Close Encounter: Yeezy Foam Runner

By Awang Sulung

Now that we are going out more, I am also looking at things around me with greater keenness. Ugly’s trajectory, as I have been seeing, is not on the downward slide. Not even a bit. It is all around us like, what my mother would say, “bijan tumpah (spilled sesame seeds)”. Perhaps, I have spent too much time at home, avoiding Delta and its mutated siblings like some people would loanshark runners. Sure, as with most of you, I am vaccinated, but why court the unwelcome virus by throwing myself at crushing humanity? And, also like most of you, I can’t be holed up at home indefinitely. So out I went. To be certain, I do not dislike my own company within the four walls of my Sembawang flat. Yet, I can’t totally keep myself away from what has been amusing the world or fascinating many folks. Have things changed—or not—while I was ensconced at home?

One of the first trendy things I saw very recently, as we scramble into the holiday season, was the Yeezy Foam Runner. Okay, Kanye West’s alien-looking footwear, released last June, is not new, but I have not had an IRL view of it, just those boastful images shared on social media by Yeezy diehards who find anything Mr West puts out, including a very blah bubble jacket, attractive and desirable. These are still not as widely seen here as, say, Crocs, the first brand to make foam shoes so persistently ugly and crazily popular. So when I saw these bombastic Yeezys on actual moving feet, I had to go quite low to have a proper look at the rigid, masak-masak footwear. If they are worn and on a pavement, they can’t be toys, can they?

For sure, now one could miss those shoes. I don’t recall what the wearer looked like, but I remember his Yeezy Foam Runner. When he was still, his feet looked caged, as if restrained in a torture device or a chastity contraption. I wanted to ask him if they were comfortable, but I didn’t want to seem to doubt his happy feet. I wanted to know if the opening of his kicks is stretchy and if it was easy to push his feet through to rest inside the one-piece, but I did not want him to think that I thought that he, like many fashionistas, suffered for fashion. I wanted to know if the slip-on in the colour of oatmeal (Yeezy calls it “Ararat” in place of off-white) was easy to clean and if the many holes on the top and sides are dirt traps, but I resisted so that he would not mistake me for a germaphobe.

Kanye West seems to know what his fans want when it comes to footwear. Although so many unkind descriptions were thrown at the Yeezy Foam Runner, it continues to be in unimaginably high demand. Co-conceived with Yeezy’s design director Steven Smith, the monstrous shoe (it might be called a “Runner”, but we resist calling the bloated loaf a sneaker) was sold out within hours of its release last year. Who’d guess that ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam and some algae in a clog-like form could entrance that many shoe lovers and collectors? I thought I saw a silhouette that Zaha Hadid would have approved (look at those shoes she did with Lacoste in 2008). On that guy, the two sides of the Runner were dragged as if they were slippers. Pandemic or not, some things just don’t change.

Photo: Awang Sulung

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