The all-red shoe went on to become a decade-defining sneaker.
Kanye West isn't known for being on time with releases. When it comes to music, Kanye releases are like wild goose chases that seemingly never end. Just look at his latest full-length album Jesus Is King. The project was announced back in 2018 and only came out in October of the following year. By the time the album was released, fans couldn't believe it was finally in their hands. It was as if they had completely given up hope on a pipe dream, only to be rewarded for their unrelenting patience. West is no stranger to giving fans the runaround and this treasure hunt extends to domains well beyond the scope of music. Of course, I'm talking about sneakers, specifically, his Nike Air Yeezy 2 in the "Red October" colorway.
There was a time when Kanye wasn't with Adidas. From 2009 to 2013, West was signed to sportswear mega-brand Nike. At the time of his Nike deal, fans were excited to see what he would be able to come up with and he didn't disappoint. The Nike Air Yeezy 1 was his first effort with Nike and it was an immediate hit. While some people didn't like the silhouette, others lauded it for its creativity. As you can imagine, the hype surrounding the shoe was incredibly high and they were almost impossible to scoop up for retail. To this day, colorways of the Air Yeezy 1 sell for thousands of dollars on reselling websites.
Following the Air Yeezy 1, sneakerheads were waiting in anticipation for the Air Yeezy 2. Almost three years after dropping his first Nike silhouette, West came through with the highly-anticipated Air Yeezy 2 on June 9th of 2012. This sneaker came in two colorways including "Pure Platinum" and "Solar Red." Once again, these kicks were incredibly rare with only 5,000 pairs sold in each model. The scarcity of these kicks had sneakerheads demanding more colorways. Little did they know, they were about to be led on a wild ride that would last a year and a half and would be filled with hope, doubt, disbelief, and a whole lot of frustration.
It all started on October 3rd, 2012, when Nike employee Gentry Humphrey responded to a fan who asked if a third colorway of the Air Yeezy 2 would be coming out during the Holiday season. At the time, Humphrey said "things r still n the works" which led to a ton of speculation that something special was on the way.
Sneaker blogs latched onto Humphrey's remarks although they would only get a sneak peek at the "Red October" on April 5th, of 2013 when the Instagram user and avid sneaker collector, @simon5302, posted a photo of what would become the "Red October." As you can see, the shoe has an all-red upper while the laces are white. The final version of the "Red October" was given red laces, with gold tips. What's interesting about this photo is that it was met with a lot of skepticism. After all, how could he have gotten his hands on an unreleased shoe that pretty well no one knew existed? Well, this skepticism eventually turned into a glimmer of hope as Kim Kardashian teased Kanye's Yeezus album prior to an SNL performance. On May 18th, 2013, Kim posted a photo to IG showcasing the album next to an all-red shoe. The sneaker in question was undoubtedly an Air Yeezy 2 which meant the new colorway had to have been coming soon.
During Kanye's aforementioned SNL appearance, he wore the "Red October" colorway while performing two songs: "New Slaves" and "Black Skinhead." Both songs were aggressive and spoke to Kanye's distaste of the fashion industry. Nike was seemingly a part of that distaste and fans were beginning to wonder if he would be with the Beaverton brand for much longer. Regardless, fans were still optimistic about the "Red October" and they had every reason to be. Heidi Burgett, Nike's PR Director, revealed on May 30th of 2013 that the all-red colorway would be dropping during the late stages of that year, as opposed to the rumored date of June 16th.
As we all know by now, Kanye is unpredictable. Having said that, it shouldn't come as a surprise that he decided to launch a contest on June 22nd of 2013, giving 50 fans the chance to win a pair of "Red October's" for themselves. In typical Kanye fashion, the contest didn't go as smoothly as planned. According to Nike Kicks, Kanye only revealed the winners two months later and instead of 50, only 24 pairs were given away. Fans were understandably upset about this as it was becoming apparent that the "Red October" release was going to be a lot more cumbersome than originally planned.
To make matters worse, there were rumors that Kanye was about to leave Nike and explore other options in the fashion world. It was clear that West was becoming increasingly impatient with his Nike deal and wanted to go somewhere that afforded him more creative freedom. On November 25th, 2013, Hot 97 posted an interview with West where he revealed that he would be leaving Nike for Adidas. As he explains, Adidas was willing to give him royalties as opposed to Nike who were offering a lump sum so he could produce two collections and 30 SKUs a year. In the interview, West references the release of the "Red October" but doesn't go beyond the mere mention of the shoe.
Just like that, sneakerheads were filled with a sense of dread as all hope surrounding the "Red October" was seemingly lost. For a full year now, fans were waiting for this shoe with bated breath and the optimism that is only shown by diehard stans. In one four-minute clip, Kanye was able to rip the optimism right out of the hands of his fans. Now, if you wanted a pair of Kanye sneakers, you would have to wait for his deal with Adidas to come to fruition which at the time, wasn't exactly set in stone. Considering what he did with the "Red October," there was no guarantee he would deliver on his three stripes promises.
Curiously, the "Red October" showed up on Foot Locker's release calendar just a couple of days before Christmas. The shoe was being slated for December 27th but the Christmas miracle wouldn't last long as Foot Locker eventually canceled the release. Once again, sneakerheads were left wondering what went wrong.
A couple of months later, Nike came through with a last-second buzzer-beater from the other end of the court. Grief had turned into acceptance as the "Red October" was believed to be shelved for the rest of eternity. Well, Nike had different plans apparently as they dropped the shoe seemingly out of nowhere. On February 9th, 2014, on a Sunday of all days, Nike dropped a link on Twitter at 1 o'clock in the afternoon. Out of nowhere, everyone's prayers had been answered. Sneakerheads lucky enough to catch the link as soon as it dropped went straight to the Nike website and scooped up a pair for $250 USD. Naturally, the shoes sold out immediately as numerous fans missed out on the one and only chance at the Holy Grail of Kanye sneakers.
Immediately after the shock drop, the sneaker world was thrust into a state of emergency. Fans were desperate to get their hands on the shoes by any means necessary. This led to some drastic resale prices that have steadily risen over the last six years. In fact, the average price of an Air Yeezy 2 "Red October" is $6,500 on StockX with some sizes going for upwards of $10,000. Part of the reason for these high prices is celebrity influence. NBA players began flexes these shoes out on the court while big-name artists began performing in the flashy all-red kicks. The "Red October" quickly became a pop culture phenomenon that transcended the niche world sneaker fanaticism.
To this day, when you ask people what the best Kanye West shoe is, they'll probably respond with the "Red October." Since his days with Nike, West has firmly established his Yeezy imprint with Adidas. He has made countless dope silhouettes, has started trends, and continues to captivate sneakerheads with countless colorways of already established models. Despite all of this, people still point to the "Red October" as the pinnacle of his sneaker designing genius. And to think, it almost never happened.