The gap between signature shoe 1 and II is most often the widest among all others breaks between volumes. The Air Jordan, Zoom LeBron, and Zoom Kobe, etc. have all withstood that extra distance in the evolutionary jump, with the respective sequel taking on a much more distinct persona of the individual it was designed for. The Air Yeezy, however, is the exception to that rule; the first Yeezy, which officially released back in 2009, had some heavy expectations on its shoulders as it would represent the entire ‘sneakerhead’ constituency into one design. A bulky strap, a mega-high ankle cut, custom-designed lace-locks, an all-over ‘Y’ Yeezy press-mold print, glow-in-the-dark outsoles – it was the perfect sneakerhead’s shoe designed by perhaps the exemplar of the sub-culture in Kanye West. The Air Yeezy is also credited as the first signature shoe for an influential non-athlete, so the finished product was certainly an enticing news story for media outlets outside the bounds of the sneaker culture; the biggest pop culture superstar is getting his own Nike sneaker – this we gotta see.
The public outcry for a sequel followed not much after the mid-2009 release of the Air Yeezy, and since we first spotted it with our own eyes during the February 2011 world premiere of Kobe Bryant’s ‘Black Mamba’ short, the Air Yeezy 2 was a massive ongoing headline over the last sixteen months. The sneaker was kept under heavy wraps, with Kanye himself acting as lone ‘trailer’ as we witnessed him rotate a variety of different colorways on the street and during live musical performances. Eventually (in a long and dragging saga), Nike unveiled the final release information and the Air Yeezy 2 released globally this past Saturday, but what was already considered to be one of the toughest sneaker acquisitions of the year turned out to be much more difficult due to a variety of factors, with many pointing to the overall mainstream movement of ‘sneakers’ being the primary culprit. The landscape of the Air Yeezy 2 release was in clear contrast with the original Air Yeezy release; while many stores – official Nike retailers included – celebrated the momentous Yeezy occasion with themed in-store events, the dangerously high demand and ultra-low supply raised major concerns for Nike and ultimately forced the release to take on a ‘quick and painless’ approach; the Twitter RSVP took center stage (with controversial results) while other stores depended on controlled raffle/lottery arrangements, and a massive chunk of the hungry were left un-fed. The demand remained, and so the resale market value of the Air Yeezy 2 eclipsed that of the original Air Yeezy at its highest point, reaching jaw-dropping amounts in a short period of time.
The design contrast between the Air Yeezy and Air Yeezy 2, displayed in the following gallery, also speaks on Kanye West’s changing tastes in fashion and style, but surely Kanye’s own sneaker obsession played a major role in the design concept as the base of the shoe is shared with one of Nike’s most revered designs – the Air Tech Challenge. Above it is a slimmer, sleeker, and more luxurious build, opting for extravagant tastes like anaconda-skin and intricate details like the hieroglyphics and Horus logo on the tongue. The Air Yeezy 2 certainly met Nike’s fastidious demands of a signature shoe, as the overall design exuded Kanye’s more recent fascination with high-end luxury and fashion and grandiose self-imagery. The Air Yeezy 2 was a clear overlap of the sneakerhead community and the pop-culture/contemporary fashion circles, becoming a must-have item for a much larger population of fashion-forward, but Kanye’s ongoing relationship with Nike, based not only on this release but his participation in Kobe Bryant’s ‘The Kobe System’ ad campaign, will always be on the sneakerhead’s radar – regardless of where (or when) fashion trends evolve. Will there be an Air Yeezy 3? Kanye’s already hinted at that a few months back, but for now, let’s enjoy the Air Yeezy 2 for what it is and see for yourself just how similar and different the Air Yeezy 1 and 2 truly is by flipping through the gallery below.