Kanye West Is Betting His Slides Are The Next Great Fashion Shoe
In a world of influencers, it sure is hard to be influential. Think about it: designers create viral stuff all the time—tiny bags, big sweatshirts, shoes with zip ties on them, extreme pants—but rare is the item or fashion collection that really shapes or changes the way we get dressed, or the way we think about the world, or even just, you know, what shoes look like. Mostly, you’re like, “I guess I need that now!” A few designers still have the power to do something more. Miuccia Prada will always have her antenna for impending cultural mood shifts and a gift for implanting that on the runway. And Hedi Slimane still establishes attitudes and even mandates that radiate outward: a lot of people cackled when he said bourgeois was the next big to-do, but now polished, tasteful separates are on every other runway.
Add to that short list of designers Kanye West, who yesterday showed Yeezy Season 8. It was a small collection—about 30 pieces total in just 18 looks, plus one performance by North—with sluggy puffer pieces, sterile separates in stiff fibers, and swarms of raw-looking wool (which West said will come from his own sheep when [or if] the pieces go into production). As usual, the big news was on the model’s feet. First, a puffy tech boot planted on Yeezy’s up-and-away soles, with the designer’s signature snub nose so exaggerated that the heel appeared longer than the vamp. (Extremely ready for take off: North West, who wore them for her rap debut finale, looked like she was flying.) And second, a slide sandal outrageously bulbous it was basically oversized. (Positively Olsenian!) They look kind of like the “health” sandals they give you at a luxury spa so you don’t slip while going from the hot tub to your acupuncture appointment—almost a poignant idea in our distorted world, where luxury and healthcare are becoming inextricably enmeshed. Now there’s a shoe to think about.
West’s strongest footwear relationship is obviously with his sneakers, but he actually has a long (and even tumultuous) history with slides. Remember back in August of 2018, when he wore those slightly undersized velcro slides with socks and a seafoam green suit to 2 Chainz’s wedding in Miami? (Frankly...this is worth recreating for your second cousin’s wedding this summer. It is an iconic look.) He was widely scrutinized for his too-small shoes—and even joked about it on Twitter, with a selfie in cartoonishly big slides—and now, it seems, after a year and a half, he has gone in the other direction. (He’s a guy who likes to tweak and tweak, whether it’s “fixing ‘Wolves’” or a footwear silhouette—though he bristled a bit at being compared to the Olsens in a press preview for the collection, he shares this in common with The Row designers, who refine and rework a set of ideas, or really a philosophy about clothes, rather than innovating seasonally.)
This newest slide is more elegant—basically refined!—than the previous iteration, and than previous non-sneaker Yeezys. (Like, says, the Foam Runner, which was compared to a pair of Crocs...as if West wouldn’t have known that himself.) He mentioned in the press preview that he’s been heavily influenced by Japanese principles of zen and wabi-sabi, moving towards a sense of the “essential” rather than “minimalist.” (When his tiny slides were mocked, he also referenced the country, saying in his defense that he was wearing them “the Japanese way”—a reference to the iki aesthetic that favors spontaneity, originality, and sophistication.) That seems evident in his footwear, and he told the handful of editors that he is betting this slide in particular will shape the next era in shoes. “We’ve presented so many things that have influenced color palettes and shapes of shoes, like the shape of the [Yeezy] 350s that have become the most iconic shoe of the past 15 years,” he said. “Now we have these new slides that we’re doing, and you’ll see that these shapes will start to affect other designers.”
Is the oversized revolution coming for feet? Will health footwear take over the world? Is the post-sneaker world not a life in loafers, but in slide sandals? Are shoes just about to get super minimal? Perhaps the next several months will reveal an answer. Even when spectators mock or puzzle over West’s fashion output or personal style choices, his influence always shows up where you least expect it: Altuzarra, the unofficial uniform of the frosty Upper East Side woman, just showed a bunch of suits with slide sandals. In other words, when Kanye does something, it shows up basically everywhere.