Although it may seen difficult to conclude with the current cloud hovering overhead, there was actually a moment in time when you could procure a desirable pair of sneakers with a single hundred dollar bill. In fact, depending on your choice, you might even get some change back. Maybe even enough for a couple pairs of socks, laces, or whatever your local sneaker shop pitched when you arrived at the register. Those days, however, are long gone. A good pair by present standards will run you at least two Franklin’s after tax, possibly more.
Some point the blame for this meteoric price increase squarely at the admixture of hip hop culture and high fashion, a budding genre for all intents led by its valiant hero, Kanye West. Among the early sneaker aficionados with an inkling for the finest points of fashion, West gallantly led this charge – bringing together two worlds that not so long ago only admired one another from a far. Now, though, that union has birthed a child, and that child with many offsprings of its own. West – the most robust and densely dispersed figure of this budding class – imprinted his footing first by way of sneakers. Thus, the cost structure surrounding his collaborative releases ultimately set the stage for all we see today (even if he didn’t set them), and what’s on the horizon.
Tomorrow marks the release of the adidas Yeezy Boost 350 “Black,” undoubtedly one of the most anticipated sneakers of the year. The shoe will retail for $200, a far cry in cost structure from what many believe to be a Nike Roshe Run competitor. Considering this follows the $350 adidas Yeezy Boost 750 – a subtle yet daring leap in sneaker cost – we thought it timely to chronicle the pricing history of Kanye’s collaborative footwear catalogue thus far.
A Bathing Ape Bapesta “Dropout Bear”photo by Dank Customs
Model: A Bathing Ape Bapesta “Dropout Bear” FS 001
Release Date: January 2, 2007
Following the unreleased Nike Air Max 180 “College Dropout” sample which was inspired by West’s debut album of the same name, the “Dropout Bear” Bapesta acts as Kanye’s first official retail release. And while no one will attest to an earth shattering reception upon release, this rarity cemented that fact that West would design things, the designs would be good and we’d want more of them. Dropping in very limited numbers – which now proves a very telling strategic effort – the shoe quickly rose to legend status, almost like a time sake for a moment in culture where West’s fashion sense and musical intrigue were otherworldly for the space in which he then, and now, holds firm as a dominant luminary.
Nike Air Yeezy 1
Colorway: “Zen Grey”
Release Date: April 1, 2009
Release Date: May 2, 2009
Release Date: June 1, 2009
On bended knee, in all black, emotional as ever, a grieving Kanye West debuted the Nike Air Yeezy at the 2008 Grammy Awards. Offering the first clear viewing of the “Grammy” sample, Kanye had produced a provocative, daring and sporty shoe wholly foundational to anything that had come before. The progressive build leaped beyond current trends and defied conformity with effortlessness. As did the $215 price point. Now, to be fair, it wasn’t utterly insane to pay $215 for a limited pair of sneakers in 2009 when the inaugural colorway hit retailers. More than anything else, it was simply that this was his first with Nike – almost as if to say, “this shoe is so good we could have priced it at $315, but we’ll start here.” Instantly the industry had been ignited, reinvigorated. And artist collaborations would almost never again mirror inline cost structure.
Kanye West for Louis Vuittonimage: daily gloss
Model: Louis Vuitton Jaspers
Release Date: July, 1, 2009
Model: Louis Vuitton Dons
Release Date: July 1, 2009
Model: Louis Vuitton Hudsons
Release Date: July 1, 2009
If you take nothing else from Kanye West for Louis Vuitton, know that he reinvented what Run DMC had executed to perfection decades prior. Wear a shoe, support a brand, even nickname yourself after them, and ultimately you might get a deal out of it. Kanye West x LV was monumental for hip hop and sneaker culture. It was the first time that a major fashion house had given, in this case, a kid from Chicago an opportunity to collaborate on a shoe. Mind you, one with no industry credentials, design school degree or significant financial backing. West, again, had broken new ground. Yet, what many thought was incredibly lofty pricing for the collection was completely in line with Louis Vuitton price points for previous athletic-inspired footwear. Ranging from $840 upwards to $1,140, Kanye was raising taste levels while cost shifted in accordance with that hike.
Nike Air Yeezy 2
Colorway: “Solar Red”
Release Date: June 9, 2012
Colorway: “Pure Platinum”
Release Date: June 9, 2012
Colorway: “Red October”
Release Date: February 9, 2014
With a three-year interval for the follow-up to the Air Yeezy 1, and alleged turmoil between West and Nike over design immunity, it’s debatable that the Air Yeezy 2 is the most anticipated sneaker of all-time. Similarly, it’s also among a select minority of sneakers that lived up to the hype following unprecedented apprehension. Even with all that, the shoe only increased $30 in cost with relation to its forerunner. There’s also the fact that it was now 2012, and performance basketball sneakers (think LeBrons) alongside a beckoning lifestyle market (think Balenciagas) align in expenditure. I mean, let’s be honest, the “Red Octobers” could have retailed for $300+ and sold out just as fast.
adidas Yeezy Boosts
Model: adidas Yeezy Boost 750
Release Date: February 14, 2015
Model: adidas Yeezy Boost 350 “Grey”
Release Date: June 27, 2015
Model: adidas Yeezy Boost 350 “Black”
Release Date: August 22, 2015
When EPMD pleaded “Rap is Outta Control” on Business As Usual, the duo’s third studio album released in 1990, it was a courageous decree about where the once humble genre had ventured – seemingly a place pioneering characters hardly recognized. That brings us to current times and Kanye West x adidas. Some would proclaim that “Sneakers Are Outta Control,” with prices that validate such assumptions. Truthfully, the easily apparent union between sneakers and art should mute that claim entirely. Thus, the adidas Yeezy Boost 750 retailing for $350 shouldn’t offend in the slightest.
Like hip hop, there has always been a desire from some to devalue what we hold most dear – our culture. The sneaker community, unfortunately, is not free from this devaluation. Why can’t a work of art be priced based on timed honored worth? Why isn’t our art revered like more traditional depictions? Kanye recognizes this fallacy and has spoke about it at length. And even though he’d certainly like to see cost decreased to create some type of uniformity and greater accessibility for things that are, but shouldn’t be, considered exclusive, our cultural valuation is limitless. Accordingly, our artifacts should reflect that monetary worth through and through.