Colgate Couture: Kanye West, Ultimate Fashion Icon

Alexis Manrodt

Even though I am a girl, the majority of my style inspiration comes from men. I admire the dar-ing taste of Amar’e Stoudemire, the dedication that Johnny Depp has to maintaining his pirate-chic look long after he stopped being Captain Jack and I will even admit to appreciating Scott Disick’s dandy-meets-yuppie approach to style. Though I appreciate their styles, the guy that I look to for inspiration above all others just happens to be my future husband: Mr. Kanye West.

Seriously, is there any other artist whose music is so closely linked with their image? Kanye’s style dif-fers from performers like Lady Gaga because, although his looks are at times over-the-top, they are never meant to be costumes. The evolution of his style, since his debut album in 2004 to the mega-artist he is today, serves to mirror the changes in his creative output during the last eight years.

Kanye has always been concerned with fashion. During his “College Dropout” days, he became known for his preppy aesthetic that favored popped collars, pastel argyle prints, Ralph Lauren teddy bear sweaters and his signature Louis Vuitton backpack (there was a reason why he was nick-named “the Louis Vuitton Don” in “Last Call”). Pairing his borderline nerdy-prep look with layered medallion-style necklaces and heavy Timberland boots, Kanye subverted the classic “all-American” clean-cut style. As a result, he ushered in a trend of nerd-chic, a kind of ironic approach to fashion that has basically defined the entire hipster generation.

During his “Late Registration” and “Graduation” years, Kanye moved away from his prep-py look in preference for more experimental fashions. Who can forget the shutter shades that he wore in the “Stronger” music video? I know I can’t: almost every photo I have from 2007 features at least one person wearing a pair of those white plastic frames. This period marked Kanye’s full turn toward high fashion, and it was during this time that he began to tout labels like Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent in his music.

By the release of “808s & Heartbreaks” in 2008, Kanye was a fixture at high-end fashion shows and had collaborated with Louis Vuitton to design a shoe line for the luxury label’s fall 2009 collection. In the years since this initial foray into the fashion industry, the rapper has taken part in several wildly successful collaborations with labels as varied as Giuseppe Zanotti and Nike. The $6,000 price tag for heels that he crafted for the high-end Italian label is nothing in comparison to his collaboration with the sportswear company. Kanye recently designed an exclusive collection of Nike Air Yeezy 2 sneakers, from which a pair sold for a staggering $93,000 on eBay this past June.

His collaborations with different types of design teams, as well as his own namesake collection which has been shown at Paris Fashion Week, show that Kanye loves fashion no matter where it comes from – forgive the pun, but it’s not his style to discriminate. For his 2011 Coachella performance, the rap-per famously wore a silk printed blouse from the luxury womenswear label C?eline. It was a gor-geous piece, but an unexpected sartorial choice for him. But that’s the wonderful thing about Kanye’s style: he doesn’t care if it’s intended for a man or a woman, he just cares that it’s good fashion. He understands the art of fashion de-sign and expresses equal appreciation for long-established fashion houses like Louis Vuitton and cult labels like Maison Martin Margiela (the first single off of “Watch the Throne” has ‘Ye asking, “what’s that jacket, Margiela?”).

But West is far from a fashion snob – he knows the art of mixing high-end designs with street fashion trends. He is no stranger to wearing a Yves Saint Laurent shirt with faded jeans and is just as likely to be seen in his Timberland construction boots as he is in his Louis Vuitton backpack.

Regardless of how you feel about his music, his relationship with Kim Kardashian or even his relationship with Taylor Swift, there’s no denying that Kanye is a legitimate fashion icon.

Hit up his Twitter account @KanyeWest for 140-character sartorial advice, which includes such gems as “I hate khaki trench coats with jeans and off brand work out sneakers.” In the spirit of the master, try mixing and matching more avant-garde styles with plainer pieces that you don’t consider very obviously fashionable (but avoid the trench coat-denim-sneaker combo, lest you incite Kanye’s disapproval). Or, try imitating one of Kanye’s most memorable looks from years past – I think those white shutter shades are due for a comeback.

Contact Alexis Manrodt at [email protected].