The style world has spent a lot of time considering how Kanye West has influenced streetwear. From raising prices on plain white tee shirts, to raising prices on sneakers, there's little Kanye hasn't been able to make more expensive: his wife included. Just twelve years ago Kim Kardashian was content to direct her own independent films, but now if she's going to appear camera, it has to be on the cover of Paper magazine, a media format some say is dying. Here at Complex we showed how Kanye helped Kim unlock her swag. But that road goes both ways.
Skechers represents a larger market share than Jordan Brand.
We must not forget, when Kanye was still choosing which Nike designer would create the second shoe he'd put his name on, Kim was already ankle deep in one of the most significant sneaker brands on the market. Skechers attracts ire from all sneakerhead angles but some things cannot be denied. Mostly: it's one of the most successful sneaker brands in existence. With sales that rival Jordan Brand, Skechers continues to keep itself relevant, if not to Kanye or current day Kim, but to everyone else in America.
Most kids buying Jordan retros already have another pair at home, and they're not wearing them out. Each dollar for Jordan Brand represents fewer consumers who are merely spending more money on a collection. Buyers of Skechers aren't collecting, they're buying shoes they wear everyday. And they're wearing each pair until they need to buy a new one. It's fewer pairs per customer, at a lower price point, but representing far more buyers. It's a bigger market share. That's right: Skechers represents a larger market share than Jordan Brand, so it stands to reason that the biggest celebrity should focus all her fame on shoes worn by her fans in the flyover states. After all, we are meant to consider Kim a reasoned and seasoned entrepreneur.
When Kim donned those curvaceous shoes and sold them as a method to curvaceous views, it was the first time a pop icon shrugged the demands of style to bring a particular message to the people — your choices, no matter how misguided, are enough. Want to be healthier? Want a better life? Want a bigger butt? Just put on these Kim-endorsed Skechers. And then take this check a few years later when the technology is shown to be bogus and Skechers is forced to pay you $40 million for false advertising. Why can't we consider her endorsement of a technology that ultimately proved ineffective another brilliant chapter in her business savviness? She made $5 million from a sex tape when her Assistant-to-Paris-Hilton thing didn’t work out, so why can’t she make a few bucks off sneaker snake oil? It’s genius.
Perhaps the biggest answer comes from Kanye’s revealing words in his interview with Style.com earlier this year. “We looked at the photographs together and she improved my style, we improved each other,” Kanye said. Her dressing may have changed, but Kim has been Kim since the early days of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
What hasn't changed is Kim's mass appeal. Whether it's making millions off an iPhone app, or publishing a book exclusively of selfies, she wants to bring her products to the people in the most direct way possible. Skechers did that in a way few other brands could. When Kanye was designing sneakers for Louis Vuitton it was about making something for the discerning, high end shopper. But now, with Yeezy at adidas, he says it's about the people. He said his adidas collection would be affordable and that anyone would be able to get the Yeezys. Now, like Kim's endorsement of the Shape Ups, this proved to be false, but that's the parallel. It all sounds good until what you bought didn't make its way to the box. (Unless that's on tape, too?)
At a time when influence in this market is counted in dollars, it’s likely that Kim Kardashian has had a larger direct impact than Kanye. Just because a pair of shoes isn’t going to win you any love on Instagram doesn’t mean it’s not owning the market. Just because you’re not going to wait in line for it doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. And just because it was from a time before Yeezy taught her, doesn’t mean it was misguided. Take the words from Kanye himself, “I don't give a fuck what type of jacket she got on.”
(Also: have you noticed the obvious aesthetic parallels between the Shape Ups’ ridged outsole and the Yeezy Boost sole? Stay woke.)
Pete Forester is a contributor for Complex. You can yell at him on Twitter here if you didn't get the joke.