A Brief History of Kanye West Sneakers

A Brief History of Kanye West Sneakers

Kanye West’s YEEZY sneakers in collaboration with Adidas Originals have been some of the hottest kicks in the game since the first release of the YEEZY 750 on the 23rd of February, 2015. Since then, Ye has expanded his line to include a plethora of new silhouettes including the 350, 350 V2, 700, 700 V2, 500, Calabasas and more such as the 451 and YEEZY Basketball sneakers set to release in the near future. With so many Yeezys and so many new colourways, a lot of sneaker heads are beginning to feel a saturation of the market. With the death of Yeezy hype seeming imminent, it may be a good time to take a trip down memory lane and look back at Kanye West’s many signature sneakers over the years.

Ye x Nike Part 1: Air 180 “College Dropout” (2006)

Source: https://globalgrind.cassiuslife.com/playlist/a-history-of-kanye-west-sneaker-collaborations-list/item/1

Kanye’s first signature sneaker was in collaboration with none other than sneaker and sportswear behemoth Nike. The shoe was Ye’s take on Nike’s Air Max 180 and was created in celebration of Kanye’s debut album “College Dropout”. The sneaker consisted of a primarily black upper with hits of pink, blue, yellow and even leopard print making the sneaker pop. The outsole is a light blue and the laces and tongue are white with Kanye’s famous “Dropout Bear” logo on the tongue.

The sneaker was an extremely limited f&f release and was made in only size 12, Ye’s size. Since they were so limited, these shoes are pretty much impossible to find. Rumour has it that only 24 pairs were ever made, though the real number may be even lower, but every once in a while a sample pops up online for a crazy price.

Kanye West x Bape “Dropout Bear” Bapesta (2007)

Source: Google Images

Kanye West’s next collaborator was none other than world famous Tokyo streetwear label A Bathing Ape. Founded by streetwear legend Nigo in 1993, A Bathing Ape, or BAPE, has gone on to become one of the biggest labels in streetwear. Though originally from Japan, BAPE was and remains an extremely popular brand within hip-hop culture due to the likes of Pharell, Jay Z and Tunechi and therefore was quite a good fit to collaborate with Ye.

The sneaker chosen for the collab is none other than the iconic Bapesta. This sneaker is essentially BAPE’s version of an Air Force 1 with the swoosh swapped out for the BAPE shooting star and the word AIR on the midsole swapped out for APE. The sneaker features a brown, cream and orange colour scheme, again with the Dropout Bear present, this time on the heel. The sneaker is extremely rare and extremely sought after with pairs on StockX listed for over $4000.

Reebok S. Carter “Kanye West” Collection (2008)

Source: https://www.nicekicks.com/reebok-s-carter-kanye-west-collection-available-ebay/

Yet another unreleased addition to this list is the Kanye West and Reebok collaboration that barely anyone knows about. The dropout bear makes its third appearance, this time embroidered onto the heel of the Jay-Z’s forgotten S. Carter signature Reebok shoe. The collection consists of 4 pairs of promo samples, presumably made only for Ye. All 4 sneakers are covered in bold colours of patent leather and are most definitely a statement piece. Despite this, these shoes are most definitely Ye’s least exciting, and most forgettable sneaker to date.

Ye Goes Luxe: Kanye West x Louis Vuitton (2009)

Source: https://www.highsnobiety.com/2009/06/30/kanye-west-x-louis-vuitton-sneaker-collection-the-complete-line-up/#slide-14

Kanye’s next sneaker comes in collaboration with none other than the world famous French luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton. Long before the era of Virgil, Kanye released a sneaker collection with LV which comprised of three signature models. Unlike the other sneakers on this list, these sneakers were not just signature colorways, but each sneaker was designed by West himself.

The first sneaker in the collection was the “Mr.Hudson”. The sneaker’s name pays tribute to a British musician of the same name who signed to Ye’s very own GOOD Music in its early days. Mr.Hudson and Kanye worked together on iconic albums such as 2008’s 808’s and Heartbreak and even the iconic Ye and Jigga collaborative project Watch The Throne. The shoe itself fuses two very different kinds of shoes for one of the most unique sneakers Ye has ever designed. The upper of the shoe took the design of a loafer- tassels and all- and added features such as a padded heel and a thick midsole to make it more snakelike. This unique shoe never fails to turn heads.

The second sneaker is the “Don”, named after Chicago legend Don C. Before Don C and Nike collaborated on the AF1 and Jordan 2 and before Don had his own signature silhouette in the Legacy 312 he was Kanye’s manager, and what better way to show your appreciation and love for your manager than to name a sneaker after him. This sneaker is a little more subtle silhouette wise than the Mr.Hudson featuring a more classic sneaker design with suede and leather panelling on the upper and the padded, over-exaggerated heel tab seen throughout the collection. The Don was also the first Kanye sneaker to feature the all red colorway, which later evolved into the Red October colorway.

The last sneaker, and arguably the most hyped, is the “Jasper”, named after Kanye’s barber Ibn Jasper. A high top made of premium leather and suede, the “Jasper” was a luxury sneaker in the truest sense of the word. The sneaker was essentially just a high top version of the Don but featuring some unique and distinct features, most noticeably the lace cross strap, which would come to be the defining feature of any of the future Kanye collabs and even features on Don C’s signature nike shoe, the Legacy 312. Ibn Jasper himself later went on to collaborate on sneakers with the likes of Diamond Supply Co. , keeping the Jasper line alive.

Ye x Nike Part 2: Air Yeezy 1 (2009)

Source: https://www.aiobot.com/nike-yeezy-vs-adidas-yeezy/

Kanye’s first signature shoe with sportswear and sneaker behemoth Nike comes in the form of the Nike Air Yeezy 1 and marks the beginning of Ye’s rocky relationship with the swoosh. This high top sneaker looks like a sort of reworked, modern version of the L.V. Jasper, featuring quite a few similarities in shape and design. The sneaker of course sports the famous lace cross strap and also features and air unit in the sole. With this sneaker Kanye west moved away from his luxury efforts with L.V. and went with a more sportswear/lifestyle direction, one which would come to define most of his future collaborations with both Nike and Adidas.

First teased at the 2008 Grammy’s in the black colorway, sneaker heads were unsure whether the samples were ever actually going to see a wide release. Naturally, when they did release sneaker heads went crazy and these sneakers can still to this day be seen selling for crazy prices.

Ye x Nike Part 3: Air Yeezy 2 (2012)

Source: https://stockx.com/air-yeezy-2-solar-red

Finally arriving 3 years after Kanye and Nike’s initial offering is the Air Yeezy 2. This shoe was quite unique to say the least. It featured the sole unit of the Air Tech Challenge II and boasted an upper featuring panelling consisting of mesh, suede and ever reptilian scale textures and a unique ribbed/warped heel design. This shoe is a more abstract, and way better looking version of the Air Yeezy 1 and can often be seen selling for way higher prices. The Air Yeezy 2 is no doubt the first, and sometimes only shoe that comes to mind when talking about Kanye West’s stint with Nike. Two years after the original drop of the Air Yeezy 2 in 2014 Kanye dropped another colorway, The “Red October”. These are to date some of the most illusive, and most expensive pairs of Yeezy sneakers and definitely my personal favourite (after the frozen yellow 350s of course).

Sadly, this is the last shoe that Ye ever created with Nike. In an interview with The Breakfast Club’s Charlamagne tha God, Ye said his departure from Nike was “heartbreaking”. The reasons for the termination of his relationship with the swoosh was a lack of communication and the fact that Nike refused to pay Ye royalties on the sale of the Yeezys.

This has been the history of all of Kanye’s pre-Adidas sneakers. With the large number of Yeezys released under Adidas, it is impossible to cover them all in one list. If you would like to see a part 2 of this list covering Kanye x Adidas, be sure to let me know in the comments below.

Featured image source: https://www.highsnobiety.com/p/kanye-west-coachella-sunday-service-grass/

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