Did Nike Handle the "Red October" Air Yeezy II Launch the Right Way?


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Complex Original

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Written by Gerald Flores (@ImGeraLd)

At around 1 p.m. EST on February 9, 2014, the sneaker world witnessed something they thought they would never see.

In what was possibly the quickest quickstrike of all time, the release of the “Red October” Air Yeezy II officially dropped on Nike.com like a thief in the night.  

If you weren’t at the right place at the right time, checking @NikeStore’s Twitter feed with a credit card handy, you were basically shit out of luck because the sneaker sold out in a matter of 11 minutes.

But was this the best way for Nike to handle the release of this shoe? It sure was.

The storyline of the release of the Red Octobers is an oddity in this industry, and with every twist and turn the plot has taken in the past year, it’s built up more hype and anticipation among sneakerheads and Kanye Stans.

The storyline of the release of the Red Octobers is an oddity in this industry.

First, they were be going to be gifted to a few lucky winners of a Willy Wonka-esque giveaway that Kanye West had in June. Then, Foot Locker confirmed that the shoes would be sold at its doors this past December, then canceled the release. The sneakers showed up on Fancy this past week, with a price tag of $10,000 a pair. And somewhere in between all of that, Kanye left Nike to go to adidas.

Despite the murkiness about the Red October's availability, the sneaker community knew that the shoes existed in warehouses somewhere. The hype about the sneakers was real, and controversy about what Nike was going to do with the sneakers kept growing as time passed by.

The company needed to drop this shoe and do it in the quietest way possible. Nike wanted to get this sneaker off their back and finalize the end of its relationship with Kanye West.

But everybody noticed. The words “Yeezys," “Red Octobers," and “The Nike Air Yeezy 2” were all worldwide trending topics within minutes of the drop. There was no escaping the cultural impact that this sneaker had on people and the mythical status these shoes had about them.

The company needed to drop this shoe and do it in the quietest way possible.

Even though the sneakers may be a very small piece of the pie for Nike financially, the Red Octobers, and the Yeezy franchise in general, goes to show what the brand is giving up by letting Kanye West go. The artist’s involvement added a mystique to these products that couldn’t be garnered through technological innovation or multimillion dollar marketing campaigns.

Also, Nike’s big launches of the weekend—the “Diamond” Dunk Hi, the Nike Kobe 9, and the Flyknit Trainer Chukka FSB—were basically overshadowed by one unannounced drop, that nobody saw coming. The “Diamond” Dunks, or “Tiffany” Highs for the un-initiated, were one of Nike SB's biggest stories in years.

The Kobe 9 and the Flyknit Trainer Chukka were two of Nike's most innovative performance sneakers to date, with the Kobe being the brand's first basketball shoe with Flyknit technology and the Flyknit Chukka the highlight of Nike’s footwear collection for the Sochi Olympics.

In some ways, Nike devalued itself from a performance aspect with all of the attention being paid on a non-performance product, so why add even more spotlight on by giving the Red Octobers a grand release?

There's also the issue of safety. Remember the madness around the launch of the first Air Yeezy II colorways, with people camping out for months? Exactly why it wouldn't make sense for Nike to drop these shoes at brick-and-mortar stores. 

Sunday’s launch of the Red Octobers signaled the official end of the Kanye West x Nike era. The brand can finally move on and put this debacle behind them, while the sneaker community can finally stop wondering when these fabled sneakers will release. Now, they can start looking ahead to Kanye’s next move with adidas.