Yeezy Season: A Ranking of Kanye West’s Signature Sneakers

  • Nike Air Yeezy 1
    5. Nike Air Yeezy 1

    With all due respect to ‘Ye’s first signature release under the Nike umbrella, the Yeezy 1 doesn’t quite feel like a Kanye shoe. It’s not that it’s bad by any stretch–but doesn’t it sort of look like a shoe that could’ve very easily been made without West’s involvement?

    Some of the personal touches are there–the textured cross-strap, the vertically-dissected upper–but it doesn’t quite feel like his. The Yeezy I know is bold and adventurous, and this one felt like it was a little too safe. (It’s still dope.)

    West debuted a blackout, sample edition of his first Nike sneaker during his Grammy performance in 2008, shortly after the passing of his mother. The shoes garnered as much if not more attention than his tribute to mom, with the sneaker community buzzing for months as to whether the shoe would ever be released for public consumption. How could you not jones for that murdered-out look with the eye-popping lace lock?

    The Air Yeezy 1 was–eventually–announced and released for a thirsty public, but the now infamous Grammy version was not. This pair was auctioned off in September of ’09, with proceeds benefitting Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

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  • 4. Kanye West for Louis Vuitton “Jasper”

    The self-proclaimed “Louis-Vuitton don” had several other collaborations with the French fashion house, but none with the importance of the Jasper model that dropped back in 2009. Early installments in the Louis V. line were a far cry from what’s become his signature look–the Mr. Hudson faux-loafer was particularly off-the-wall–but things began to round into form here.

    Named after ‘Ye’s barber, Ibn Jasper, this was the first shoe that included the monstrous cross-straps that have become synonymous with Yeezy sneakers. Slap that on top of premium leather and a suede upper, and you have yourself a fantastic shoe.

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  • adidas Yeezy Boost

    adidas

    3. adidas Yeezy 750 Boost

    The jury is still out on what the legacy of the Yeezy 750 Boost will be–only time will tell on that front–but you’d be hard pressed to find a recent shoe whose mere reveal sparked more buzz.

    Not all of it was good (check the memes if you don’t believe me), but West’s latest creation merges the styles we’ve known him for with a more sensible, mature look. Rather than the long-running infrared elements, his first adidas production is understated, using gratuitous suede and almost zero recognizable insignia to take after the high-fashion designers he’s chasing.

    It’s not for everyone, but it was an important step for the burgeoning designer.

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  • Nike

    2. Nike Air Yeezy 2

    There are elements of greatness in the rest of West’s collection, but this one has everything.

    A prototype emerged during a guest appearance in a “Black Mamba” promotional video, and the buzz only grew from there. The Black/Solar Red colorway was so beloved that Nike saw fit to adopt it for other Nike kicks even after their partnership ended with West.

    It is perfectly Kanye in that there’s so much going on without it feeling like there’s too much. The reptilian-patterned paneling, the signature cross-strap, the Air Tech Challenge II sole, the Yeezy 2 is a beautiful sneaker.

    So beautiful, in fact, that one colorway gets a spot at the top of its own.

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  • Nike Air Yeezy 2, “Red October”
    1. Nike Air Yeezy 2, “Red October”

    “THESE THE RED OCTOBERS!” (Sorry, y’all. We just HAD to include a second Yeezy 2 colorway.)

    Nothing else compares to the release and allure of the Red October edition of the Yeezy 2. Nike unceremoniously dropped a store link from their Twitter account on a Sunday afternoon in February, and the long-awaited shoe sold out in just 11 minutes. This was a weekend that included the launch of Nike’s Kobe 9 and the Flynit Trainer Chukka FSB, two of their most innovative performance sneakers ever, and a “secret” release stole the show.

    How could they not? For a while, it looked like the only way to nab one of these shoes was in a West-backed giveaway for fans. Luckily, Nike ensured their partnership with Yeezy went out with a bang, not a whimper. Owning a pair of Red Octobers makes you part of an unprecedented moment in sneaker history–if you’re fortunate enough to own a pair, we salute you.

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  • Nike Air Yeezy 1
  • adidas Yeezy Boost
  • Nike Air Yeezy 2, “Red October”

Rappers love talking about the impact and influence they’ve had on their fellow peers, no matter the significance of the movement. Everything down to color preference has been credited to individuals–Cam’Ron made sure to let you know it only took “One glare and wink” to get people to copy his habitual pink-wearing on “Take ‘Em To Church.”

There are few in the rap game (or any other game for that matter) that can match Kanye West’s trendsetting, which spans across music, fashion, and so much more. Look at any list on celebrity style, and there’s a certainty he’s on it. He’s a musician first–he was a driving force behind the sped-up-soul sample movement in the early 2000s–but ‘Ye, who turned 38 years old today, has made it clear his eyes are on a prize far bigger than just the music.

It’s safe to say he’s achieved many of his goals. There’s a reason many think he’s had a transformative effect on sneaker culture and fashion–he has the drive, ambition, and talent to create art no one else has dreamed of yet. Say what you will about his boasts, but his aim to stand alongside the greats in multiple industries is something to admire.

Plenty of people have put their name on a sneaker–rappers included–but Yeezy’s boundary-pushing taste and boldness has made the Chicago native’s signature sneakers one of the hottest sellers, period. He’s worked with rival fashions, rubbed elbows with “high-brow” designers, and made sure you need to rock his sneakers.

To celebrate his birthday today, here’s a Ranking of Kanye West’s Signature Sneakers. Hopefully he continues to bless the world with heat for years to come.

Follow Kyle on Twitter at @kyleneubeck

image via adidas