Kanye West’s Air Yeezy sneakers are being auctioned for $1m, making them Sotheby’s most expensive shoe listing ever. They are expected to break the record set by a pair of Nike Air Jordan 1s worn by Michael Jordan, which sold for $615,000 last year.
The black, size 12 Nike Air Yeezy 1 prototypes, designed by West and Nike’s Mark Smith in 2007, were groundbreaking. Aesthetically they altered the shape and form of sneakers in the decade that followed.
Brahm Wachter, head of streetwear and modern collectibles at Sotheby’s, said the shoes were “critical to the development of the Yeezy franchise, which became one of the most important sneaker and lifestyle brands in history”.
Virgil Abloh, Off-White and Louis Vuitton creative director, said in 2009 that the shoes revitalised the sneaker market: “It [was] just kind of inspiring, crazy, cool to see that type of hunger for sneakers still exists.”
The shoes also marked the first time that Nike had collaborated with someone who wasn’t an athlete, leading the way for Lil Nas X‘s “Satan shoe” collaboration with MSCHF.
“It was the first shoe to have the same level of impact as an Air Jordan,” West told Forbes in 2019, “and I wanted to do more. And at that time Nike refused to give celebrities royalties on their shoes.”
In a statement Sotheby’s said on Instagram: “The Air Yeezy was an entirely new silhouette – created for an artist rather than an athlete, and paved the way for many of the artist collaborations of today.”
The shoes are available to buy via a private sale from the auction house but will be on display at an exhibition in Hong Kong from 16 April 16 until 21 April. “The Air Yeezy Prototype is particularly special to me because it captured the cultural moment in 2008 so perfectly,” said seller Ryan Chang, a sneaker collector who currently owns the shoes.
West debuted them at the 50th Grammy Awards during a performance of Hey Mama – just a few months after the death of his mother Donda – and Stronger with Daft Punk. He won four awards that night for his 2007 album Graduation.