Sneakers where primarily designed for sports or other forms of physical exercise, but today they are widely used for everyday wear, from plimsoll, slip-on, athletic kicks, classic and high-tops, all sneakers are the same to some people but to someone who loves and collects them they are different because of their uniqueness, simplicity, style, comfort, versatility and how fashionable they are.
Some sneakers are loved because of their controversial look, how they revolutionized the sneaker industry, and how they’re misunderstood for their looks. Some are also loved for their powerful influence and the way they have broken down barriers, for example, Hip Hop and sneaker brands – this collaboration had never been seen until an American hip-hop group called Run-DMC collaborated with Adidas and got their first ever sneaker endorsement worth 1 million dollars, a land slide deal at the time. From there on, big brands started to recognize rappers’ influence on the youth and smartly tapped into that market too.
Undoubtedly though, Micheal Jordan’s influence was already big with his collaboration with Nike and cemented his name into sneaker culture with his Air Jordan sneakers. As the decades winded down new sneaker collaborations emerged and took over the Hip Hop scene and the sneaker culture, from Nelly and the reintroduction of the Air-Force 1s in 2002, that came in every colour imaginable and were featured in his song and music video, Air-Force Ones. Jay-Z and 50cent’s Reebok endorsement that come with a signature shoe of their own which become an instant success and with that success Reebok endorsed other rappers like Mike Jones, Lil’ Wayne and Lupe Fiasco.
But few artists would have a greater impact and solidify their presence in the sneaker culture as Kanye West did after the release of his debut classic album ‘The College Dropout’. The Chicago rapper would change the sneaker culture with his hot looking, attractive, thought-provoking sneaker collaborations, from his Nike Air 180, Bape ‘drop out’ Bapesta, Reebok s, Carter, Jordan 6 “Donda West” Promo Sample, Air Huarache 08 “Glow in the Dark Tour”, Nike Air Yeezy, Louis Vuitton Don, Louis Vuitton Jasper, Louis Vuitton Hudson, Nike Air Yeezy 2, Nike Air Yeezy 2 – Red October, and his current collaboration with Adidas.
Kanye West’s collaborations would later help other rappers to enter the sneaker culture and gain full creative control over what they created with their brands, these rappers include the likes of Tyler The Creator with Vans and Converse, Drake and his release of multiple pairs of Air Jordans under his OVO moniker, and Pharrell with Adidas’ NMD Human Race collaboration.
Artists in their numbers are now getting endorsed by these big brands as we enter a new dawn of Hip Hop, with a new wave of sounds. Artists like Travis Scott have had an enormous impact with his collaboration with Nike and Air Jordan brand, to re-release his Air-Force Ones, Air Jordan ones and the Air Jordan four’s collaborations which had a big influence this season. Also Skepta with his Nike Air Max 97, and Adidas Originals with Donald Glover.
It looks like Hip Hop’s presence in sneaker culture has been solidified by the variety and abundance of the collaborations that have occurred, the future is bright if you look at the new breed of Hip Hop artists that are coming up, it’s without a doubt that what we are about to witness will forever change the sneaker game and the hip-hop community as a whole. In return Hip Hop will continue to keep some of the brands alive due to the influence it has within the youth and other cultures.
Writer: Oratile Mafojane