was released December 17, 2016, which also featured a black outsole and prime knit, as well as a white stripe across the shoe. The black and red “bred” colorway released February 11, 2017. A “zebra” colorway was released on February 25, 2017. In April 2017, there will be a release of the colorway of this model labeled as “Triple White”.All shoe colorways have been released for a retail price of $220.