Rappers have been singularly responsible for taking trainers out of the sports arena and into the world of everyday wear, over the last decade.
Ever since Run DMC waxed eloquent about their Adidas Superstar basketball shoes in their huge 1986 hit ‘My Adidas’, rap stars and sneaker makers have had a mutually beneficial relationship, culminating in the last decade or so in collaborative efforts in designing trainers that reflected and personified the singer’s personality. Reebok’s collaboration with Jay Z for the Carter collection in 2003, and Pharrel Willams’ tie-up with streetwear maker Ice Cream the same year kicked off the trend which, over the years, has taken on board almost every hip hop star of note: Questlove and Nike Air Force 1, Kanye West and Louis Vuitton, Kanye West and Nike Air Yeezy, Big Sean and Adidas Originals, Rick Ross and Reebok Classics, Lupe Fiasco and Vans, Wiz Khalifa and Converse Collection, 50 Cent and G-Unit — the list goes on. Though I haven’t had the opportunity to try out most of them, here are a few recent tie-ups that have stood out for me.
PHARRELL WILLIAMS AND ADIDAS ORIGINALS
Originals is the name of the lifestyle range by the German sports brand, often differentiated by the lotus-like ‘Trefoil’ old-school logo. Pharrell Williams originally, released many colour patterns under the Hu Race NMD collection in the past. The NMD was inspired by old silhouettes from the brand and Pharrell embellished it by playing with upper and sole hues and even the lacing pattern. The shoes sold well and even better on the secondary (black) market. This year, if you are lucky, and early, you may get to grab the Human Race set that is being launched in some extremely subtle shades. To me, the shoe shares a lot with the Stan Smith form, from the thick soul to the branding on the back spine; however, the front has been given a lot lighter and un-rigid look and feel.
NIKE AND DRAKE
As if Air Jordan wasn’t coveted enough, the versions designed with rap artist Drake made them even more desirable. Clean and classy with a flair for flash, they ticked all the boxes, including being exorbitantly priced on the resale market. In fact, Nike Air should get the lifetime achievement award for most collaborative efforts (and also the most successful ones) in the sneaker world.
ADIDAS AND KANYE WEST
This has been an immensely popular tieup. Kanye’s inimitable flamboyance and disregard for anything resembling modesty works in his favour and the shoes they’ve designed stand out in the crowd. White finds prominence in the range and the silhouette, though distinct, is still simplistic. The tough part is finding a pair, for they almost evaporate the minute they hit shelves. For those who’d care to know, Kanye first launched the Yeezy range with Nike, but when the alliance went sour (over money, what else), he quickly switched over to Adidas.
PUMA AND RIHANNA
Although mostly for women, the Fenty collection is design-forward and epitomises the personal style of the singer, merging French Belle Epoque opulence with a contemporary sporty silhouette. But apart from stars, Puma has had some seriously awesome collaborations with highend cars, from Ferrari to BMW.
REEBOK AND KENDRICK LAMAR
After Jay-Z and 50 Cent, the award-winning rapper launched a couple of collaborations with Reebok, reviving classic designs and reinterpreting them in new textures and colours. Kendrick was the influence for the series, which was then designed by streetwear specialist Ian Paley. The Club C is a personal favourite; today it comes in suede, but the original in black leather was one of the first imported shoes I wore as a kid. Lamar’s range currently commands the most street-cred out there.