This has been something I have thought about lately. And it is quite the interesting dynamic. In between the Yeezy Season 1 release in late October and the ‘Moonrock’ Adidas Yeezy 350 Boost from November…the timing could not have been any better. As I sat and I thought to myself upon seeing a peculiar headline; and upon giving that headline some thought, the picture began to take focus. Is it well outside of the realm of possibility or even reality that Kanye West is becoming a transcending figure in the sneaker industry?
I will not go as far to say that Yeezy has jumped over the Jumpman. But in a way, West has become that generational figure for the younger generation (those born after 1993). For years now it has felt that the early on, the older generation and those of my generation had a difficult time adjusting to the evolving sneaker landscape. With time we have adjusted, but from those sneakerheads before me and even in my golden era; we did not have to deal with raffle and RSVP drawing systems and etc. Unlike the sneakerheads of the current generation. Our figure was Michael Jordan; he was the standard bearer bar none in the sneaker industry. The face of the sneaker culture. Granted there was Ken Griffery, Jr., Deion Sanders, Allen Iverson, Charles Barkley, Andre Agassi and more…but these faces were the faces of athletes. Not entertainers such as today’s fixtures of Drake or Kanye West.
But again, that is just the evolution of the current sneaker culture and landscape. The reason Jordan was so revered was because his sneakers were unique, fresh, nothing like we had ever seen before. And coupled with that were the moments…you remember “The Shot” or “The Last Shot” that you could associate to what Jordan wore that game or in that specific awe inspiring moment. That is something you do not have with the entertainers and performers who have their own collaborative efforts; but what you do have is that entertainer him/herself. Their image is what you have; their records, their performances is what you have to cling to. Which is what makes the Kanye West odyssey so unique and trailblazing.
Because Kanye West was not afraid to go against the grain when coming on to the scene in the mid-2000s among tall tees and snap music and gangsta rap at its peak…West showed up in Ralph Lauren with a Louis Vuitton backpack as the college dropout. Fast forward about five years later; West drops a successful collaboration with Louis Vuitton and with Nike. Which opened West to a whole new audience. Granted this is the same guy who was photographed with the straps undone on his ‘Aqua’ Air Jordan 8s or his ‘Infrared’ Air Jordan 6 that felt like he wore everywhere. So, West is no stranger at all to being fashion forward or even in some ways a fashion icon. Which has translated in his current stint with Adidas.
After all, many did not know what to expect from the combination of Adidas x Kanye West. Sure he had created his own unique signatures with Nike…but that borrowed from some notable established Nike designs. But, West for some time leading into the partnership with Adidas was extremely vocal about designing clothing…which opened the door for Yeezy Season. A vision of West’s from his imagination and personal taste…in a metaphorical sense, it was the physical embodiment of years of rejection by the fashion world to what West had to offer. A collection, an assortment that covered a bevy of avenues…winter boots, comfortable low-tops, new aged styled high-tops and loose fitting clothing that has found West carving out his own niche. Unlike the Nike Yeezys, the Adidas Yeezys differ greatly in the sense that it is not as much about the two co-collaborators but rather the two acting in a symphonic harmony which has allowed West to grow his stake and solidify his name as a designer. With minimal branding in rather obscure places on each of the Yeezy Boost releases, the models feel to be more Kanye’s than Adidas’. Placing the Three Stripes in a position of host rather than curator. And in turn, helping push West and propel him forward as a force in the fashion/footwear industry.
Here we have an artist, a rapper in West, who has found himself as this age’s face of footwear. A position that for all intents and purposes is still occupied by Michael Jordan but across a broader spectrum. In the sense that there is a whole generation of people who have only seen Michael Jordan in his environment, performing his craft via YouTube…as opposed to West who’s rise is fresher from a time perspective, as only 11-years separates us from his debut album. But just in that same way, West has captivated his own audience, his own legion that is witness to his individual and unique greatness. Much in the way we witnessed Jordan’s.
It is safe to say if West is not leaving a generational impact at this very moment…he most certainly will if West continues on the current path and trajectory. Just on merit as a transcending figure alone. Couple that along with successful fashion and footwear ventures like that of 2015, it will prove interesting to see exactly what legacy is to come especially when we start chronicling the more notable and influential sneaker figures and personalities in history. Adding the “Shoe of the Year” Award from Footwear News is certainly a nice notch in the belt of West. Just like most things in the sneaker industry and culture…only time will tell what that impact and legacy will be.