Blame it on Kanye

An ob­ser­va­tion on the sneaker x mu­sic en­dorse­ment boom.

Esquire (Singapore) - - Man At His Best -


the first col­lab­o­ra­tion with A Bathing Ape in 2007 to the ini­tial dab­bling in high-end fash­ion with Louis Vuit­ton in 2009, Kanye West has changed the sneaker game. What­ever you might feel about him per­son­ally, there’s no dis­put­ing that Yeezy’s cre­ative out­put in the realm of footwear has been phe­nom­e­nal.

Let the fact sink in that he is the first non-ath­lete to have his own sneaker model with Nike. A de­sign of his own, mind you, that he fully con­cep­tu­alised, sketched and de­signed him­self—not an ex­ist­ing model that he was al­lowed to colour in or add flour­ishes to. The re­sult­ing two mod­els of Nike Air Yeezys re­leased in 2009 and 2012 gained global no­to­ri­ety for sell­ing out in mere sec­onds.

This for­mula hasn’t lost its magic one bit since West de­fected to Adi­das. The “cre­ative free­dom and con­trol” granted by the Ger­man sports­wear gi­ant in 2014, al­low­ing him to do what­ever the hell he wants, has re­sulted in four new de­signs be­ing re­leased in just over a year. The ma­nia has con­tin­ued to grow with each re­lease across the globe.

I wit­nessed first-hand over 3,500 peo­ple stand­ing out­side the Adi­das Orig­i­nals store in Sin­ga­pore on a Satur­day morn­ing, wait­ing to see if they would be se­lected via bal­lot to pur­chase the SGD560 Kanye Boost 750. Some­one man­aged to score a pair and flipped it im­me­di­ately in the back al­ley for nearly 10 times the orig­i­nal re­tail price .

West’s sen­ti­ments on his ac­ri­moni- ous split from Nike are well doc­u­mented, most no­tably in the track “Facts” from The Life of Pablo, in which Yeezus boasts that he’s “jumped over Jump­man” (i.e. sur­passed Michael Jor­dan’s Nike sales), and that Nike “can’t give shit away”. He also ob­serves that, if not for Drake, Nike would “have noth­ing”.

Ex­ag­ger­a­tions cer­tainly, and a very clever dig at the fact that Nike only has Drake on its cur­rent mu­sic en­dorse­ment ros­ter com­pared to Adi­das’ lineup that in­cludes West, Phar­rell Wil­liams, Rita Ora, Pusha T and Se­lena Gomez. Not all that sur­pris­ing, given the lat­ter’s long-stand­ing his­tory with mu­si­cians, such as Run-DMC, Missy El­liot and Snoop Dogg.

Other sports­wear giants have sim­i­larly fol­lowed suit. Ree­bok now has Ken­drick La­mar as its global brand am­bas­sador while Puma’s big­gest sign- ing is Ri­hanna with her own wom­en­fo­cused line. It’s in­ter­est­ing to see sneaker sales add an ex­tra di­men­sion to the bat­tle be­tween pop stars: does the beef be­tween Drake (Nike/Jor­dan Brand) and Meek Mill (Puma) spill over into who’s got bet­ter-sell­ing col­lab kicks?

Brands would be wise not to get car­ried away try­ing to col­lect mu­sic en­dorsees like Poké­mons in the hope of land­ing the next Kanye-ef­fect golden goose. Just google “Tiesto Sneaker” and brace your­self for the ugli­est piece of ish you couldn’t pay me to wear.

Will the bub­ble of mu­si­cian-en­dorsed sneak­ers burst? With West ink­ing his very own col­lab­o­ra­tive brand with Adi­das in June, the frenzy cer­tainly shows no signs of cool­ing down. As the world turns, it watches and fol­lows Mr West’s ev­ery move.

Words by Jonathan Fong

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