Despite His Best Efforts, Kanye West’s Outsized Influence on Modern Menswear Persists

Welcome to HOF Fits, a series that pays homage to the perennial MVPs of the competitive sport that is getting dressed.

It’s not in Kanye West’s nature to rest on his laurels. Fresh off the heels of signing a multiyear deal with Gap—a dramatic realization of a long-held dream to bring his designs to the masses—the pioneering creative polyglot dropped a new single featuring Travis Scott, his first release since 2019’s Jesus Is King. Say what you will about the man, but his work ethic has always been unimpeachable. His drive is famously relentless. (Sometimes a bit too relentless: see his recently announced presidential bid, of the extremely ill-advised variety, for further proof.) So it’s little surprise that while he was dropping genre-defining albums and gradually building a billion-dollar sneaker business, he was able to maintain a side hustle as the most influential figure in modern menswear, full stop.

For a period of time starting in the early 2010s, whatever Kanye wore was sacrosanct—his outfits downloaded and saved into thousands of desktop folders around the world, to be dissected in detail by hordes of frenzied followers—and over the last decade his sway has only slightly abated. (If you’re a fashion-forward dude and curious about the origins of any given item in your closet, chances are Kanye had a hand in popularizing some version of it, more often than not a few years before the style hit the mainstream.) So sure, it’s easy to write off some of Kanye’s more out-there claims as typically second-to-none displays of pure braggadocio, but when it comes to the role he’s played in shaping the look of modern menswear, it really is hard to overstate his influence.

Today, with so many of his closest collaborators now comfortably ensconced in the fashion firmament, West’s influence might be less visible but remains no less prevalent. Thankfully for us, the primary perk of being one of the most famous people in the world is that there’s always someone around to document your fits (even, unfortunately, when you don’t want ’em to). And in Kanye’s case that means a veritable treasure trove of photo evidence testifying to his influence, via after —after —of his every internet-shattering outfit.

And if you’ve been feeling conflicted about his recent turn as a born-again Republican billionaire (with the outlandish opinions to back it up) there’s some comfort to be had in tuning out the noise and focusing on the man’s many, many memorable fits. Because no matter what Ye decides to do next, we’ll always have his outfits, and now seems a particularly apt time to look back at some of his best.

It’s Yeezy season, baby. Let’s get it.

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January 3, 2011

The makings of Kanye’s modern-era signature style begin to emerge.

April 17, 2011

Delivering one of the greatest live performances of all time in a blouse from Phoebe Philo’s Celine.

June 6, 2011

At the CFDA Awards, American fashion’s swankiest event, Kanye came through looking like he knew he belonged.

November 9, 2011

An early look at the soon-to-be-shelved Air Yeezy 2s. (Featuring a guest appearance from H&M’s collaboration with Versace. Ahhh, were we ever so young?!)

November 29, 2011

The leather skirt (or was it a kilt?) seen, and debated, around the world.

January 20, 2012

A masterclass in reverse layering of the man who practically invented the move.

September 28, 2012

The look that singlehandedly convinced every teen at the time to suck it up and invest in a pair of Bred 1s.

November 29, 2012

A big-ass, floor-dragging fur and some supple, stacked leather pants, part deux.

September 29, 2013

Making a Rick Owens DRKSHDW parka and fringed Visvim FBTs look like the most natural fit in the world.

November 19, 2013

Another day, another (really, really good) DRKSHDW parka.

September 28, 2013

Another signature look emerges.

March 2, 2104

Doing double-denim like nobody’s business.

May 6, 2014

An early scene-stealing cameo from what would quickly become a Kanye staple: Bottega Veneta’s distinctive chelsea boots.

September 24, 2014

A look that foretold our current infatuation with the functionality of the handkerchief (though, perhaps, with less practical intentions in mind).

September 25, 2014

In a Dries Van Noten coat so nice it looks downright kingly.

November 6, 2014

In his-and-hers matching Balmain blazers.

January 24, 2015

Suited and booted, baby!

February 8, 2015

A full-on velour Haider Ackermann sweatsuit is always a solid move, especially sitting front row at the motherfucking Academy Awards.

February 18, 2015

(Bonus points if you rock the top half of said sweatsuit, like, every other day for the rest of the year.)

February 20, 2015

Suitably understated (well, almost) to pay his respects to Central Saint Martins’ legendary Louise Wilson.

March 4, 2015

In the now-infamous Raf Simons bomber Ye put on the map in a big way.

March 5, 2015

In a Vetements sweatshirt Kanye rocked with a steadfast resoluteness for, like, three months straight.

March 11, 2015

Another perfectly-cropped bomber, from the Columbian-born French designer—and fast Kanye favorite—Haider Ackermann.

April 5, 2015

Easter Sunday style, done the Ye way.

July 24, 2015

Expertly executed monochromatic dressing, made all the better by the type of proportion play Kanye popularized.

July 24, 2015

Fifty Shades of Beige. (A book I’d read in a heartbeat!)

October 2, 2015

Repurposed military-inspired gear worn with an oversized flannel and a faded vintage tee (with some very rare sneakers thrown in for good measure)? Another signature style emerges.

April 23, 2016

Don’t get it twisted: Kanye still knows his way around some extremely sharp suiting.

April 24, 2016

A true return to form.

May 2, 2016

A (big) Met Gala fit for the fucking books.

June 5, 2016

Still one of the best vintage bombers I’ve ever seen.

June 20, 2016

All-white athleisure worn as it should be: with subtle hints of gold and some pants that don’t look like they’re made entirely out of spandex.

August 28, 2016

Branded tour merchandise never looked so red white carpet ready.

August 29, 2016

Might call Tupac over!

October 3, 2016

Kanye in a standout Dries tee and some absolutely shredded jeans from Jerry Lorenzo’s fourth collection for Fear of God.

October 4, 2016

The beginnings of a long and fruitful relationship with hard-wearing American workwear (and a signature pant-tuck tic that—to this day—only Ye can pull off).

December 16, 2016

A meeting of the minds I’d give anything to get in on.

February 10, 2017

An absolute unit of a coat of one of Yeezy’s earliest collections.

June 21, 2018

Moments before arriving at a show that culminated in The Hug that melted hearts around the world.

August 9, 2018

A cropped, boxy tee, ultra-practical, utilitarian pants, and some hard-worn Yeezy boots: Yet another signature style emerges. (Peep Tremaine Emory, of Denim Tears fame, in the back with the equally big fit.)

September 7, 2018

It takes a lot to get Ye into some old-school tailoring these days. Ralph Lauren’s 50th anniversary bash clearly makes the cut.

December 3, 2019

And when Kanye suits up, he almost always comes correct. *Chef’s kiss*

May 6, 2019

The best damn outfit of the whole damn year. (Don’t @ me, dog.)

September 29, 2019

In a faded RRL jean jacket and some simple, unassuming sweats (topped off with some flashy designer shades and a clean pair of Yeezys), Ye models the mix of high-low references that remain his lodestars when it comes to getting dressed.

November 7, 2019

A big-ass coat and super study boots: twin pillars of Kanye’s personal style throughout the years.

December 22, 2019

DadYe does things way different. (In grosgrain-striped pants and a satin-y jacket, naturally. It’s still Kanye, man.)

February 5, 2020

A cheerful Kanye out and about in NYC (with Virgil Abloh by his side), showing love for another one of his close friends in the Denim Tears x Levi’s collaboration and some corduroy Kapital pants.

February 9, 2020

Showing up (and showing out!) in an updated take on the double-breasted blazer from British heritage label Dunhill.

March 1, 2020

Making a baseball shirt look like an absolutely luxurious necessity. Not an easy task, but executed effortlessly.

March 2, 2020

Dressed-up workwear classics, done the way only Ye can do it.

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Avidan Grossman is the Style eCommerce Editor at Esquire, covering men’s fashion, shoes, grooming, and accessories.

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Source : Esquire