words // Luis Sanchez
photography // Yulia Nidbalskaya
Almost six years ago, Kanye West and Nike announced a partnership that has defined the current era in sneaker history.
Kanye's work with the Swoosh was like nothing we'd seen before. And, we're unlikely to see anything approaching its hype in the future. In 2009, Kanye introduced the Air Yeezy by Nike on stage at the Grammy's. The shoe released in three now iconic color schemes, each originated by Kanye himself.
The timeless Air Yeezy was worn throughout the entire Glow in the Dark Tour in 2008. Anticipation for the model reached unimaginable levels. By the time their release arrived in May, Kanye had his loyal fans camping out for days just to get a pair.
Three years later, Kanye and the Swoosh topped their first gem with the arrival of the Air Yeezy II. Instantly, the silhouette was mentioned as the hottest shoe of the year. The two color schemes, released on the same day, followed from the first Air Yeezy—Wolf Grey/Pure Platinum and Black/Solar Red—and quickly sold out. Resell prices reached upwards of $1,000. Astonishing.
The legacy of Air Yeezy II wasn't done there. In the months following, a number of additional colorways were teased and unseen samples surfaced all over the web. Of the many new looks, the 'Red October' edition stood out.
A release was proposed by both 'Ye and Nike for the better part of 2013. The arrival of Kanye's YEEZUS album, along with a full North American tour, had everyone expecting a release an October 2013 drop. However in the early stops of the tour, it began to become evident that Kanye's relationship with the Swoosh had seen better days.
Kanye ranted about his dissatisfaction with Nike at multiple shows. He shared his feelings towards Nike—ranging from not knowing when his own shoe would release, to not being able to control the amount of pairs released, not receiving royalties, and not being able to create additional product with the Swoosh. Then, Kanye just stopped wearing the all red Air Yeezy II all together. It became evident the "Red Octobers" wouldn't see an October retail release.
Soon after the rants went viral, rumors began to swirl that Kanye was working on a deal with another company. Most important, one that would meet his needs and desires in order to create the best product possible. Kanye, never one to keep a good secret, said he was working towards a deal with adidas. The German brand made the relationship official in early December 2013.
With Kanye officially removed from the Nike fray, many fans were left wondering if the elusive third colorway of the Air Yeezy II would actually ever release. Most assumed they would never hit, and rumors of Nike shredding all the pairs began to circulate.
Foot Locker announced an official online only release, only to cancel it days later. Hope was lost.
Just over a month later, catching everyone off guard, NikeStore unexpectedly released the final Air Yeezy II via Twitter link only. The flash sale officially ended the historic Nike x Kanye West era.
Covered in a bright red and unique materials, the red Air Yeezy II will forever be recognized as the most controversial release of the Kanye West's Nike marriage.
Looking back, the Kanye West x Nike era provided us with some of the most enjoyable moments in sneaker culture. Both Kanye West signature models released by Nike took us back to the memorable days when an Air Jordan would change the game, and opened the doors to even more non-athlete signature footwear models by big time companies.
Without a doubt, it's safe to say Kanye and Nike were the pioneers behind the idea of the next generation of signature footwear, and will forever be remembered for their game changing product.