The shoe that causes the most commotion for Adidas is the one the brand needs to reconsider right now. The Adidas Yeezy Boost 350, single-handedly, served as the foundation upon which Kanye West’s Adidas empire was built. His life has been up and down over the past five years, from ranting hero, acclaimed genius, to divisive figure who’s found himself on the wrong side of his fans’ political fence. Through all that, the Adidas Yeezy 350 v2, with its sock-like upper and ribbed midsole, remains a favorite. Almost too much so. In fact, it would be nice if Adidas put the 350, in whatever variation it now exists, in the vault for some time.
A lot of people are going to take issue with this stance. That’s OK, bring them on. The issue with the 350 is that it’s overdone. It doesn’t feel special anymore. It’s the face, or rather the foot, of the Yeezy brand. But for the company to grow, it needs to become more than just this shoe. It’s gotten to the point that, even with all the other models in the brand’s range (500, 700, 750, etc), this is the only sneaker people think of when they think of Yeezys. Everyone wears them. It’s not a bad thing. West said he wanted to get to the point where “Everyone who wants Yeezys, will have Yeezys.” And he’s backed up that statement and then some. Not saying that the 350 is a bad shoe because a lot of people wear it, even if what made Yeezys so important early on is that they were impossible to obtain, but the brand needs a new direction.
Think about it for a second, the 350 is nearly a relic at this point. It signifies the era a few years back when everyone was obsessed with sneakers that doubled as socks. Those days have come and gone. NMDs are dead. Ultra Boosts are dead. Whatever crap sock shoes that Nike made in reaction to the trend are also dead. Somehow the 350 marches on, even if we’ve seen umpteen colorways of the shoe and the resale value on many of them has plummeted.
When it first came out in its original version in 2015, the Yeezy was something new of sorts. It was the first Kanye West sneaker that the average person could wear. His two sneakers with Nike were over-the-top hightops with straps and pink highlights. His first Adidas model, the 750 Boost, was more boot than shoe. When the first colorway of the 350 came around, the Turtle Dove with its cement-like knitted upper, it showed that West was willing to change. I remember talking to someone who does marketing at a big sneaker retailer and they said, “This shoe is going to be really big.” And they were right.
Adidas bet hard on the 350, even if they didn’t make a lot of them. Nearly everything in the brand’s line mimicked the shoe. From basketball to lifestyle to running. Its design cues could be found allover, to the point where there were rumors that West was upset that Adidas was ripping off his work. People went from wearing suede running sneakers to knit running shoes and the industry shifted. Very few could get the original 350s and the resale value was over $1,000 per pair. Then the 350v2 came and they weren’t as hard to come across. Colorway after colorway. Restock after restock. You could walk through Times Square and see a slew of tourists wearing the all-white pair or the Zebras. Even more so you’ll people wearing a plethora of knockoff Yeezys, from pairs made by Skechers to ones you can buy for $15 in front of a Bodega on 8th avenue. Gone were the days of fake Jordans and in came the era of bootleg Yeezys. There were lightup pairs. Even the NFL had fake licensed Yeezys made in team colors complete with the logos on them.
Yeezy 350s were no longer as cool, in part because of their saturation. It did prove that West was onto something. That his sneaker was the sneaker. But he’s also had to move on. The subsequent sneakers, which have been co-designed by footwear guru Steven Smith, have been objectively better than those created in tandem with Adidas’ Nic Galway anyway you slice it. The 700 and 500 are some of the best sneakers West has put out, even if they don’t capture the original image of a Yeezy in the consumers’ mind. Retail workers have told me that people, mainly tourists on vacation once again, don’t want the newer shoes because they think the only Yeezy is a 350. Some might say that’s reason for Adidas to make more and more of them, even as the industry turns away from them. It’s also an opportunity for the brand, a la Jerry Seinfeld, to make the shoe go out on top. To not run it into the ground. To let it disappear for some time and build demand for it to come back. West is already the richest rapper in hip-hop, thanks to his sneakers, according to Forbes. He also has shown that he has hundreds of different designs on deck. Let’s see some of them. Jordan puts shoes on ice all the time and it only furthers the anticipation for them. If West wants to jump over the Jumpman, he needs to prove he can do the same thing.
If there’s anything that Kanye West has taught us is that change is inevitable and necessary for growth. The same philosophy should be applied to his shoe line. You can always bring the 350 back. Show us something new.