Sneakers have a sort of universal appeal that can attract just about anyone. Hip-hop heads, audiophiles, Wall Street types, writers, hustlers, valley girls and project chicks alike all can live parallel lives yet still be linked together as sneakerheads.
One subculture of the sneaker community that’s become an entity in itself over time has been the burgeoning business of celebrity sneaker endorsements. Following the astronomical success of NBA legend Michael Jordan’s initial Nike shoe deal, a partnership that proved to be so successful that it birthed his own multibillion-dollar namesake label with Jordan Brand, famous faces from all walks of life have tried their luck at dedicating their souls to making soles. From basketball stars to the music industry elite, it’s not very hard to find a signature shoe by [Enter Celeb With Over A Million Instagram Followers Here].
Just recently, Reebok CEO Todd Krinsky boldly stated that his G-Unit sneaker series with hip-hop mogul 50 Cent was actually the first to almost jump over the Jumpman, telling The Complex Sneakers Podcast, “I remember that back-to-school we sold on one color, like 75,000 pairs,” later going on to add, “I’m not saying by the way that G-Unit was ever close to Jordan in any way. I’m saying that one moment in time, that one colorway, I think we sold in almost as many pairs as the Jordan launch for that period.”
Overall, it makes perfect sense why a celebrity would choose to get into the sneaker business. The cross-marketing alone makes a lot of sense, not to mention a lot of cents if you get the drift. However, just because a big name endorses a pair of kicks, it’s not always guaranteed to be as successful as their initial claim to fame. We’re here to separate the greats from the lightweights.
Keep scrolling to see our wins and fails when it comes to celebrity sneaker deals. Let us know if you agree, or if you own(ed) any of these — fails too!
1. WIN: Michael Jordan x NikeSource:Getty
For the past three decades and counting, it has been almost impossible to go a full 24 hours without seeing someone rocking a pair of Jordans. From success to longevity, MJ is the blueprint when it comes to celeb kick deals.
2. FAIL: Stephon Marbury x StarburySource:Getty
Great initiative, yet poorly-executed product! Starburys may have been made to be affordable, but sadly you got exactly what you paid for.
3. WIN: Rihanna x PUMASource:Getty
Proving that it’s not just a game for the fellas, Rih showed off her star power yet again with the 360° success of Fenty x PUMA. That Rihanna reign? Yeah, still won’t let up.
4. FAIL: Tyga x L.A. GearSource:Getty
While Tyga has been lucky when it comes to Billboard success, his attempts to breathe life back into L.A. Gear proved to be a misstep in the wrong direction. From the ripoff silhouette design to metallic eyesore of an upper, the shoe never really stood a chance.
5. WIN: 50 Cent x ReebokSource:Getty
You’d be hard-pressed to try and find someone still rocking a pair of G-Unit Reeboks in 2022, but we have to give props to 50 for at one point in time being king of the sneaker industry.
Even if just for one colorway.
6. FAIL: Soulja Boy x YUMS
Remember YUMS? Exactly — we don’t either! Unfortunately this is one “first” that we’re willing to bet Soulja Boy won’t be quick to claim anytime soon.
7. WIN: Pharrell Williams x adidasSource:Getty
What is there to say about the lucrative partnership between adidas and Pharrell that hasn’t been proven time and time again? This collaboration works for so many reasons, and continues to prosper even today.
8. FAIL: Funkmaster Flex x LUGZSource:Getty
As much as he tried to make LUGZ happen in those early 2000s WWE commercials, Flex just couldn’t get anyone — especially a true New Yorker! — to drop Timberlands for the counterfeit cousin.
9. WIN: Kanye West x NikeSource:Getty
Regardless of how you feel about Kanye now, the Air Yeezy and its successful successor, the Air Yeezy 2, will forever have a place in sneaker history. Its futuristic design is a work of art with or without the connection to Ye, and still could nab you a few cool racks on the resell market.
10. FAIL: Kanye West x adidasSource:Getty
Even with undeniable financial success, the recent split between Kanye and adidas was so sour that it will forever overshadow any silhouette, any sale and/or any salvation for their collaborative YEEZY imprint. What a sad way to go out, indeed.