adidas Yeezy 750 Boost vs. New Balance Deconstructed 696

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Following their unveiling during the adidas Originals x Kanye West fashion show on 12 February, and a limited app-based release among select New York retailers last weekend, Kanye’s adidas Yeezy 750 Boosts were made available for sale across the United States via adidas.com today. While the release proved somewhat problematic, the edition sold out within a couple of hours.

It has been a busy year so far for Kanye – who released ‘Only One’, the first single from his upcoming album, across January, with ‘FourFiveSeconds’, the Rihanna single on which he features with Paul McCartney, appearing towards the end of the month – and an especially busy few weeks since his two performances at the Grammys and his momentary intervention as Beck received the award for Album of the Year. His fashion show, which took place as part of New York Fashion Week AW15 and was screened in fifty venues throughout the world, was created in collaboration with the Italian performance artist Vanessa Beecroft, who served as the art director for his short film Runaway back in 2010. With North, Kim, and the Kardashian family, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, Russell Simmons, and Anna Wintour in the front row – and Kylie Jenner one of the fifty models – Kanye debuted another song, ‘Wolves’, featuring Sia and Vic Mensa.

Last Sunday Kanye performed ‘Wolves’ alongside Sia and Mensa, as part of the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special. He was also a prominent part of the Wayne’s World sketch: one of the highlights of a show which, even on this occasion, was only intermittently engaging, and then in the second half upon a predominance of celebrities including Jerry Seinfeld, John Goodman, and Larry David. Saturday Night Live as an institution has to be credited with giving a vital opportunity to so many young comedic talents, including black comedians and a generation of leading women. Yet the show is equally remarkable for containing so much talent and frustrating or else interminably irritating more often that it provokes laughs. Louis C.K. made an appearance to astutely and only half-jokingly suggest that the live format does not work.

During an interview with James Harris and Complex last week, ‘”Are the Sharks Gonna Eat Me Alive?” A Conversation With Kanye West’, in the lobby of the Mercer Hotel in SoHo, Kanye espied a man wearing the New Balance MRL696 sneakers, otherwise known as the ‘Deconstructed 696’ or ‘Re-Engineered 696’. In Harris’s interview, Kanye comments:

“Those are the shoes that, when they came out, I was like, ‘Fuck! We already designed these.’ They have the exact same perforation, color palette; it’s the same situation.” When the New Balance owner suggests the Yeezy Boosts that Kanye is wearing are actually better, he replies, “In some ways.”

So let’s compare the New Balance MRL696 with the new Yeezy 750 Boost.

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The adidas Originals x Kanye West Yeezy 750 Boost, in grey
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The New Balance MRL696, otherwise known as the ‘Deconstructed 696’ or ‘Re-Engineered 696’, in sage

I’m a fan of New Balance, but there’s not much I like about the Deconstructed 696 above the Yeezy 750 Boost. For a start, I much prefer the light grey of Kanye’s suede to the greenish hue of New Balance’s offering (the MRL696 comes in what is for me an equally distasteful sand, and an only-slightly-better burgundy-brown). I like rawhide laces – black rawhide leather laces were one of the facets which drew me towards a particular pair of Dr Martens boots a couple of months ago – but I’m not convinced they work on a sneaker, nor do I love the brown leather tongue, although maybe it’s the sort of thing that would appeal in person.

By contrast, while dubious in theory, I think the black and white criss-cross laces of the Yeezy Boost work. There may seem an overburdening of fastening devices, with laces, a strap across the front of the foot, and a side zip with a velcro covering – but aesthetically it flows, and the boot still looks sleek. The Deconstructed 696 looks more cluttered with an excess of perforations.

More generally, I am of the fairly firm belief that New Balance sneakers – with their rounded fronts – only work either with shorts, with high-water/rolled-up trousers, or occasionally with skinny pants or jeans. I think they’re too round and bulky for a standard cut of pant. That isn’t a criticism: it’s just a limitation on their use. I admire Kanye’s current style, with its focus on slim, tapered, dishevelled trousers; boots; and coats, sweaters, and shirts which drape. But Kanye himself demonstrates the above regarding New Balance: for a spell during 2009, he frequently wore the collaborative United Arrows x New Balance 997.5:

Kanye West in 2009, wearing the United Arrows x New Balance 997.5

This is not a great look. High tops – whether discreet, or colourful and breaking more decisively with the line of the pant – are more versatile. The jeans are a better fit, but the following picture – with Kanye wearing one of his preferred sneakers, the Nike Air Jordan 1 in black and red – shows something of this truth:

Kanye West wearing the Nike Air Jordan 1

So a warm welcome for the Yeezy 750 Boost. It will be available worldwide from next Saturday, although only in select adidas Originals stores in London, Berlin, Seoul, and Shanghai. The Yeezy Boosts will get a wider European release on 26 March, restocked in the London and Berlin stores, available via some Foot Lockers, and online via adidas.com. The New York fashion show suggested variations upon the Yeezy Boost are on the way, plus other sneakers and shoes from low tops to duck boots; while black Yeezy Boosts are apparently imminent. Meanwhile Kanye’s new album is reportedly 80% done.

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