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Revisiting The Red October Yeezy 2 On The 10th Anniversary Of Its Release

CEO Tinh Phung
Where were you on February 9th, 2014? That morning (or early afternoon, depending on where you live) marked the only release of Kanye West’s Air Yeezy 2 “Red October”. Dropping online on a first come,...

Where were you on February 9th, 2014? That morning (or early afternoon, depending on where you live) marked the only release of Kanye West’s Air Yeezy 2 “Red October”. Dropping online on a first come, first served basis, the only official announcement on the matter arrived via a tweet at 10:00 am PST the morning of. As we remember the 10th Anniversary of this momentous shoe drop, let’s take a look back at how we reached this anticlimactic yet monumental sneaker release.

The Beginnings of a Sneaker Phenomenon

Kanye West and Nike have been in cahoots since before the Instagram days, dropping his first official collaboration in the Spring/Summer of 2009. Working closely with long-time Nike creative lead Mark Smith, Kanye and Nike dropped the Zen Grey, Black/Black (aka Blink), and Net/Net colorways of the Air Yeezy 1, respectively, in April, May, and June of that year with a MSRP of $250. That figure was unheard of at the time, and immediately resellers took to eBay to flip their pairs for around $700-$1,000. Kanye West’s Air Yeezy is credited for bringing the secondary market to new heights as hungry sneakerheads began shelling out more and more dollars for highly coveted and hard-to-find sneakers.

Original Air Yeezy releases in 2009 Original Air Yeezy releases in 2009. Photo via Nike

Almost immediately, Kanye fans were begging for more Air Yeezy sneaker releases. Despite the demand, Nike never released another Air Yeezy ever again, although several different colors have surfaced. These shoes were either earlier samples, made for his concert tours, or made just for him. His all-black “Grammy” sample famously sold for $1.8 million at auction in 2021, but the value plummeted as Kanye’s public image took a major hit due to his antisemitic comments. In late 2023, the same pair of shoes sold for $180,106, roughly 10% percent of its original value.

Nike Air Yeezy “Grammy” Sample Nike Air Yeezy “Grammy” Sample. Photo via Goldin Auctions

The Hype Builds for Air Yeezy 2

Kanye and Nike went to work on a sequel right away. In February of 2011, Kanye West appeared in a Nike advertisement with Kobe Bryant for the Kobe VI. The spot, directed by Robert Rodriguez, was treated like a short film, with Kanye cast as the chief villain known as “The Boss” opposite Kobe’s “The Black Mamba”. It was this role in particular for which Kanye and Nike chose to clandestinely debut the Air Yeezy 2. Only short glimpses of the shoe were revealed, but it was confirmed: a Yeezy 2 was happening.

Throughout the year, Kanye was regularly spotted in his upcoming shoes in a black, hot pink, and bright green colorway. Fashion Week in Paris and London, on stage at Coachella — you name it, Kanye made sure the Yeezy 2 was on his feet. It wasn’t until the MTV VMAs in August 2011 that ‘Ye debuted the second “Pure Platinum” colorway, which further added to the hysteria. Considering the first batch of Yeezys came in threes, many hypothesized that a third “Net” colorway was in the works.

Screenshots of Air Yeezy 2 sample in 2011 Kobe Ad Screenshots of Air Yeezy 2 sample in 2011 Kobe Ad. Photo via Nike Basketball

The Red October Hysteria

From the moment Kanye properly debuted the Air Yeezy 2, the shoe’s release was all that anyone could talk about. The internet entertained random dates that coincided with his Watch The Throne tour with Jay-Z that ran from October 28th, 2011 to June 22nd, 2012. Nike only chimed in when rumors started to get out of hand and lines started to form purely based on conjecture. Solebox, a reputable sneaker boutique in Europe, confirmed a retail release on April 13th. In response, lines began forming immediately and in advance as far as a month out. For the safety of those who began camping out for the shoes, Nike announced in March of 2012 that the shoes would release in June. On May 31st, Nike finally confirmed a release date of June 9th.

Hysteria in Orlando on the night of Galaxy Foamposite release Hysteria in Orlando on the night of Galaxy Foamposite release. Photo via Yahoo! News

Arguably the most coveted sneaker release of that decade, the Air Yeezy 2 was unique in that almost every store that received pairs employed a raffle of some kind. There were no campouts or lines leading up to the release as shops simply did not have the bandwidth to deal with the amount of people that would have shown up. This raffle-only procedure was implemented by Nike in response to the mass hysteria around the Concord 11 Galaxy Foamposite releases just months earlier, for which thousands of people showed up at malls resulting in police intervention.

Official Air Yeezy 2 store list from 2012 Official Air Yeezy 2 store list from 2012

A Restless Wait for the Red October

After the official release, rumors of a third Air Yeezy 2 release began swirling. Gentry Humphrey, then a VP of Jordan Footwear, responded to a tweet from an inquisitive sneakerhead in September 2012, neither confirming nor denying a third release. Things remained quiet on that front until a sample of an all-red colorway appeared in April of 2013. Seemingly coordinating with the album artwork of Kanye West’s forthcoming Yeezus album, release date rumors began swirling once more as many believed the shoes would drop on the date of the album’s launch date.

Kim Kardashian's tweet Kim Kardashian's tweet

The Red Yeezy 2s wouldn’t surface again until May 18th when Kim Kardashian tweeted a photo of the new Yeezys album alongside a glimpse of an all-red Yeezy 2. Kanye would wear the shoes during his guest musical performance on Saturday Night Live. Release date conjecture began dominating the conversation as many believed the shoes would drop on the date of the Yeezus album’s launch date of June 16th.

Heidi Burgett's tweet Heidi Burgett's tweet

Heidi Burgett, a Nike spokesperson, took to Twitter to squash those rumors, stating that no such release was happening on June 16th. Instead, she confirmed that Nike and Kanye were planning to release it “later this year”.

A Surprise Online Drop

Kanye West himself conducted a giveaway of fifty pairs of the “Red October” Yeezy 2s through his website Kanyewest.com, with entries accepted between June 24th and July 8th. There were three specific entry periods based on the purchase of the new Yeezy album (either a hard copy or iTunes), and a third entry period was open via email entry. In August of 2023, all winners were announced, although it was revealed that those winners wouldn’t receive pairs until 2014.

Kanye West's tweet Kanye West's tweet

This is where things get a bit…complicated. Kanye had begun to be very public about his criticisms of Nike, citing their refusal to grant him creative control or to compensate him with royalties for Air Yeezy sales similarly to how Michael Jordan receives a percentage of Air Jordan sales. Rumors of him leaving Nike for these reasons began swirling, but joining rival Adidas was something nobody really saw coming.

The birth of the adidas Yeezy footwear line The birth of the adidas Yeezy footwear line

Finally, in November 2013, it was officially announced that Kanye West was partnering with German sportswear brand Adidas. The brand held a huge ceremony in their headquarters, and an immediate energy shift was felt as they tapped a true cultural legend just entering the peak of his creativity. This new union birthed the Adidas Yeezy footwear line, but more importantly, it caused a massive shift in brand awareness and eventually increased profits.

The Red October Online Drop

So, what does Nike do with the Red October Yeezy 2s? With Kanye officially with the opps, it seemed possible that Nike would scrap the release entirely, and the chatter surrounding an impending release began to dissipate.

Screenshot of @nikestore's tweet Screenshot of @nikestore’s tweet

On February 9th, 2014, at 1 pm EST, the @nikestore Twitter account sent out a tweet, simply stating the shoes were available and providing a link. No teaser, no leaked info, just a true first come first served online drop that left people stunned. The shoes sold out immediately, and Nike continued with its business as if it never happened, and those who managed to complete the online checkout process got their hands on a piece of sneaker history.

With many fans left upset at completely missing a shot to purchase the shoes, Nike spokesperson Heidi Burgett once again took to Twitter to confirm that a restock was not in the plans and the February 9th online drop was the one and only release.