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Kanye West wore All Black Suede while performing at Grammy 2008

Kanye West Marked the New Streetwear Culture: History of Nike Air x Adidas Yeezy

Nothing explains or comes to streetwear unless you talk about the top two sneaker brands out there, Nike and Adidas have been at the top of the game ever since the start of the 21st century. However, many people are unaware of the collaboration project between Nike’s Air collection and Adidas’s Yeezy’s. The project developed by Kanye West was the inspiration and ambassador of the Yeezy brand. Alongside him was Nike Creative Director Mark Smith. The design process was heavily based on Nike’s Air Jordan lineup, with the original Air Yeezy having multiple samples and prototypes, even going close to playing around with designs of using actual LED lights on the sneaker outsole. However, they found a much more cost-efficient design that uses phosphorescent rubber on the outsoles. Eventually deciding on the perfect design, they ended up with a shoe that replicated and was similar to the Jordan III and IV. At this time in 2008, a year before the official release of the sneaker, Kanye West wore an all-black suede prototype to the 2008 Grammys, performing his hit songs ‘Stronger’ & ‘Hey Mama’! However, up until this performance, no one knew about the existence of such a collaboration project.
Kanya West $1M black suede wore by him at Grammys 2008
At its release, about three colorways of the Nike Air Yeezy were released, each had been chosen by the respective designers of the sneakers, with the colorway, Zen Grey being an effort that used both the designs of Kanye West and Mark Smith, Black/Pink being a true work from Mark Smith himself and Net which had Kanye West’s designs used mostly in it. These were released over 3 months each releasing at the beginning of the month starting with Zen Grey in April, followed by Black/Pink in May and Net in June of 2009. Retailed at the price of $215, they almost sold out immediately, only increasing in value over time where recently in 2021, a prototype from West’s performance at the Grammys, was sold for a record $1.8 million, even outselling the previous sale record a pair of Nike Air Jordan 1s that auctioned for about a third of the price.
Air Yeezy Lineup - Zen grey in the top right, Blink Black/Pink in the top left, and Net Tan in the middle
 But that’s not where it stopped, they continued the Nike Air Yeezy campaign even releasing a second edition to the pair which was majorly announced in a Complex Magazine interview with Mark Smith and Kanye West when they were asked about the designs of the first edition, Kanye mentioned that there were a lot more prototypes and leftover designs from the design process that could eventually end up in the second edition of the lineup. However, none of these designs were used until Nathan VanHook was brought into the design process of the Nike Air Yeezy 2. It had a much more forward design than the first edition and used many new forms of designs, even going to lengths to borrow the sole unit from the Nike Air Tech Challenge IIs. This pair was much more design-heavy using references from Egyptian culture and Mythology where Egyptian Hieroglyphics were used to spell out YZY under the strap featured in the pair.
Air Yeezy 2 Lineup 2012
The hype and popularity this lineup had was probably the highest any sneaker has seen in all of culture and brought around a huge movement and support for sneaker culture and streetwear, bringing in more and more people into the community.
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