In Kanye Wests track Facts from his 2016 album The Life Of Pablo, he raps Yeezy, Yeezy, Yeezy just jumped over Jumpman. Whether or not you agree with this bold statement is up to you, but there is absolutely no question that Mr Wests Yeezy moniker has changed the sneaker game forever, and heres a brief history of how it all started.
These days, a sneaker convention without a pair of adidas Yeezy Boosts is pretty much unthinkable, however, Yeezuss love affair with sneakers did not begin with The Brand With The Three Stripes, nor did it begin with Nike. Going back over a decade, it all kicked off in 2006 with the Kanye West x BAPE Dropout Bear Bapesta.
Unlike Kanyes style nowadays, he actually rocked some pretty colourful outfits around this time. This was perfectly reflected on his critically acclaimed Graduation album cover of 2007, which featured a slew of hypnotic colours. Designed in collaboration with Japanese streetwear label A Bathing Ape, which we all know and love, the ultra limited sneaker was actually referenced in Stronger, with the line Especially in my pastel, on my BAPE shit.
Fast forward three years, Kanye delved into the world of high fashion and was given the chance to collaborate with none other than French fashion house Louis Vuitton. Its insane to thing that eight years later, LV would team up with Supreme for a streetwear centric collaboration. Ye and Louis V worked on a trio of vastly different silhouettes, with all three sneakers being named after people who were close to Kanye at the time.
The first sneaker to come out of the collection, dubbed Don, was named after Don C, who was on one hand a DJ and on the other Kanyes tour manager. Featuring a low top silhouette, the Don was released in three distinct colourways, including a bold red one, a colourful iteration, and a black and white version. Each shoe featured a large padded heel and a clean design that was constructed from premium materials.
The second sneaker, Mr Hudson, was named after Benjamin Hudson McIldowie, who is better known by his stage name Mr Hudson. He signed a record deal with Kanye's GOOD Music label and was subsequently featured as a prominent composer on 2008s 808s & Heartbreak album. Resembling a slipper or a boat shoe, the crep was released in a duo of colourways including an all white version and a grey and pink version. It also featured the large padded heel seen on the Don.
The third and final sneaker that was released as part of the Kanye West x Louis Vuitton collection was called Jasper, named after Kanyes barber Ibn Jasper. The design of these kicks were a stark departure from Kanyes other LV designs, featuring a high top silhouette that made use of a pair of chunky straps that wrapped around the shoe. Made available in three colourways, including an off white one, a grey and pink version, and an all black iteration, the Jasper was without a doubt the most sought after sneaker that came out of the collaboration.
At around the same time, the Air Yeezy era began. Made in collaboration with Nike, the Nike Air Yeezy debuted at the 2008 Grammy Awards, and featured a murdered out colourway paired with a translucent sole unit and a bright crimson lace lock. This crep had the sneaker community buzzing, and many believe that the Air Yeezy was the foundation that the hypebeast culture is built upon. Although the Air Yeezy Grammy was never released to the public, it paved the way to the Air Yeezy I which dropped in three different colourways and featured the strap that could have been inspired by the Jasper.
Three years later, as if out of nowhere, Kanye released the second generation of the Air Yeezy, appropriately dubbed the Air Yeezy II. Taking the idea of the original Air Yeezy and turning it into a more casual sneaker, Kanye created a shoe that was similar but not quite the same. Gone was the fairly conservative styling of the original in favour of an insane crep that was made solely to turn heads. Featuring a technical strap across the upper, the Air Yeezy II adopted a spiky heel counter which kind of mirrored fashion designer Hussein Chalayans PUMA Urban Swift that dropped the same year. The Air Yeezy II released in two different colourways, namely Platinum/Wolf Grey and Black/Solar Red.
Two years later, the coveted Red October dropped after months of cancelled releases. If you can find this shoe for a price of less than four figures then youve pretty much hit the jackpot. Not only was the Red October pure fire, it also marked the end of Kanyes collaboration with Nike. But as they say, every end is a new beginning, and the Yeezy Boost was literally just around the corner.
In 2015, adidas own Jon Wexler tooked to Twitter to shed some light on the reasoning behind Kanyes decision to leave Nike for adidas. They offered him more money than we did, and he took our offer because we offered him full creative reign. Kanye had previously hinted at this reasoning, but confirmation from an adidas executive shows how much faith The Brand With The Three Stripes had in his vision, and boy, was it worth it.
Hot off the heels of the Nike Air Yeezy II Red October, the adidas Yeezy Boost 750 was born. Perfectly blending streetwear with high fashion, the sneaker was released in an ultra clean grey and white colourway. Adopting an innovative lacing system, the Yeezy Boost 750 sported a zipper on the side and sat atop a chunky midsole which featured adidas iconic Boost technology encapsulated within it for added comfort. Of course, the kicks also made use of Kanyes signature strap which seemed to also be inspired by the Jasper of six years ago, and three more colourways dropped soon thereafter in the form of Triple Black, Grey Gum, and Chocolate.
As a second chapter of Kanyes collaborative efforts with adidas, the Yeezy Boost 350 Turtle Dove was launched in the same year. The sneaker featured a low top silhouette, and was infused with adidas Primeknit technology for a more comfortable fit. This was further accentuated with the addition of the same Boost midsole that was previously seen on the 750. Although its looks were questioned at first, it quickly gained traction in the sneaker community, and before long, people started camping out for this shoe all over the world. Many believe that it was around this time that the name Yeezy became the epitome of hype. Three other colourways would soon follow the Turtle Dove, namely Moonrock, Oxford Tan and of course, the highly sought after Pirate Black.
At the end of 2015, Kanye introduced a completely new model with the Yeezy 950 Duckboot as part of his Yeezy Season 1 collection. Focusing on outdoor functionality, the new silhouette was heavily influenced by boots worn in the military. If youve never heard of the 950, then we really dont blame you. Straying away from the typical sneaker silhouette, the Duckboot didnt get as much hype as its other Yeezy counterparts. To add to this, the 950 had a retail price tag of around £400, scaring a lot of people off. Like the Yeezy 750 and 350, the 950 dropped in a bunch of colourways, including Pirate Black, Moonrock, Chocolate, and the never before seen Peyote.
At the dawn of 2016, the second generation of Yeezy Boost 350s were introduced. Aptly named the Yeezy Boost 350 V2, Kanye took the old 350 design and modified it slightly, with news additions such as a coloured stripe down the lateral side and a beefed up midsole. The first 350 V2 to drop was the Beluga, which sported a predominantly grey Primeknit upper with a vibrant orange stripe running through it. It also had a unique pattern that was affectionately dubbed zebra stripes and a thick translucent midsole which was unlike anything we had seen before. To add to this, the Yeezy Boost 350 V2 was the first Yeezy to feature the words SPLY-350. To this day, no one really knows what this means, but some believe that it stands for Saint Pablo Loves You, named after Kanyes 2016 album The Life Of Pablo. Others believe that it literally means Supply 350.
Without a doubt, the Beluga was met with incredibly positive reception, and sneakerheads everywhere adored it. As the old saying goes, if it aint broke, dont fix it, and Kanye did just this. To follow up the major success of the first 350 V2, four new colourways dropped. Painted in black, the Black Friday pack was made up of Red, Green, Copper, and the ever so popular Black/White, which came out around the holiday season. Even to this day, the Black Fridays are some of the rarest Yeezys ever made and youre lucky if you copped for retail.
At the start of 2017, one year after the Yeezy Boost 350 V2 was introduced to the world, Kanye dropped the so called Bred. Featuring a minimalist design, the iconic lateral stripe was removed in a favour of an understated aesthetic. The words SPLY-350 are present on the side panel highlighted in a bold red, and this is complemented by red stitching seen on the brand new heel tab. The Bred was a fresh design that hypebeasts everywhere loved, and it quickly became one of the most popular Yeezys ever.
In the same month, the coveted Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Zebra was released into the wild in very limited quantities, and because of this, a massive amount of hype built around this sneaker. Featuring an all white upper, the Zebra took design cues from the Beluga, including the iconic black striping and the stripe down the lateral. The words SPLY-350 are also present here, as well as the heel tab seen previously on the Bred. Resell for these creps went sky high, but fell rapidly once the Zebra was restocked in June 2017.
As summer 2017 arrived, Kanye dropped the Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Cream. One of the easiest Yeezys to cop, the Cream opened many doors for sneaker customisers everywhere. The all white canvas allowed artists to show off their raw talent with one of Yeezuss very own creations, and without a doubt, the Cream was one of the most popular sneakers to flex in the hot summer days.
As hype for the Yeezy Boost 350 V2 slowed down, Kanye dropped a bombshell on the sneaker community. As part of his brand new Calabasas collection, Ye released the Calabasas Powerphase. A shoe that was heavily inspired by adidas sneakers from the 1980s, it features an all white colourway constructed of a supple leather, and even had a gold foil Calabasas logo that seemed to be plucked straight out of adidass 80s archives. The Powerphase faced a mixed reaction from the sneaker community, and many even compared it to budget Reebok sneakers. However, that didnt stop resellers from jacking the prices up to £1000.
In August 2017, Kanye officially unveiled a brand new silhouette. Dubbed the Yeezy Boost 700 Wave Runner, the sneaker featured a hugely different aesthetic that weve never seen from Ye. Following the new trend of chunky dad shoes, the 700 is reminiscent of old school skate shoes and 90s-era adidas models. With a multi coloured lateral and medial and accents of grey, black, and blue scattered throughout, the Wave Runner actually features Boost technology encapsulated within the thick midsole.
Although many sneakerheads were quick to call the Yeezy Boost 700 Wave Runner ugly, it should be mentioned that many called the original 350 out on its looks too. Looking back, however, it was the 350 that singlehandedly propelled adidas to become one of the most relevant fashion brands to date. In fact, ugly shoes are something that we should celebrate and be thankful for, because without sneakers like the 350 and the 700, who knows what the sneaker game wouldve been like today.