In just a single week, Kanye West ended his appearance on Saturday Night Live with a rant in support of Donald Trump, met with the president at the White House and pitched him a pilfered hydrogen-powered plane design, gave a keynote of some kind in an Apple store in Washington, and livestreamed his opinions on mind control from Africa.
West gave a pair of his Yeezy sneakers, made with Adidas, to both Trump and Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni. In the Oval Office, West told Trump of his fashion brand, “When I went in, in 2015, [Adidas was] a $14 billion company losing $2 billion a year. Now, we have $38 billion market cap. It’s called ‘The Yeezy Effect.'” He added, “I mean, this Adidas thing made me a billionaire. And I could have lost $200 million walking away from that deal.”
Leaving aside the accuracy of those numbers, West has spent years building Yeezy into a billion-dollar brand, one that straddles the high fashion-streetwear divide beloved by the cool kids. And what do those kids think of the new MAGA-hat-wearing West, at a time when progressive politics is trendy, fashionable types express their wokeness in anodyne slogans on tote bags and protest signs at one long never-ending march, and anyone who dares to come to a different conclusion is “cancelled” from the culture (paywall)?
They don’t seem to mind too much, actually.
Hypefest, a two-day event in New York held for the first time by Hypebeast, the online magazine whose very name has become a pejorative for 14-year-olds who line up for days to buy Supreme fanny packs. Many attendees of course wore their flyest gear. Almost everyone at the event seemed to have a pair of Yeezy Wave Runners.
The New York Times (paywall) asked one attendee, a 30-year-old DJ, if it felt like he was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat on his feet. “Not at all,” came the reply. “What he supports isn’t what I support. Everyone’s got their own thoughts and feelings. I like his shoes.” Another 22-year-old was more ambivalent. “I don’t even support Kanye right now,” he said. “He’s lost his damn mind.” Still, he was toting his Yeezys in public.
West’s personal antics since he left the sunken place haven’t yet dented people’s perceptions of him as a style icon. There has been no burning of shoes, for example, as when the alt-right reacted to Nike’s new Colin Kaepernick ad campaign. That fans are willing to give West a pass is also a reminder that most ordinary people are still predisposed to separate an artist from their art. The Atlantic recently noted (paywall) that support for political correctness is much less widespread than well-meaning liberals think among the vast majority of Americans, who see “not so much genuine concern for social justice as the preening display of cultural superiority.”
This may not last forever. West and the Yeezy brand are inextricably linked. Anyone who has a problem with Kanye eventually has a problem with his shoes as well. Which is why Drake, who has not been getting along with this latest version of Ye, recently went after not the musician, but his brand in song:
Yeah, keepin’ it G,
I told her don’t wear no 350s around me