Would you pay that kind of money to buy shoes?
Kanye West’s Nike Air Yeezy 1 prototype went under the hammer recently and fetched $1.8 million. With this the Grammy-worn Yeezys' became the most valuable sneakers in history. This is for the first time that a pair of sneakers has gone for more than a million dollars in an official sale.
Over the years, sneakers have become a precious commodity with celebrities, athletes, and movie stars putting their weight behind top shelf sneaker models. Limited edition sneaker releases, also known as ‘sneaker drops’ garner a great deal of interest among buyers. These sneakers then make their way into the grey market where dealers who’ve bid on them further sell it to those who’re actually interested in them for a significant mark-up. These sales are undocumented and are often cash transactions with no receipts. The Nike Air Yeezy 1 sale, however, is all above board and was hosted by the auction house, Sotheby’s.
Inside the glamorous world of 'sneakerheads'
Those who follow the sneaker market and bid for the best and limited edition drops are known as 'sneakerheads' who tend to drive up the price of a pair. In the recent past, almost all the major fashion brands have been manufacturing fashion sneakers. The extremely high interest in this kind of sneakers has also made traditional shoe brands such as Nike and Adidas pivot towards manufacturing limited edition pairs or collaborating with celebrities such as Kanye West. The Nuke Air Yeezy 1 is one such example of Nike’s collab with the rapper, who was once on board with Adidas.
The interest in sneakers is so high that some have begun to see it as an asset class. For instance, the buyer of the Nike Air Yeezy 1 is a company called Rares, which calls itelf a ‘social investing platform that lets you invest in rare sneakers by buying and trading shares in them’. So, you could actually buy a ‘share’ in the Nike Air Yeezy 1 just like you’d buy shares in a publicly listed company.
What makes Kanye West’s Nike Air Yeezy 1 so special?
The 50th Annual Grammy Awards was held on February 10, 2008, in Los Angeles. That year, the singer Amy Winehouse walked home with the most awards. Winehouse never made it to the ceremony since she was at a drug rehabilitation centre. The artiste who had the most nomination, however, was there. In fact, he even performed on stage. For that performance, Kanye West was spotted wearing a pair of sneakers that literally no one could identify. The only thing that they knew was that it was a Nike because of its trademark swoosh.
For nearly a year before this, there were strong rumours that Kanye was going to drop a sneaker in collaboration with Nike. The rumours were, of course, true and Nike decided to use Grammy's as the platform where they’d reveal their top-secret project. The year-long whispers had created a hype around the pair and when they became public, the sneaker world went crazy. Everyone wanted to know about these new sneakers. More importantly, everyone wanted to have them.
It helped that Kanye was at the peak of his career. He won in four categories at that year’s Grammys and so the sneaker drop wasn’t just a product reveal, but rather a critical moment in popular culture. It also heralded the advent of the multibillion-dollar sneaker industry, which, though popular was yet to reach the dizzying heights it has today. It also launched the Yeezy brand, which Kanye West then took to adidas in 2013.
Even so, the whole phenomenon started with Nike Air Yeezy 1. The sneaker took two years to make and was one of the first times that a pair was created for an artiste and not an athlete. When you look back at the beginnings of the sneaker culture, the Nike Air Yeezy 1 features prominently there. Which is also why it fetched $1.8 million. Or Rs 13 crore!