‘We miss the old Kanye.’ In celebration of his debut album’s recent sixteenth birthday, it’s only right to look back on the impact Kanye West has had on the fashion world.
Amongst his antics and instrumentals; Kanye’s passion for fashion is a crucial element of himself that has influenced pop culture since the release of his debut album, The College Dropout. While his style is unmatched, he also seems to be constantly at odds with it, whether he’s been setting trends within current styles or becoming a well-respected designer in his own right.
‘We even had the pink rugby and thought we was Kanye’: The self-proclaimed ‘Louis Vuitton Don’ completely shattered the parameters of Hip-Hop style. It was obvious that ‘Ye was a new and peculiar version of rap that was emerging when he entered the mainstream in the early 2000s. Rocking pink rugby polos, Louie V backpacks; while the average rapper was still wearing XXX tees, bootcut jeans and staying iced out from head to toe. Yeezy wasn’t with conformity. While embracing bourgeois-styled behaviour, he broke stereotypes of a rapper’s sense of style.
‘See he invented Kanye ,it wasn’t any Kanyes.’ At first, Roc-A-Fella records weren’t convinced on giving Kanye a deal, and who could blame them? West’s obsession with preppy polo shirts and backpacks was definitely unconventional. Although Dame Dash and Jay Z came around eventually, Kanye admitted it was difficult to convince the two moguls: “No one would give me a deal,” The Chi-Town native explained, “Maybe it’s because of what I had on… I guess they judged a book by its cover.” But if we know anything about Kanye, it’s his unwillingness to relinquish his creative freedom.
Kanye continued to bridge the gap between Hip-Hop and fashion, he blurred the lines among the high-end fashion cosmos while meshing rap within that. Of course, he wasn’t the first rapper that rocked designer brands, but he was one of the few that had a rapport with these fashion brand ambassadors. Being the first non-athlete to be given a shoe deal; added to the relationships with fashion designers such as Olivier Theyskens, Jeremy Scott, and Azzedine Alaïa to name a few; was only propelling him to a place further than music could ever take him. However, when it comes to Kanye inspiring fellow rebellious and experimental artists, a melting pot of musicians come to mind. Whether it’s older creatives like Pharrell, T Pain and Kid Cudi or newer ones such as Drake, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar — the influence is evident. It might not be a direct correlation between Kanye and the newer age artists, but I guarantee that their favourite artist’s favourite artist is Mr West himself.
And now in 2020, while Kanye’s style has provided more gusto than the average man, it seems like he’s embracing the dad-esque look more and more; quite fitting for his role these days. ‘Ye has smoothly integrated this new part of his life within his appearance: With a casual, plain pair of black sweatpants (usually tucked into his Yeezy limited socks), along with his matching t-shirt, underneath a puffer; and to top it off (literally) — a Kanye fit these days isn’t complete without an appearance from one of his dad hats.
While you could argue most of what he does causes controversy, who is Kanye without controversy, and controversy without Kanye? Yeezus continues to move the needle and polarize the world by embracing his own formula, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Celebrating the anniversary of Kanye’s debut album means highlighting the innovation and rejuvenation he has continued to bring to each and every industry he dabbles in and ‘We still love Kanye like Kanye loves Kanye.’
Words by Charlie Miller
Graphics by Séverine Denis-Lessard