A complete history of Kanye West’s venture into sneakers


Photo: StockX

Kanye West started his venture into sneakers back in 2007, collaborating with his friend Nigo, and his popular street wear brand Bape. The sneaker was a college dropout themed Bapesta, the brands version of Nike’s Air Force 1, and clearly it was a success, as it has since resold for over $10,000. This was Kanye’s first step, and following its success, it was clear he was ready for a more challenging task.

His next endeavor came in 2009, when West decided to work with Nike to create his own shoe, dubbed the Nike Air Yeezy 1. It came in 3 colorways, Zen Grey, Blink, and Net Tan, and was extremely popular. It was at this point that sneakerheads started to take notice of Kanye’s products, no longer as a one time collab, or because it was Kanye West designing them, but because they were genuinely nothing like anything else on the market. They stood out from the crowd with their braggadocios design that fit the rapper well, and people wanted the same look.

Then in 2012, Nike and Kanye would make their final signature shoe together, known as the Nike Air Yeezy 2, and this time the world would go crazy about them. The 3 years of anticipation had payed off, with the sneaker receiving a great reception. It was originally released in two colorways, Solar Red, and Pure Platinum, and story’s came out of consumers camping out at consignment stores to get a pair. Then, 2 years later, once West had already separated with Nike, an unreleased colorway that he had worn a while ago was released as a surprise drop, and yet in 11 minutes it was completely sold out. They were called the Red October’s  and were dressed completely in red, except for gold aglets on the laces, and the shoe has quickly become a “grail” for many sneaker heads.

Between the release of the Air Yeezy 1 and 2 however, Kanye West worked with designer brand Louis Vuitton, a dream collaboration for the Chicago native, and created 2 shoes names the Dons and the Jaspers. Now reselling for thousands of dollars, both shoes were successful, thanks to their bold and chunky style that was popular at the time, but when people look back on Kanye West’s career as a designer, these shoes are often skipped over. This may be because they had less cultural importance, or because they were made by a designer brand, but considering how much this meant to Kanye, especially since he has been so outspoken about his dream to work for the brand, it is important they are mentioned. To show how much he wanted to work with Louis Vuitton, in an interview with Forbes, he stated that when Virgil Abloh was made artistic director for the brand, he was conflicted, although he was happy for his friend, he felt like it should of been him.

As time went on though, Kanye West started to fall out with Nike, as he wanted more of a say and wanted his creativity to be less restricted, so in 2013 he signed  a deal with Adidas. Two year later, he debuted his first shoe with the brand, called the Adidas Yeezy Boost 750. It was a high-top model but was released in only dull tones, making it a lot more subtle than the Air Yeezy’s. It also released at a time when Boost cushioning became very sought after, which would have helped tremendously with sales of the shoe. Although it was definitely popular, the zips on the side often jammed and broke, and the $350 retail price put many people off the shoe, so in October of 2016, the 750 released for the final time, giving way to the increasingly popular Yeezy 350.

Not long after the release of the 750, the Yeezy Boost 350 was released, which very quickly became the line’s number one seller. They were nothing like Kanye’s previous works, instead sporting a runner shoe style, rather than the high-cut basketball inspired models he had made in the past . The upper was made with Primeknit, and the sole featured Boost, just like the UltraBoost that was popular at the time. The sneaker was immensely successful, turning Yeezy into a household name. It was made in 5 colorways, as well as being turned into a cleat for football, before it gave way to its successor, the Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2.

Originally releasing in late 2016 in a “Beluga” colorway, Kanye had new ideas on where he wanted his sneaker line to go. In the past he had made limited runs of his shoes, and by keeping them rare, his shoes were held with high esteem, becoming some of the most sought after shoes in the world, however West no longer wanted that. He now had a family, and 100% ownership of his company, and wanted to do the opposite of what he had spent the last 9 years doing, he wanted to make the shoes easy to get hold of. West decided that he wanted every sneaker head to have the chance to get a pair of the Yeezy Boost 350 V2, so instead of keeping them limited, he released them 41 times, with more coming in the future. Of course the shoes were still sought after, but now people could actually get hold of them, making Kanye West a very rich man.

His most recent endeavors have been the Adidas Yeezy Boost 700 and 500, that both rock a different style once again. With a lot chunkier builds, the shoes were designed to fill the rising demand for “Dad shoes” at the time. Although not nearly as popular as the 350 V2, the shoes still sell out to this day and have shown West’s versatility in creating sneakers.

After covering 13 years of Kanye West sneakers, we are up to the present day, and West does not look like stopping anytime soon. He has recently released the Yeezy Boost 380, that is similar in style to the 350’s, as well as the Yeezy Quantum, his first performance basketball sneaker. Kanye has also recently been officially announced to be a billionaire, with the majority of his net worth being attributed to his Yeezy line. He has been very successful, challenging even Michael Jordan’s empire, and as he continues to make more silhouettes and release more shoes, it looks like the only way is up for Kanye West.