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

See for yourself.

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 image after image—after image—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.

JANUARY 3,2011

The makings of Kanye’s modern-era signature style begin to emerge. April 17, 2011

2011 coachella valley music  arts festival   day 3

Chelsea LaurenGetty Images

Delivering one of the greatest live performances of all time in a blouse from Phoebe Philo’s Celine. Advertisement – Continue Reading Below June 6, 2011

2011 cfda fashion awards   arrivals

Andrew H. WalkerGetty Images

At the CFDA Awards, American fashion’s swankiest event, Kanye came through looking like he knew he belonged. November 9, 2011

2011 victoria's secret fashion show   performance

Kevin KaneGetty Images

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?!) Advertisement – Continue Reading Below November 29, 2011

jay z and kanye west "watch the throne" tour in kansas city

Jason SquiresGetty Images

The leather skirt (or was it a kilt?) seen, and debated, around the world. January 20, 2012

givenchy front row   paris fashion week menswear aw 2013

Antonio de Moraes Barros FilhoGetty Images

A masterclass in reverse layering courtesy of the man who practically invented the move. September 28, 2012

Pascal Le SegretainGetty Images

The look that singlehandedly convinced every teen at the time to suck it up and invest in a pair of Bred 1s. Advertisement – Continue Reading Below November 29, 2012

Bobby BankGetty Images

A big-ass, floor-dragging fur and some supple, stacked leather pants, part deux. September 29, 2013

Marc PiaseckiGetty Images

Making a Rick Owens DRKSHDW parka and fringed Visvim FBTs look like the most natural fit in the world. Advertisement – Continue Reading Below November 19, 2013

Raymond HallGetty Images

Another day, another (really, really good) DRKSHDW parka. September 28, 2013

Marc PiaseckiGetty Images

Another signature look emerges. Advertisement – Continue Reading Below March 2, 2104

Pierre SuuGetty Images

Doing double-denim like nobody’s business. May 6, 2014

Alo CeballosGetty Images

An early scene-stealing cameo from what would quickly become a Kanye staple: Bottega Veneta’s distinctive chelsea boots. September 24, 2014

Jacopo RauleGetty Images

A look that foretold our current infatuation with the functionality of the handkerchief (though, perhaps, with less practical intentions in mind). Advertisement – Continue Reading Below September 25, 2014

Marc PiaseckiGetty Images

In a Dries Van Noten coat so nice it looks downright kingly. November 6, 2014

James DevaneyGetty Images

In his-and-hers matching Balmain blazers. January 24, 2015

Paul MorigiGetty Images

Suited and booted, baby! Advertisement – Continue Reading Below February 8, 2015

Larry BusaccaGetty Images

A full-on velour Haider Ackermann sweatsuit is always a solid move, especially sitting front row at the motherfucking Academy Awards. February 18, 2015

Gilbert CarrasquilloGetty Images

(Bonus points if you rock the top half of said sweatsuit, like, every other day for the rest of the year.) February 20, 2015

Danny MartindaleGetty Images

Suitably understated (well, almost) to pay his respects to Central Saint Martins’ legendary Louise Wilson. Advertisement – Continue Reading Below March 4, 2015

Jacopo RauleGetty Images

In the now-infamous Raf Simons bomber Ye put on the map in a big way. March 5, 2015

Pascal Le SegretainGetty Images

In a Vetements sweatshirt Kanye rocked with a steadfast resoluteness for, like, three months straight. March 11, 2015

Pascal Le SegretainGetty Images

Another perfectly-cropped bomber, from the Columbian-born French designer—and fast Kanye favorite—Haider Ackermann. Advertisement – Continue Reading Below April 5, 2015

Bauer-GriffinGetty Images

Easter Sunday style, done the Ye way. July 24, 2015

Stefanie KeenanGetty Images

Expertly executed monochromatic dressing, made all the better by the type of proportion play Kanye popularized. July 24, 2015

C FlaniganGetty Images

Fifty Shades of Beige. (A book I’d read in a heartbeat!) Advertisement – Continue Reading Below October 2, 2015

Pierre SuuGetty Images

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

Gustavo CaballeroGetty Images

Don’t get it twisted: Kanye still knows his way around some extremely sharp suiting. Advertisement – Continue Reading Below April 24, 2016

Dave LeeGetty Images

A true return to form. May 2, 2016

George PimentelGetty Images

A (big) Met Gala fit for the fucking books. June 5, 2016

XPX/Star MaxGetty Images

Still one of the best vintage bombers I’ve ever seen. Advertisement – Continue Reading Below June 20, 2016

Josiah KamauGetty Images

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

Anthony HarveyGetty Images

Branded tour merchandise never looked so red white carpet ready. August 29, 2016

Alo CeballosGetty Images

Might call Tupac over! Advertisement – Continue Reading Below October 3, 2016

Pierre SuuGetty Images

Kanye in a standout Dries tee and some absolutely shredded jeans from Jerry Lorenzo’s fourth collection for Fear of God. October 4, 2016

Josiah KamauGetty Images

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

Rachel MurrayGetty Images

A meeting of the minds I’d give anything to get in on. Advertisement – Continue Reading Below February 10, 2017

Pierre SuuGetty Images

An absolute unit of a coat courtesy of one of Yeezy’s earliest collections. June 21, 2018

Pierre SuuGetty Images

Moments before arriving at a show that culminated in The Hug that melted hearts around the world. August 9, 2018

BG017/Bauer-GriffinGetty Images

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.) Advertisement – Continue Reading Below September 7, 2018

Gary GershoffGetty Images

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

Jenny AndersonGetty Images

And when Kanye suits up, he almost always comes correct. *Chef’s kiss* Advertisement – Continue Reading Below May 6, 2019

John ShearerGetty Images

The best damn outfit of the whole damn year. (Don’t @ me, dog.) September 29, 2019

Robert KamauGetty Images

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

Robert KamauGetty Images

A big-ass coat and super study boots: twin pillars of Kanye’s personal style throughout the years. Advertisement – Continue Reading Below December 22, 2019

James DevaneyGetty Images

DadYe does things way different. (In grosgrain-striped pants and a satin-y jacket, naturally. It’s still Kanye, man.) February 5, 2020

Robert KamauGetty Images

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. Advertisement – Continue Reading Below February 9, 2020

Gregg DeGuireGetty Images

Showing up (and showing out!) in an updated take on the double-breasted blazer from British heritage label Dunhill. March 1, 2020

Pierre SuuGetty Images

Making a baseball shirt look like an absolutely luxurious necessity. Not an easy task, but executed effortlessly. March 2, 2020

Pierre SuuGetty Images

Dressed-up workwear classics, done the way only Ye can do it. Subscribe to Esquire Magazine

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *