2014 – The Year Of Kanye

In some ways, you could say 2014 was a commercially slow one for Kanye. The only major, albeit successful, release for the rapper was another instalment of his collaboration with Parisian brand A.P.C. His forthcoming studio album and adidas collaboration, on the other hand – while often promised and much hyped – never made it to the public before the year was out.

2014 was nevertheless the year of ‘Ye. His marriage to reality TV star turned global celebrity Kim Kardashian ‘broke’ Instagram, setting the record for the most liked picture in the photo-sharing app’s history. Together, the pair graced the cover of American Vogue and recently fronted a campaign for luxury label Balmain.

Solo, Kanye secured his second American GQ cover, while Nike’s release of the third and final Air Yeezy 2 Red October was met with ferocious enthusiasm, selling out instantly and now available for thousands of dollars from resellers flogging the trainers online.

In short, you’d have to have been living under a sizeable rock not to have heard of the rapper’s exploits last year – and all without so much as one solo music endeavour.

So, why do we really care? Because along with West’s critically acclaimed and commercially well-received music, his much-watched model wife and at times controversial public conduct, this guy really does have style.

Style Evolution: From College Dropout To Style Icon

When Kanye first burst onto the scene in 2004 with the release of College Dropout, his style consisted largely of preppy basics from the likes of Ralph Lauren, with a few clichéd gold chains thrown in for good measure.

Strong pops of colour were a big part of his wardrobe, as were bold jumpers, teddy bear motifs, Louis Vuitton backpacks and popped collars. The overall effect was loud, garish and deserving of little more than maybe a three out of ten. As Kanye says of his early noughties sartorial endeavours: “Kill self. That’s all I have to say. Kill self.”

Kanye West College Dropout Era Personal Style

What followed were shutter shades, ostentatious tuxedos and fur stoles, until Kanye’s style finally matured circa 2008/2009, when he began to turn himself out in quality tailoring. The burgeoning #menswear generation couldn’t help but bestow props. Yeezy dipped into red-on-red looks, tried a little womenswear for size and even interned at Italian luxury label Fendi before eventually settling on a high-end streetwear aesthetic that he’s well and truly made his own.

In an interview in last August’s issue of American GQ, Mr West revealed his fondness for tonal outfits and wasn’t shy about expressing dislike for strong contrasts, describing them as either “too work, too waiter or too wedding-y”. This subtlety in colour has become one of the hallmarks of Kanye’s current look. In contrast to his noughties-era style, the brash pops of colour are few and far between now – usually relegated to trainers, if on show at all.

The so-called Louis Vuitton Don has grown up. He’s swapped the flash for forward-thinking design, and championed revered luxury labels such as Givenchy, Maison Martin Margiela and Rick Owens – exposing each to a much wider audience than they’d probably ever imagined reaching.

Trends, too, are informed by this rapper’s personal preferences: oversized outerwear, Chelsea boots and longline layers were recent industry trends that basically incubated in Kanye’s own wardrobe.

Yet arguably Kanye’s biggest asset is his layering ability. His understanding, and masterful execution, of reverse layering is on point, showing he has the sartorial smarts to turn a trend that can often look sloppy into anything but.

Kanye West Personal Style Lookbook

Kanye West Personal Style Lookbook

What We Can Learn: Kanye’s Go-To Looks
Sweats + Jeans + Boots

Kanye understands that sometimes the simplest looks are the most effective, as exemplified by this particular off-duty combination. While a sweatshirt/hoody, jeans and boots may not seem like a ground-breaking mixture, it’s the finer details that elevate this outfit from average to iconic.

Firstly, the branding is minimal to non-existent; subtlety and simplicity are the cornerstones of impeccable style, and this applies to everything from suits to sweats. Secondly, his jeans fit perfectly: stacking just enough at the top of the boot and cut slim enough to be timeless as opposed to overly trendy. Finally, he sticks to neutral colours and steers away from glaring contrasts between different elements.

Yes, the basics are all there, but it’s how Kanye builds upon them that sets his looks apart.

He never opts for bog standard or banal, for starters. There’s always a component that is offbeat and up-to-the-minute; a trend-led element that’s woven into this otherwise uncomplicated ensemble. Whether it’s a longline T-shirt/hoodie, a shearling/camo/biker jacket layered over the top, a distressed pair of jeans or reverse layer, ‘Ye is discerning enough to never overdo it but always incorporates something a little daring to match his ostensible confidence.

When it comes to footwear, his boots are clean (in every sense of the word) and unfussy, often opting for a Chelsea silhouette or classic nubuck Timberlands – a blend of hip-hop and rock that Kanye often alludes to when describing his unique approach to fashion. Chelsea boots are a particularly great choice, as they smarten the look up and keep it from appearing slovenly.

Kanye West Key Look: Sweats + Jeans + Boots

Key Piece: The Overcoat

Statement overcoats have recently come to form a core part of Kanye’s wardrobe, and he has shown a real penchant for striking camel versions in slightly oversized cuts.

A difficult look to pull off, oversized outerwear is part of the current anti-fit trend that’s making its presence felt in menswear. Searching for someone to show you how it’s done? Look no further than Kanye’s excellent execution. His overcoat sleeves aren’t too long and the cut isn’t excessively boxy – just large enough to throw the slimmer, fitted legwear into relief, leaving us under no illusions that the proportion mismatch is entirely deliberate.

Kanye also makes use of the overcoat’s innate versatility. Whether he’s juxtaposing it against those sweatshirt, jeans and boots combinations or slipping it over something smarter, Kanye makes an incomparable case for this outerwear staple.

Kanye West Key Piece: The Overcoat

Leather Legwear

One of menswear’s most polarising looks, leather legwear is something many of us wouldn’t even consider trying, but Kanye – unsurprisingly – pulls off with aplomb. In many ways, leather trousers are ‘Ye’s signature piece; he’s even laid claim to the invention of leather sweatpants. Whether you grant him that one or not, there’s no denying leather legwear forms a fundamental part of his wardrobe.

It’s fair to say that the majority of us aren’t going to be rushing out to buy a pair of leather trousers any time soon. They’re a statement too strong for even some of the most seasoned of fashion veterans. But, if you’ve got the cojones, Kanye offers ideal inspiration when it comes to treading that fine line between 1970s-era leather bar and stylishly on point.

Keeping the rest of your look minimal is essential. Kanye manages this by utilising a predominantly neutral palette; with colour kept under wraps, the addition of a risky element like leather legwear doesn’t seem so brash, but instead adds an interesting texture to the look.

Fit is also crucial. Skinny styles are best left for fading rock stars. Instead, aim for a flattering slim- to straight-fit that doesn’t increase your chances of indecent exposure and, more importantly, won’t chafe.

Finally, confidence is key. Obviously, to say that the self-proclaimed ‘Yeezus’ has this in abundance would be a serious understatement. As he said himself: “But with my ego, I can stand there in a Speedo / And be looked at like a f***ing hero.” Enough said.

Kanye West Key Pieces: Leather Legwear

Inspired By Pieces
  • Selected T-shirt In LonglineSelected T-shirt In Longline
  • Asos Super Longline Long Sleeve T-shirt With Side ZipsAsos Super Longline Long Sleeve T-shirt With Side Zips
  • Allsaints Kushiro Leather Biker JacketAllsaints Kushiro Leather Biker Jacket
  • He By Mango Faux-fur Lined CoatHe By Mango Faux-fur Lined Coat
  • Topman Ltd Washed Black Skinny Ripped JeansTopman Ltd Washed Black Skinny Ripped Jeans
  • Topman Khaki Brushed Bomber JacketTopman Khaki Brushed Bomber Jacket
  • Reiss Toulon Suede Bomber Jacket NavyReiss Toulon Suede Bomber Jacket Navy
  • Grenson Brown Suede Declan Classic Chelsea ShoesGrenson Brown Suede Declan Classic Chelsea Shoes
  • Tomas Maier Loopback Cotton-jersey HoodieTomas Maier Loopback Cotton-jersey Hoodie
  • Maison Martin Margiela Grandad-collar Cotton-poplin ShirtMaison Martin Margiela Grandad-collar Cotton-poplin Shirt
  • Theory Whyte Wool OvercoatTheory Whyte Wool Overcoat
  • Schiesser Ribbed Cotton-jersey Henley T-shirtSchiesser Ribbed Cotton-jersey Henley T-shirt
  • Nn.07 Alex Marled-cotton SweaterNn.07 Alex Marled-cotton Sweater
  • Saint Laurent Slim-fit Leather TrousersSaint Laurent Slim-fit Leather Trousers
  • Dolce & Gabbana Gold-fit Washed Denim JeansDolce & Gabbana Gold-fit Washed Denim Jeans
Final Word

If 2014 was the year of Kanye, expect his style to seriously blow up in 2015 as he plans to release a new album and unveil a debut collaboration with adidas.

Love him or hate him, ‘Ye polarises opinion like few others. He is inarguably one of the music and fashion worlds’ biggest influencers – his style inspires major trends and his designs and collaborations immediately sell out. Whatever he wears becomes an instant hit.

But what do you think: are you a fan of Mr West’s personal style? If not, are there still elements you could incorporate into your own looks? Or is he just too over the top for your liking?

Let us know in the comments section…