Let’s call a spade a spade: so much hate is directed at Kanye West, the hip hop artist, entrepreneur, fashion designer, and a multihyphenate that embodies modern celebrity and fanfare. And it’s not just because he’s married to Kim Kardashian and practically the invisible spotlight shining on her 24/7 – could it be because of Kanye simply being Kanye?
Kanye and his works are hardly short of critical acclaim. Back in 2011, for instance, he headlined Coachella and it can actually be argued as one of the greatest performances in the history of the music festival.
And then there’s Kanye as an influential fashion figure. GQ Magazine chronicles the journey of Kanye through fashion, which started as soon as he dropped his debut album The College Dropout in 2004. His style – take, for instance, brightly colored rugby shirts, pink polos, and Louis Vuitton backpacks – seemed to move away from the usual rapper garb made up of baggy jeans and oversized tees.
He was judged from the beginning: “No one would give me a deal… Maybe it’s because of what I had on,” Kanye said during a Webster Hall performance.
The following are just few of so many highlights in his fashion journey:
- Capsule collections with French denim label A.P.C. • The “Dropout Bear,” a version of Bathing Ape’s much celebrated Bapesta sneaker
- Shutter shades, sunglasses most famously seen in his music video for “Stronger”
- Wearing an unreleased purple and orange colorway of the Nike Air Yeezy 1 at the Grammy Awards – the first time the shoe label gave a signature shoe to a non-athlete and signaling Kanye’s pioneering role in the sneaker world
- A sneaker collaboration with Louis Vuitton, as featured in the designer label’s Fall-Winter 2009 show
- Air Yeezy 1 nearly instantly selling out when it hit stores in April 2009
- Debuting a women’s wear collection dubbed as “Kanye West” in October 2011
- Air Yeezy 2’s repetitive success • Launch of G.O.O.D. Music Merch
- Signing with Adidas and launching different Yeezys, including the Yeezy 750 Boost and the low-top Yeezy Boost 350
All these feats, big firsts, and breakthroughs, however, did not stop massive criticism and hate from coming Kanye’s way. There have been petitions to keep him from performing at events. As The Verge put it, “West has come to symbolize something nefarious” to his detractors, with the hatred a systemic issue that has brewed in the last couple of years.
Some point to certain legitimate reasons to dislike the guy, including the oversized ego, tendency to storm stages and bash awards shows for wrong nominations, comparing himself to legend Muhammad Ali and Jesus himself.
But how come the public resentment toward him managed to increase and become even shriller when Kanye’s attitude hasn’t really changed much? Could it be borne out of a mix of xenophobia and ignorance of changing realities? Could it be due to still looking at the black person as an outsider?
Could it actually be beyond his manners and behavior, and reflecting how people are expected to act and claim titles for themselves? Note, for instance, that Kanye claimed to be the biggest rock star on the planet, triggering criticism from rock’s white elite.
How to solve a problem like Kanye remains to be seen, but it could also be that we’re not really dealing with a problem here but instead reminded of social tensions brewing on the inside.
For now, it’s clear that Yeezy is bent on staying, playing the music, and doing his thing – fashionable things included.