If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If you’ve got bars but don’t have a sneaker deal, are you a rapper? These are two of the profound-iest questions concerning the perception of reality that continue to confound humans today. What is clear, though, is that big shoe brands love you if you have a large following and a certain cachet of cool, so much so that they’re willing to throw money at you to wear their sneakers and even pretend to design them. The objective often goes beyond selling a boatload of the ‘colab’ shoe in question. A prudent brand partnership with a celebrity can have flow-over benefits to the sponsor company’s full suite of products. It’s impossible to quantify the true effect of a colab on a brand’s bottom-line – we’ll probably never know just how much of adidas’ recent resurgence can be attributed to Kanye West, but if you ask him or many business insiders, it’s a lot!
So, it’s high time we walked down memory lane and collated some of the hottest and most maligned celebrity sneaker colabs. We know there’s many more, this article may have to be a two-parter. Click on the pics above to get schooled up on the economics of fame and footwear …
Drake x Air Jordan
Drizzy was once notorious for fashion misadventures, but he must have locked down a stylist with solid taste in the last few years because now he’s looking smooth more often than not. And that’s actually a pretty difficult challenge for a dude with a freshly jacked ‘n roided body like Wheelchair Jimmy. Though he’s on his grown man dance, sneakers still complete the picture for Drake, and it’s clean colourways of retro Js that are most frequently whipped out of the closet. His special editions like the Stingray collection and the new AJ8s have been easily the most thirsted-afters Jawdinz in recent memory.
Kid Cudi x Giuseppe Zanotti
It’s been almost two years since we saw this compressed red leather couch and we’re still terrified of it swallowing us up.
Run D.M.C. x adidas
There was a moment back in 1987 that many heads credit as being the genesis of sneaker culture as we know it today. Run-D.M.C. demanded fans at their Madison Square Garden pull the Superstars off their feet and hold them aloft, then the rap group broke into their sleeper hit ‘My adidas’. Apparently there were some suits from adidas in the audience, who would later whip out the chequebook and scrawl doqn $1.6 million for the trio to support the Three Stripes in an official capacity. You’ll either see it as the timestamp for when hip hop properly sold out to multinational corporations, opportunism or clever business acumen; but opinions aside, this remains something of a creationist story for the alliance between non-athletic entertainers with sneaker brands.
Nicki Minaj x Jordan Brand
My Anaconda don’t want none of this, and nor does Nicki by the looks of it.
Rihanna x Puma
Flying Rihanna over to Germany to hand her a million unmarked dollar bills and have her tick off a few sneaker designs seemed an audacious move by Puma at the time. It was a lot of coin for an unproven designer who hadn’t worked with an athletic brand before. A milli looks like baby money now, though, after the Ri-Ri co-sign and a few other clever business moves helped the big cat brand get back into the big money this past year. Her designs so far have been ambitious but not ridiculous – a perfect strategy for these type of big name colabs.
Kim Kardashian x Skechers
This feels like bullying because Skechers don’t even wanna be a part of our sneakerworld, they’ve long been satisfied with sacrificing the cool points for barrels of cash from middle America. But the Shape-Ups campaign with Kim Kardashian is surely a failure from all angles. Wack shoe, whack ads and a deceiving technical promise that resulted in the brand handing back those money buckets to the fools who believed these particular shoes could give you a KK ass. On the other hand, Skechers is still making tons of loot off, so maybe they just played the long game.
Kanye West x Nike
The current wave of ‘Celebrity x Sneaker Brand’ releases emanated from a big drop in the ocean by one Kanye West several years ago. Despite Ye’s ceaseless rhetoric that the fashion world confines him in a music box and denies him the chance to be a master at another craft, his work designing for Louis Vuitton and Nike re-framed the way brands look at music artists’ creative powers and cultural sway. Whether you believe him or Nike pencil boi Nathan VanHook really did the grunt work that forged the Yeezy 2 is irrelevant, it can’t be denied that Yeezy can either pick innovative looks that connect with people or possesses so much pop cultural clout that it doesn’t matter what he’s serving up. With thousands of sneakers sold out instantly, mad resale prices that flowed over into imitation colourways of other Swooshed shoes and endless press coverage; the Kanye and Nike partnership was a definite success. The acrimonious split, however, did major damage that may just have Nike thinking they helped create a monster.
Lil Wayne x Supra
There wasn’t a drug in the world that Wayne could imbibe to make these look good. Credit to Supra for getting proper trippy though, Weezy deserved nothing less.
Kanye West x adidas
Watch this space, but it’s so far, so good for the Ye and Three Stripes union, at least from a bottom line perspective. Kanye is volatile and will hold brands to ransom if they don’t kneel to his needs, so this could turn on a dime at any time.
Kendrick Lamar x Reebok
Clean colourways fit for the streets of Compton, a meaningful backstory and worthwhile charitable efforts receiving some of the proceeds make this partnership a banger in our books.