Editor’s Opinion: Why It’s Still Cool to Buy New Yeezy’s
Just kidding. It’s not.
The past three weeks, social media and the media airwaves have been buzzing with Kanye West and his flamboyant return to the Twitterverse. West’s first tweets plug upcoming music and apparel. His much-anticipated Calabasas birthed album and the announcement of a joint album with Kid Cudi, slated for June releases, made music fans rejoice. Similarly, teaser pics of a plethora of Yeezy V2’s, Waverunners, and Desert Rats in various colorways sent sneaker and streetwear enthusiasts into a similar frenzy. Excitement and anticipation was palpable, … then the ball dropped.
Kanye jumped into the political fray to praise Candace Owens, a Stamford, Connecticut bred journalist and propagandist known for her alternative right-wing support. Without clarifying his initial statements regarding Owens, West doubled-down, showing his support for the current alt-right movement and its leader Donald Trump by posting pictures of his signed “MAGA” hat and praising Trump’s communication style. Ye followed up his twitter antics through an interview with the Breakfast Club’s Charlamagne tha God, continuing his spiral by lashing out at former President Barack Obama, Nike, and the man he dubbed “Big Brother”, Jay-Z. He culminated his tirade with a TMZ interview in which he stated 400 years of slavery was a “choice”. While taken somewhat out of context, his diatribe was very tone-deaf and overtly ignorant.
Free-Speech Versus Free-Thinking
By now some readers have muttered to themselves “he’s entitled to say and do whatever he wants”. Other readers may be grumbling to themselves “he’s a genius, and you just don’t understand him”. Still a third group is chiming in “it’s just for publicity, he’s trolling, and it’s all to help sell his album(s)”.
To the first group, he is absolutely entitled to his opinion, as are we all, which includes criticizing or finding fault with his opinion. To the second group, you may be partly right. I don’t understand. My personal frustration comes from squaring the idea that a person is a genius when they outright declare their ignorance. In one of his tweets, Kanye admits not knowing enough about conservatism to declare himself one or align himself with their ideals. He then states he still supports Black Lives Matters, MeToo, and a slew of other liberal movements, and then in some cringe-worthy Fahrenheit 451 plot twist to his Charlamagne interview, West proudly states he doesn’t read, but yes, genius. And to the final group, the crux of my problem with all things “Yeezy” at the moment, is that publicity should not buy anyone a pass on ignorant statements.
Get Off My Lawn
In the modern era it’s interesting to see so many people and brands obsessed with preserving or creating a “brand”, but how quickly they can compartmentalize or separate aspects of a celebrity, athlete, or politician’s life to ride the wave or put money in their own pockets. A fact that seems to be lost on many people is that money spent, justifies or condones behavior. Stock prices rise and fall when consumers lose faith or respect for a company’s practices and philosophy’s. Obviously when we talk about an individual, the lines get blurry. No one is perfect and with social media, and the 24-hour news cycle, insight into the mind of a high-profile celebrity like Kanye West is more prevalent than it was just ten-years ago. We all understand flaws are more obvious in these conditions, but they are avoidable. One needs only to look at Kanye contemporaries like Jay-Z or Beyoncé to see carefully curated branding. While West shouldn’t have to change who he is to please the world, the volume at which he pronounces his ideas to the world demands a reaction. If it was merely about his ideas and not about attaching his ideology to his branding, he could create an online pseudonym and tweet. Sadly though, this is not the case. Kanye West’s outbursts and tirades cannot and should not be ignored, especially by those of us who are thoughtful consumers.
Another Nike Win
In 2016, after making a statement where he likened same-sex relationships to being “worse than animals,” Manny Pacquiao was dropped by Nike for the insensitive comments made during his election campaign in the Philippines. Similarly, Johnny Manziel, the drug and alcohol embattled quarterback, was dropped by the Swoosh brand in the spring of 2016 after multiple off the field controversies. Lance Armstrong was done at the end of 2012 when he was confronted by an insurmountable onslaught of accusations and investigations into illegal doping from his historic Tour De France runs in the early 2000’s. Nike seems to have little tolerance for controversy or negative public perception, but the same cannot be said of Adidas.
Having closed the gap somewhat on Jordan and Nike in the past years, Adidas seems very unsettled at the idea of even questioning its relationship with Yeezy. To his credit Kanye West is almost single-handedly responsible for the three stripes resurgence to the top of the heap since 2015. However, his public comments have put a negative light on Adidas, notably since they’ve come out and publicly stated they have no intention of dissolving their relationship. With a more holistic picture in hand it seems Nike may once again have bested Adidas. Had this controversy ensued at Swoosh, do we have any doubt they would have cut ties with Kanye? Did the top brand see this inevitable controversy coming from West’s larger than life personality early on? Either way, this just goes to show the inscrutable image put forth by Nike.
Yes, you can buy Yeezy’s. The hype behind Yeezy releases is unlikely to die down and go away anytime soon. But let’s not pretend buying or wearing a pair doesn’t make a profound statement. Kanye West smugly cavorts and pals around with individuals who proudly support police brutality, societal discrimination based on race, religion, and sex, as well as assaults on clean water and air. Wearing his new releases might be a fashion statement, but for many of us it’ll be impossible for it not to also be a social or even a political statement. We can choose to ignore all the implications of the current Yeezy brand, but to do so would not be cool.