The Yeezy Sneaker Evolution
Adidas Yeezy Sneakers
Kanye West’s impact in both the music and fashion industry is nothing short of impactful. Before his boundary-pushing fashion empire known as Yeezy, West’s career started in the music industry when he became the producer for Roc-A-fella records in 2000 and released his debut album, The College Dropout, in 2004. Since then, Kanye West’s rise to musical excellence grew steadily and consistently with time. Considered to encompass musical brilliance, West presents varied genres outside of hip-hop, emphasizing his versatility as an artist in the music industry and the world of fashion. With that, it turned out that West’s career passions and pursuits didn’t end with music. Kanye West took an alternative route to fashion through the world of sneakers. Since then, West has redefined the sneaker industry through his Yeezy empire.
Aside from the Adidas Yeezy Sneakers, Kanye West’s impact in the fashion world is interesting and unique with his vast connections and relationships with top designers in the streetwear industry. To learn more about this journey, click here. Read below to discover the evolution of Kanye West’s Adidas Yeezy Sneakers.
NIKE AIR YEEZY 1 + 2 (2009, 2013)
The first-ever Yeezy sneaker release was with powerhouse athleisure wear and footwear brand Nike. This short-lived collaboration began in April of 2009 by introducing the first-ever origin of a Yeezy sneaker—the Air Yeezy. Iconic sneaker designer Tinker Hatfield (known for creating some of the most iconic sneaker designs, such as the Air Jordan line) worked alongside Kanye West in formulating a sneaker comparable to walking on a planet. Worn by Kanye during his ‘Glow in the Dark’ tour, three sneaker colorways were initially debuted. The Air Yeezy was the first-ever Nike sneaker made for non-athletes, and only 3,000 pairs were released worldwide. The unique design featured rigid Y’s that covered the strap and toe box, while green glow-in-the-dark soles were placed underneath for a special touch. Reptilian scale designs and the influence of Egypt intertwined throughout the silhouette. Three years later, in 2012, the release of the Nike Air Yeezy 2 would become the last of the collaboration between West and the footwear powerhouse. Only 5,000 pairs of each colorway were made for the Air Yeezys, while the highly limited and iconic ‘Red October’ colorway of the Air Yeezy 2 contains an extensive history as it is to be considered the most sought-after Yeezy model to this day. Kanye West’s desire for a more hands-on and creative role in designing sneakers resulted in the end of this collaboration and created a new one with Adidas.
YEEZY BOOST 350 + 350 V2 (2015)
Although Kanye West and Adidas have been in contact since 2005, the nosedive into the two’s collaboration was finally released in 2015 with the iconic Yeezy Boost 350 released with Yeezy Season 1. Adidas made the offer to Kanye that included more creative freedom, which Kanye heavily desired. This Boost 350 Yeezy model is to be considered the proper start of the Yeezy empire. The sneaker changed the game when it came to the sneaker industry thanks to its slip-on design and extended Boost midsole. The most iconic rendition of the Yeezy Boost 350 would have to be the ‘Turtle Dove’ colorway. Its Adidas patented Primeknit material is woven into an intricate pattern, which has made the sneaker itself legendary and rare. The silhouette is perfect for any outfit with its low-top style. Countless celebrities still wear it in its release, and it is considered one of the most sought-after Yeezy models to this day. A year later, the first Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 was released. The Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 debuted as the fifth piece of footwear from the West and Adidas partnership. It features an upgraded approach to its predecessor with its translucent midsole, a new primeknit upper, and the newly added SPLY-350 stripe that replaces the patched branding of the original Yeezy Boost 350 models. An iconic colorway of the V2 includes ‘Bred,’ ‘Zebra,’ and ‘Beluga.’
YEEZY BOOST 750 (2015)
The first Adidas Yeezy began with the Yeezy 700 line in 2015 with the edgy Yeezy Boost 750, which is modeled after a boot-like construction that gives the nod to the late Nike Air Yeezy. Sneaker and boot aesthetics are interlaced throughout the silhouette of the sneaker’s construction. The sneaker's design was inspired by Marty McFly’s look from Back to the Future, allowing for a comfortable fit while incorporating a futuristic element to the design. The mid-top portion is designed by Yeezy himself, while the suede material and futuristic design incorporate further influence into the shape. A zippered ankle provides a unique touch, while the classic glow-in-the-dark soles are featured underneath. The traditional Boost cushioned sole completes the look, highlighting the silhouette’s unique construction and suede overlays. Notable colorways of this classic Yeezy interpretation include ‘Mauve’ and ‘Sun.
“There’s a spirit inside this thing. It’s a soul.” - Kanye West
(Forbes Interview 2019)
YEEZY POWERPHASE (2017)
As a slight contrast to the few Yeezys introduced to the lineup before, the Yeezy Powerphase intertwines a vintage yet modern aesthetic in its design. The Yeezy Powerphase made its debut in 2017, two years after the Yeezy Boost 750. Although the Powerphase had a head start before the Yeezy imprint in 2017, Its design contrasts with the previous Yeezy models as it incorporates a canvas upper throughout its leather material. Before the brand implemented the sneaker, the Yeezy model was a classic and retro Adidas training shoe from the 80s. The 80s fitness market-inspired silhouette features subtle hinds of hip-hop to the design, while a golden Calabasas phrase completes the look. In fall 2019, Yeezy stayed true to the neutral hues by releasing a line of seasonally appropriate colorways featuring ‘Quiet Grey,’ ‘Clear Brown,’ and ‘Simple Brown.’ This iconic Yeezy model channels a vintage aesthetic within its structure.
YEEZY BOOST 700 (2017)
The ‘Dad Shoe’ aesthetic of the Adidas Yeezy Boost 700 made its way into the sneaker world in 2017. Although the Yeezy model was met with unappreciation in its beginnings, it has turned around and become one of the most sought-after Yeezy models to this day. Countless celebrities that same year were seen wearing the unique sneaker model, including Chance the Rapper when he hosted Saturday Night Live in New York City. The most iconic and sought-after colorway to this day would be the initial colorway, the ‘Waverunner.’ The Waverunner colorway modernized the classic ‘Dad Shoe’ aesthetic with its chunky midsole and subtle hints of bright colorways throughout the design. Thanks to the unique upbringing of this silhouette and the ongoing ‘Dad Shoe’ hype, the Yeezy Boost 700 continues to be one of the most sought-after Yeezy models. The most recent rendition of the Yeezy Boost 700 in 2021 includes the 'Wash Orange' colorway. Wash Orange was a highlight anticipated partially due to its bright orange midsole and additional hues that nod to the original 'Waverunner' colorway. Moving forward, a year later, in 2018, the Yeezy Boost 700 V2 was released and received a major update. The sneaker now boasted a mesh sponge-like upper along with striped side panels and additional reflective detailing. Throughout 2017 and 2018, Yeezy released a variety of colorways for both the Yeezy Boost 700 and the Yeezy Boost 700 v2. A year later, the top-tier sneaker brand introduced the Yeezy 700 V3 to the Yeezy lineup. As a complete contrast to the previous sneaker models, the Yeezy 700 V3 included a TPU, neoprene, and EVA foam construction alongside other stretchy knitted materials. This reinvented idea incorporated a futuristic, comfortable, and eco-friendly approach to the iconic Yeezy Boost 700. A selection of the sneaker's most notable colorways includes 'Azael' and 'Alvah.'
YEEZY 500 (2019)
The introduction of the Adidas Yeezy 500 can’t be made without referencing the Adidas KB8 3’s influence on the silhouette. With a nod to the late basketball Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, the iconic KB8, otherwise known as the ‘Crazy 8’ or ‘Toasters,’ the Boost 500’s chunky midsole continues its stake previously put in place by the Boost 700. In contrast with the Adidas Yeezy 500's construction, the silhouette features a combination of suede, mesh underlays, and cushioning adiPRENE foam. The shape came in a variation of low-tops and high-tops and was first released in 2019. Although some were critical of the design while others questioned its wearability component, it continues to be one of the most iconic Yeezy models. The Slate colorway is considered one of the most sought-after hues of the Yeezy Boost 500 alongside the 'Mist Stone' and 'Slate' colorways.
YEEZY BOOST 380 (2019)
The iconic Yeezy 300 line continues with the addition of the Adidas Yeezy Boost 380 model. Initially released in the colorway ‘Alien,’ the sneaker reveals an exciting look into the future of Kanye West’s footwear takeover. Kanye is no stranger to facing a challenge head-on, and the Adidas Yeezy Boost 380 displays his ability to uniquely alter a standard sneaker model. Perforations placed on the midfoot offer further detail to the design while striking a similar resemblance to the previous 300 Yeezy models by including Boost and Primeknit aesthetics. The sneaker is comfortable and sleek in its design, and additional notable colorways include 'Pyrite,' ‘Stone Salt,’ and ‘Alien Blue.’
YEEZY DESERT BOOT (2019)
Initially dropped in 2019, the Yeezy Desert Boot brings the iconic sneaker brand in a different direction. The neutral boot features a mesh upper with tonal nubuck and suede overlays, while a matching grooved sole underneath allows for traction and stability. This new Yeezy offers a different option for those who prefer a different footwear experience, particularly in the cooler months. Its unique construction is comfortable yet breathable in its design and differentiates itself from the standard Yeezy line residents.
"You get back what you put out, and the more positive energy you put out, the more positive energy you'll get back." - Kanye West
(Paper Magazine Interview 2015)
YEEZY SLIDE (2019)
In 2019, West chose to stray away from the traditional sneaker route by unveiling a new variation of footwear, the Yeezy Slide. Partially due to Kanye’s love for comfort and simplicity, the slide features an EVA foam injection for lightweight durability and optimal comfort that is an additional plus of the slide’s sleek exterior. Kanye wore the Yeezy Slide in various public events, including the opera and his GQ photo shoot. The original colorway of the slide was released in ‘Sand,’ and other non-earthy colorways have been provided since its debut, including ‘Glow Green.’
YEEZY BOOST 700 MNVN (2020)
The Yeezy 700 line continued in 2020 with the introduction of the Yeezy Boost 700 MNVN. Kanye chose to continue the ‘Dad Shoe’ commitment with this new and improved silhouette, with a thick sole combined with the technology of Adidas Originals. Padded nylon uppers and a Boost midsole are placed for additional comfort. Sought after colorways of this model include 'Orange' and 'Honey Flux.' With a namesake referencing a Minivan, this version of the 700 features a large ‘700’ print in reflective material that is often used with bright colors on this futuristic and technological upgrade of the iconic silhouette.
YEEZY QUANTUM (2020)
With a futuristic aesthetic, the Yeezy Quantum’s release drew massive waves in the Yeezy empire, as the silhouette was the first Yeezy basketball sneaker to be released. The sneaker was released with monochromatic colorblocking, with the sneaker's design of black, white, silver, and grey hues. Intricate primeknit detailing is placed throughout the exterior, while a suede toe box gives the nod to the Yeezy 700 V3. The full-length enclosed Boost midsole allows the sleek design to offer a comfortable component.
“Eventually everybody who wants to get Yeezys will get Yeezys.” - Kanye West
(Complex Interview 2015)
YEEZY FOAM RUNNER (2020)
First making its debut by North West in 2019, the Yeezy Foam Runner was introduced in 2020 with its robust characteristic to the style of a pair of Crocs. Without any laces or moving parts, the unique construction features a thick rear that slightly references the Yeezy 700. As part of Kanye and Adidas’ commitment to producing more sustainable footwear, the material of the Foam Runner is constructed from algae and EVA foam. The Yeezy Foam Runner debuted at lower price points than its Yeezy counterparts, unwrapping a new Yeezy era of more available and affordable footwear that still presents a sought-after aesthetic.
YEEZY 450 (2020)
The Yeezy 450 was first teased in July of 2018 by Yeezus himself and was officially launched spring of 2021 as a lifestyle sneaker. The Yeezy 450’s interesting construction features a Primeknit upper. The single-piece tooling that extends up to the shoe’s collar (representing a cage) is perhaps the most distinct detail of the sneaker’s design. Sneaker legend Steven Smith modified this unique and intricate design. The bottom position of the Yeezy 450 is similar to the Yeezy Foam Runner, as it consists of an algae-makeup and EVA foam material. Notable colorways of the 450 include ‘Dark Slate’ and ‘Cloud White.’
YEEZY KNIT RUNNER (2021)
Various Yeezy model designs have a unique construction, such as the Yeezy 450 and the Yeezy Foam Runner. With the implementation of the Yeezy Knit Runner, its silhouette is a knit version of the widely popular Foam Runner, which has received high appraisal in the Yeezy world. Although the Foam Runner is made from foam produced from algae, the Yeezy Knit Runner features a knit material that still resembles a similar shape as a predecessor to the Foam Runner. Its minimalist construction contrasts with the Foam Runner’s but still resembles the unique design’s profile in its entirety.
The creative vision behind each Yeezy sneaker is in-depth and unique. According to West, the creative process behind each shoe begins with a sketch that most often refers to a vintage reference. The Yeezy creative team tends to (but not always) consider the previous version of the shoe. Hundreds of prototypes are drafted before the final model is released, emphasizing the brand’s commitment to creating the highest design quality within each model. West credits a portion of his creative vision to the 1998 Anime film Akira. The shapes and color palettes presented in the movie involve a direct translation into the sneaker line and its encompassing mood and genre. In addition, Yeezy himself and his creative team further their commitment to authenticity by often traveling to other countries like Japan to inspire sneaker ideas and gather inspiration for future models.
As a child growing up in Chicago, Kanye West would often attend car shows with his father. He recalls when he almost touched a White Lamborghini and was quickly reminded that he couldn’t touch the vehicle. This moment, along with a combination of events that catapulted in Kanye’s passion for the fashion industry, helped shape the Yeezy line into its reputation in the current age. In an interview with Forbes in 2019, According to Kanye, “There’s a little bit of Lamborghini in everything I do.”