Lace Up for this YouTube Original. But first, let’s backtrack to hip hop’s first fashion statement with sneakers.
When West Coast rap began, the group N.W.A. began wearing Adidas shoes and Raiders apparel to every performance. This signified their personal brand and was one of the first-known instances that rap artists used fashion to join mainstream culture. Today’s rappers have transitioned from wash jeans and backwards baseball caps to statement pieces that are under the high fashion umbrella. For example, Rae Sremmurd is usually seen in Louis Vuitton, Migos in Versace (see Get Right Witcha), and Young Dro in a Romper(Him).
Story | Sara Loretta
Image | YouTube
Today, a rapper’s fashion choice is an important part of their personality; clothes, jewelry and shoes represent who they are in the industry, and influence their associations outside of the studio. While clothes are important, any person involved with hip-hop understands that shoes are a protected asset and must be worn with caution to ensure the quality does not lessen; queue the “keeping the J’s clean” jokes.
Because shoes like Jordans are finely crafted, most individuals refuse to wear the product out and instead collect several pairs to rotate through. As consumers, we can see these finished pieces of art with a tap of our thumb (check out DJ Khaled’s Sneakers) or modeled during Fashion Week, but we rarely get to see urban culture in production. Instead we get 16 seasons of banana emblems and flower crowns on Project Runway.
For that reason, Complex teamed up with PENSOLE Footwear Design Academy to create a fashion competition centered entirely around shoes. Premiering on September 14, 2017, Lace Up: The Ultimate Shoe Challenge, brought 12 designers from around the world to compete for a job at Adidas and the chance to design a new shoe for James Harden.
The 12 competitors are divided into four teams of three and each week the teams are presented with an original base shoe, like the classic Adidas Superstar, to redesign for a guest judge such as Anthony Anderson and Ashley Graham. As a team, the designers must work together to build a one-of-a-kind shoe and pitch their ideas to PENSOLE owner and shoe designer, D’Wayne Edwards.
Edwards in turn acts as a mentor for the competition, but also can send any of the designers home at any time. The series allows us to see the behind the scenes of how creative teams develop statement shoes that all of our favorite rappers are seen wearing and we in turn are buying as well.
You can watch the first two episodes for free, and then being the savvy college kid you are – sign up for the free trial of Youtube Red, watch the rest and then delete your subscription. #YoureWelcome