Kanye West is reaching across the aisle. This afternoon, the rapper and Adidas designer posted something familiar to his Twitter account: a funny-looking sneaker. You know the type: the kind of avant-garde silhouette Yeezy has been putting out for years, that force you to try to imagine a world where they might be worn. “THESE BRING ME BACK TO MY CHILDHOOD … GROWING UP ON ANIME … I NEED A PAIR,” he tweeted. The shoes feature a dusty cutout midsole, and a pair of zip-tie looking buckles criss-crossing across the tangerine-grey knit upper. They are, undeniably, wild.
But the most confounding element rests near the toe: a Nike Swoosh.
Not that Kanye isn’t liable to tweet anything at any time, but I had “praising a Nike shoe” as a longer shot than “announcing a presidential run under the Birthday Party” on my Kanye-themed 2020 bingo card. The rapper and the Swoosh have a complicated history, from their boundary-pushing collaboration to their not-so-amicable breakup in 2014. Since leaving the brand, Kanye has been hellbent on crushing it. On the 2016 track “Facts,” Kanye prematurely bragged about Yeezy jumping over the Jumpman. When he debuted the song at during the Yeezy 3 fashion show at Madison Square Garden, he started a “Fuck Nike” chant. Not exactly a glowing review of his time collaborating with the company.
And yet here we find ourselves. The shoes that thawed Kanye’s heart are part of Nike’s newish ISPA line (ISPA stands for “Improvise. Scavenge. Protect. Adapt.”) Any time a longtime rival, especially one as gung-ho as Kanye, is willing to go out of their way to praise a competitor, it’s worth paying close attention. The ethos of the Nike project is taking elements from past shoes and using them to create something new. These ISPA Zoom Road Warrior “scavenges purposeful innovations from running, basketball, training and outdoor footwear,” according to Nike. The different puzzle pieces here include an open heel made for Nike Shox prototypes and air capsules (“zoom pods,” in Nike parlance) from the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next%, which Eliud Kipchoge wore when he broke the two-hour marathon barrier. “WOW SO COOL NIKE … KEEP INNOVATING … THE WOLRD [sic] NEEDS IT … GREAT JOB,” Kanye wrote in a separate tweet.
Kanye’s chilly attitude towards Nike seems to have melted over the past couple of years. In fact, this isn’t even the first time the rapper has supported the ISPA line. In November of last year, someone spotted him trying on a pair of ISPA Air Max 720s. In a 2018 interview with Charlamagne tha God, Kanye described his breakup with Nike as “heartbreaking.” “I love Nike,” he said. “I loved Nike. I have to put the ‘-ed’ on it for the stockholders.” He even told GQ he’d be cool with the brand retro-ing his Air Yeezys. If he keeps this up, might a Kanye-Nike reunion be in the cards? It’s 2020: far stranger things have happened.