September 5, 2017
Put in Work: Charting the Rise of the A$AP Mob in Sneaker Culture
Since A$AP Rocky first flew onto the scene in Jeremy Scott Wings, the A$AP Mob’s influence has steadily spread beyond the music world. From bags and links to jeans and shoes, the artists have established themselves as bona fide fashion killas. With A$AP Ferg set to release his adidas Skateboarding Matchcourt colab this week, we thought it high time to take a step back and survey the A$AP Mob’s ongoing contribution to sneaker culture.
THE 'EVERYTHING IS PURPLE' ERA: A$AP ROCKY GETS HIS WINGS
In 2011, a then-relatively unknown A$AP Rocky – with the backing of the A$AP Mob – released his ‘Purple Swag’ music video. As he sat on bicycle handlebars in a black and white pair of Jeremy Scott x adidas Originals Wings 2.0 sneakers, Rocky rode straight into the mainstream fashion consciousness. At the time, no one was really sure how to wear Jeremy Scott’s footwear: the oversized wings and plush toy animals that adorned the designs made them difficult to incorporate into any wardrobe. However, A$AP Rocky made these Wings look fly – and his appreciation of the sneakers caught the attention of adidas, who were first to recognise Rocky’s ability to sell hip-hop fans on models that they might otherwise have reservations about wearing.
The ‘Purple Swag’ video sparked a slow-burning collaboration between Rocky and Jeremy Scott, culminating in the 2013 release of the A$AP Rocky x Jeremy Scott x adidas Originals Wings 2.0 ‘Black Flag’ sneaker. The monochromatic shoe continued the A$AP Mob’s fascination with the blacked-out American flag, as seen on the Live. Love. A$AP (2011), Lord$ Never Worry (2012) and Long. Live. A$AP (2013) tape covers. Speaking to Sneaker News at the time of the release, Rocky explained:
The Black Flag is a reference to us turning a traditional red, white, and blue American flag to black and white, and it’s basically like anarchy and we turned it upside down and stuff… [Jeremy Scott] just took that and threw it on the Wings and it was just an homage to what we do.
In the same interview, Rocky spoke prophetically about his future in the sneaker world:
Let’s put it like this. If I get the creative control and platform to put out a sneaker, it’s gonna be revolutionary and tomorrow. It’s gonna be new age, new age. It’s gonna be the best and that’s all I’m gonna say. I’m gonna leave it at that.
THE AGE OF INSTAYAM
A$AP Yams founded the A$AP Mob back in 2006 and by early 2013 he was riding high on the collective’s success. It was at this same time that he joined Instagram. Scrolling back to the beginning of Yams’ IG profile, we can see him revelling in his success with a bevy of rare sneakers – establishing him as the most underrated sneaker influencer in the A$AP Mob.
While Future ‘fucked your bitch in some Gucci Flip Flops’ in 2015, Yams did it first in 2013. He also sported very rare pairs of Ari Menthol 10s and Nike Air Seinfelds (they were made especially for the comedian and are near-impossible to find). Judging by his Instagram, Yams was also a big fan of the ‘Uptown’ (a nickname given to the Air Force 1, reflecting its popularity in uptown New York neighbourhoods, particularly in the A$AP Mob’s native Harlem). Earlier this year, A$AP Bari paid homage to Yams’ wardrobe staple with the release of his Harlem-inspired VLONE x NikeLab Air Force 1.
It’s been over four years since Yams began posting on his sneaker-centric Instagram, and we still haven’t quite caught up to the Wavybone’s wave. Click through the gallery above to see the best sneaker pictures from A$AP Yams’ Instagram.
'RAF SIMONS, RICK OWENS USUALLY WHAT I'M DRESSED IN': A$AP DO STREET GOTH
Though they’re now known for their cozy looks, the A$AP Mob were pioneers of the street goth aesthetic. In a 2012 interview with GQ, a young A$AP Rocky described his style as ‘like hard-core jailhouse streetwear with a high-end gothic feel.’ Additionally, A$AP Yams’ now-infamous Twitter search for a goth bitch began in 2012, with Yams tweeting ‘cant wait to get home so my goth bitch can read me goosebumps’.
The A$AP Mob popularised the pairing of Rick Owens sneakers or AF1s with streetwear from Black Label and Pyrex, topped off with an SSUR hat (see: A$AP Rocky in the above still from his ‘Wild for the Night’ video). In late 2013, the group made their first substantial foray into the fashion industry with the release of a street goth apparel collection. Looking back, the collection was truly ahead of its time: the gothic lettering on the merch is near-identical to Kanye’s ‘Pablo’ font. The VLONE AF1s can be seen as the 2017 iteration of the A$AP Mob’s first apparel collection, sporting a similar font and blacked-out aesthetic.
THE INAUGURATION OF THE HOOD POPE
Following the release of Trap Lord in late 2013, A$AP Ferg began to step out of Rocky’s shadow. Ferg already had a solid background in fashion; he founded Devoni Clothing in 2005 and supplied leather belts to hip hop icons like Chris Brown and Swizz Beats. But despite his early success in the fashion industry, it took another decade for Ferg to secure his debut sneaker deal.
The Traplord x adidas adi-Ease came out in 2015, with black and cream colourways paying tribute to A$AP Yams. The model’s three stripes bore the words ‘Always’, ‘Strive’ and ‘Prosper’, foreshadowing the title of his 2016 album. The Hood Pope continues his partnership with adidas Skateboarding with the newly released Matchcourt colab.
A$AP Ferg stopped by the Sneaker Freaker Offices in 2015 to talk music and sneakers: check out the conversation here.
TWO THOUSAND AND TWELVYY
A$AP Twelvyy hasn’t made as significant a mark on the music industry as some other members of the A$AP Mob, but his sneakers serve as the style inspiration for the group. When A$AP Ferg visited us in 2015, he told us: ‘I wouldn’t say I run the game. Actually, A$AP Twelvyy run the sneaker game right now. I handed over the sneaker torch to him.’ A$AP Bari echoed the sentiment in an interview with Clot:
My favourite person’s style in A$AP would have to be A$AP Twelvyy. I like how he came from being in the hood and now his style is slowly progressing. He could rock a pair of LeBrons with an Acne jean jacket or Vans and still keep that hood effect.
A$AP Twelvyy now sits atop the A$AP Mob’s sneaker throne, posting pics on his Instagram of both in-demand new releases and lesser-known silhouettes.
THE RISE AND FALL OF VLONE
A$AP Bari founded VLONE back in 2011, but the brand broke into the sneaker world with the February 2017 release of the VLONE x NikeLab Air Force 1. With a black and orange Knicks-inspired colourway, the hyped shoe was the ultimate tribute to the group’s Harlem roots.
In July, following the release of a video showing Bari engaged in an act of alleged sexual misconduct, Nike terminated their partnership with VLONE. For the time being, it appears that no further sneaker releases can be expected from VLONE and Nike. However, there’s been speculation that – somehow – VLONE will still drop their white and grey Air Force 1s, with VLONE teasing an image of the shoe on their official Instagram in August. There’s also a collection of VLONE x Nike Vandals that never saw the light of day. Perhaps Bari will find a way to release these, too.
THE CURRENT STATE OF COZY KICKS
Following the release of two collaborative Cozy Tapes, the A$AP Mob are now all about the ‘cozy’ aesthetic. In a recent conversation with XXL, Ferg describes cozy as being about ‘your mind state not what you’re wearing.’ The group goes on to express their enthusiasm for comfortable socks, with Ferg boasting that he owns an unreleased pair of socks crafted from sweater material. Perhaps we can expect a sock line from the A$AP Mob in the future. Plus, A$AP Rocky has just joined forces with Under Armour – so we’d love to see a Cozy Curry hit the shelves.
Also, keep an eye out for Smooky Margielaa, a 15 year old rapper featured on Cozy Tapes Vol. 2: Too Cozy. He’s rumoured to be the A$AP Mob’s next co-sign and he tucks $100 bills into his Margielas. With A$AP Mob constantly ahead of footwear trends, be sure to get onto this look before everyone else does.