Kanye West is easily one of the most influential artists of all-time. Of course, if you’re a hip-hop fan, you know this already. Regardless, it’s sometimes easy to forget what Kanye has accomplished in the world of music when you consider his recent behavior, as well as his efforts to become the President of the United States. While these attempts at winning public office have been thwarted, West remains influential in various domains outside of music. Fashion and sneakers are the two areas that usually come to mind first. With the help of Adidas, Kanye has turned his Yeezy brand into a billion-dollar enterprise, and it’s clear that he has no plans on slowing down, anytime soon.
West’s success in the music industry had everything to do with his ability at thinking outside of the box. On classic albums like 808s And Heartbreak and Yeezus, Kanye brought new sounds into the mainstream. While some music listeners were taken aback by these projects at first, they eventually came around and heralded these pieces of art as classics. As a trusted name in the music industry, Kanye has been afforded the opportunity to get even more experimental. With The Life Of Pablo, Kanye continued to make edits to the music in real-time, post-release, leading to a new listening experience every time you opened up the album. With Ye, Kanye offered up a more abstract approach to his production, all before going full gospel on Jesus Is King. While these new sounds can be polarizing, fans continue to support it because…well, it’s Kanye. There has always been a method to his madness and fans want to see how far he will continue to push the boundaries of music. When it comes to his sneakers, Kanye has taken the exact same approach and has been afforded that same leeway, except now it’s sneakerheads giving him the carte blanche to do as he pleases.
Image via StockX
Back in 2015, Kanye began revealing his Yeezy designs to the world, and for the most part, they were quite tame, at least in retrospect. The Yeezy Boost 750 was a massive success upon its release and when he followed that up with the Adidas Yeezy Boost 350, fans were yearning to get their hands on Yeezy’s new and unique designs. The Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 proved to be a more experimental version of the 350, although it was clear that Kanye still had room to get even wilder with what he was doing. Fans didn’t have to wait long for Kanye to go there either, as he unveiled the Adidas Yeezy Boost 700 “Wave Runner” in 2017. At the time, the shoe was panned by fans who felt like the sneaker was made for dads who need something to mow the lawn in. Just like some of his most influential albums, fans weren’t sure what to make of it upon its immediate release. After months of being able to digest what they had just seen, sneakerheads eventually came around to the “Wave Runner,” and now, it’s considered one of the best Yeezys ever made. In fact, the “Wave Runner” is so influential that it’s forced competing brands to come through with dad sneakers of their own, launching a trend that has yet to die down.
Following the success of the Yeezy Boost 700, Kanye quickly realized that he can release anything, and people are going to (eventually) love it. For instance, he continued the lineage of the Yeezy Boost 700 by creating the chunkier and heavier V2, which was then followed up by a futuristic and Boostless V3. In a similar fashion as its predecessor, these shoes were laughed at when they were first revealed, but eventually, as with all things Kanye, fans came around, and now, every new colorway of these kicks seem to sell out on release date.
These days, it seems like Kanye is designing sneakers with the sole purpose of seeing just how far he can go before people stop buying his shoes, altogether. Perhaps the best example of this is the Adidas Yeezy Foam Runner which was teased all the way back in 2019 and sold out instantly during a surprise drop back in June. The shoe is known for looking like a pair of crocs from outer space, and to this day, Kanye still believes the Foam Runner is the future of sneakers. During a conversation with Joe Rogan, Kanye touted the shoe’s extra-terrestrial design and how the laceless technology is what makes it so great. Quite frankly, the shoe isn’t exactly the most fashionable item one could own, and it’s certainly not the nicest either. Having said that, fans were curious enough about these to go out and buy them, which is a testament to Kanye’s power when it comes to branding and name-recognition. Because the Foam Runner is being sold by Kanye, it receives the benefit of the doubt most designers just simply wouldn’t have. West seems well-aware of this, as some of his more recent designs seem to be even more bizarre than the Foam Runner.
In a sense, Kanye has been able to receive the same type of devotion from his music fans, as his fellow sneakerheads. When Kanye drops a new song, you can be sure there will be some stans on r/hip-hopheads, doing their best to defend it, no matter how controversial. Meanwhile, whenever a new sneaker design leaks online, there is always a huge swarm of hypebeasts on your local Facebook buy/sell group, explaining why Kanye is a God and you should buy everything he sells. Whether you or disagree with these opinions, it’s clear that Kanye’s brand is as strong as ever, and no matter how unorthodox he gets with his music or his shoes, there are always going to be millions of people who are ready to buy-in.
Say what you will, but achieving such a devoted fanbase in just one domain is impressive enough. Doing it in two, however, is something rarely seen by even the biggest of names.