For most people, June 9 holds little significance, but the date may one day ring out for its importance as a major fork in the road for sneaker history. It was on this day in 2012 that Nike released the Air Yeezy 2 for $245, the model designed by Kanye West. It was the shoe that signaled the rapper-producer would be taken seriously in the field of fashion—something he longed for maybe even more than any recognition and fame afforded him in music.

And as it turned out, the Yeezy 2 would lead to the undoing of the relationship between the two powerhouse forces, ruining a union that could have potentially been greater than any other before it. To establish a non-athlete signature shoe line that not only drove sales but impacted the culture would’ve been a huge feather in Nike’s cap and helped the company continue its dominance over the footwear industry. Five years is a relatively short amount of time, yet it feels like a lifetime ago here, given the constant changes Kanye’s undergone coupled with the runaway success he’s had since joining Adidas in 2014. 

The first Nike Air Yeezy, originally released in 2009, set the stage for the second iteration, but the two models couldn’t have been more different from each other. The first collaboration between Kanye and Nike was impressive in its own right. The sole utilized the tooling of the Nike Air Revolution, a base close in kin to the Air Jordan III, and the high-ankle collar bore a resemblance to the style seen on the Air Jordan V and VII. But the Air Yeezy 2’s look and style eclipsed its predecessor. Aside from the Air Tech Challenge II midsole, most of the elements — the molded rubber heel, the hieroglyphics spelling out “YZY,” the faux reptile skin, the gold aglets — were fresh takes. They culminated in a final product that manifested a near-perfect marriage of fashion, sport and function. Nathan VanHook, Nike’s lead designer for the model, said, “The anaconda-textured side panel, the toe overlay, the articulated tongue, the inscribed lace toggle — everything was truly looked over by [Kanye], crafted specifically for him.”

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