The one man zeitgeist was once told that "pink polos would hurt the Roc." How times have changed. There is no denying that Kanye West’s style is as impactful as his music. Every album is another era and iteration of fashion.
From polos & Ivy League heritage staples, to 80's futurism, to doom metal, Rick Owens & HBA during the Yeezus era, to absolutely changing the fashion industry as whole by 2017, Ye is unrivaled by counterpart. Without Ye, there's no Virgil, Jerry, Don C, or half of the pieces that populate your feeds today. It's not even a question.
Looking back on his seasons, his contribution to trend is undeniable. Revisit Kanye's style evolution and cop some limited pieces inspired by every era.
Click every image to shop Ye's look by album.
“They thought that pink Polo’s would hurt the Roc” Ye famously rapped about his Ivy League heritage style that he entered the game dressed in. The musically gifted producer-turned-MC was just like nothing and no one else right from the start. The fact that he looked like the token minority at a New England private school during the early 2000’s, the most gangster era of Jay-Z’s uber-gangster, NYC based Roc-A-Fella Records camp was just a taste of the high art juxtaposition that West would bring to Hiphop.
Prep fashion brands became a must have drip in urban settings across the US almost instantly, kick starting the Kanye effect one striped rubgy & Oxford shirt at a time.
While the backpack kids and the streets all got to know the rapper when he first stepped in the spotlight with ‘04’s debut album, Late Registration was when he really starting hitting his stride. By 2005- the whole world knew Kanye West.
This era was all about American vintage luxury, lots of Ralph Lauren purple label and heavy knit sweaters. The “college boy” aesthetic was updated upon — now featuring suits, turtlenecks and a pastel color palette — as the man starting becoming more realized as a ceiling breaker.
At the 2006 Grammys, Ye teased a transition, and it was obvious in true Ye style that something bigger and louder was coming.
Graduation came out in summer of 2007 and Kanye jumped on his most futuristic era so far. Shutter shades, graphic tees, LED technology, “Back To The Future” visuals, light up everything, a world tour that featured him more or less doing a Broadway one man show where he interacted with his crashed space craft on a strange planet supported by Lupe Fiasco, NERD & Rhianna & a heavy dose of 80’s retro electro inspired retro futurism was deployed.
808’s & Heartbreak:
The following year, West switched it all up once again and we all got to see a more refined version of his wardrobe.
With the release of 808s & Heartbreaks, Kanye’s aesthetic got bold and dapper at the same time. It was all about the “Louis Vuitton Don” and his signature mid 80’s block mullet.
Inspired by Hall & Oates, Bowie & a dash of Brit New Wave- West really found inspiration in neon noir, weeping synths & melancholy luxury.
West really loved broken hearted nerd shit in this era.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy:
2009 was a controversial year for Mr. West. Marked by his MTV Video Music Award rant against Taylor Swift, his whirlwind relationship with Amber Rose & his hard partying in LA, Yeezy’s Axl Rose phase was in full effect by the time 2010’s groundbreaking album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” dropped in 2010 .
The My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy era was clearly influenced by that event and his fashion game reached another level. Red outfits, enormous gold jewelry and a demi-god mindset were the fuel to his fire. He became peak Michael Jackson, Deion Sanders, Diego Maradona, Dennis Rodman, TuPac Shakur & Jackson Pollock all in one.
The red leather suits, the wild ass high top kick game & the designer details were essentials in this era.
Watch The Throne:
If we’re all living in a SIM like Elon Musk believes, then Kanye unlocked God Mode in 2011. He teamed up with Jay Z to make the sonic equivalent to the Vatican. By this time, he had formed the super team collective DONDA, a mysterious creative organization that Virgil Abloh, Jerry Lorenzo, Don C, Pyer Moss, Taz Arnold, Joe Perez & Justin Saunders all stem from.
The cross-platform collaboration created fashion lines, product drops, art shows, massive installations & generally changed the way “hiphop” was viewed, bridging the gap between high street and low brow in ways only the Warhol Factory had done prior.
HBA, Been Trill, PYREX & the earliest iterations of what would become Yeezy Brand stem from this. The aesthetic was gold leaf, high arching & well researched. The beginning of the goth era for Kanye started here, and would reach its peak two years later with Yeezus.
Kanye’s darkest era to that point. Gone was the lovable prep school backpacker with an MPC and the colorful Nigo made prints. West turned to heavy metal & 80’s B-film horror for the mood board, crafting a record in the mold of Trent Reznor’s sonic pallet, while dressing somewhere between brooding St. Laurent & aggressive mosh pit bleach splatter adorned rocker t’s that would kickstart the cornerstone streetluxe aesthetic.
The Yeezus tour gave us a glimpse of his streetwear aesthetic full of oversized pieces, black kilts & leather joggers and Maison Margiela face masks.
Life Of Pablo:
His designer side emerged as Yeezy Season 1 for adidas debuted in 2015 and it was an instant hit. The Life of Pablo came out in 2016 and his wardrobe was all about Olivier Rousteing’s Balmain signature heavy embroidery paired with classic casual, slightly dystopian meets normcore pieces.
Since TLOP, Kanye’s work in fashion has worked in tandem with the music, instantly changing the way both wearables & hearables viewed their relationship with each other.
Ye/Kids See Ghosts:
The most subdued, creative & perhaps low key brilliant of all the Ye eras. Kanye began embracing the normcore pre-GORP era with non-binary, oversized, ironically unstylish basics.
Larger, fluid silos became a staple, cloudsky prints, plaid patchwork, dad hats, & alotttttt of DIY vintage thrift "screen on screen" graphics in non traditional placements were hallmarks. Without this era, brands like CPFM & Braindead don’t get the spotlight they truly deserve a year or so on.
Jesus Is King:
A more artistic evolution of the “Ye” DIY era with more spiritual energy and mantra injected. Ye doubled down on the GORP energy as he was spending more time in rural America and less in the LA/Calabasas metro high life. More oversized everything, Kanye walked the line between sage cult leader, gallery curator & off grid nomad seamlessly & the entire fashion world copied him, with everyone’s SS20 lookbooks reflecting that same aesthetic.
Kanye began truly embracing art, the spirit of creativity & viewing fashion as "wearable narrative that reflects who and what you are."