The Evolution of Tyler, the Creator's Sneaker Style
A lot about Tyler, the Creator has changed since he first started cussing into potato cameras and uploading to YouTube. But, on the face of it, his sneaker style isn’t one of them. If you glanced Young T’s feet over the years you’d see that he’s divided his time between two brands: Vans and Converse. However, if your gazed lingered at what’s going on under those tube socks and stick-and-poke tattoos, you’d see things aren’t so binary.
You might even have some questions. For instance, what was he wearing before his public image was honed? What’s up with trying to beef with Lil Bow Wow over Jordans? Can we read into his Vans choices during his come-up? And was his Converse switch organic, or was he just securing the bag? These are pressing queries on which our journalistic integrity hinges, and which we’ll answer during our deep dive into Tyler, the Creator’s sneaker style evolution.
THE HIGH-TOP YEARS
Tyler’s feet weren’t always ensconced in skate-ready low-tops. Back when he was coming up in 2008, Supra was king and Tyler’s favourite celebs (namely Bieber) stayed laced in the Skytop. While we can’t confirm that Tyler ever wore them, he did embrace their maximalist vibes. During one of his first ever live shows, he took to the stage wearing Air Assaults to perform ‘Dope Dealer’ and ‘BFAO’ with Cassie Veggies. Even weirder? He beat-boxed.
His uncharacteristic footwear choices didn’t end there. Before Ace Creator had mastered sonics (you’ll need to turn your headphones up for this) he was harassing Lil Bow Wow on YouTube for not being a sneakerhead, and proving his own style chops by showing off second-tier Jordans. Other early videos showed Tyler’s ankles covered in shoes like SB Dunk Highs, but the era of on-camera stunts did hint at the years to come. In one documented rampage against a Sidekick 3 (RIP), Tyler drops the profile with Air Max 90s and shouts out Vans and Converse.
SURELY NOT KEDS?
A few years and a debut mixtape later, Tyler appeared on laptop screens with a fully-formed personal brand. His Yonkers video showed him in the thigh-riding shorts, five-panel Supreme caps and colourful short-sleeved shirts he would loosely adopt as uniform. However, the brand that would define his sneaker style for years to come, his trusty Vans, might be missing from this ensemble. Though our first thought was that he was wearing Eras, maybe even Authentics, the profile is off. The toe is a touch too pointy and the midsole slightly too thin. It’s hard to ID the low-tops twitching in and out of focus, but there’s a chance he could be wearing Keds. A Complex article from 2011 lists them as such, and however weird it is to think of Tyler kicking off this new look with Keds, these were early days. He'd only just started denouncing high-tops — maybe he was still experimenting.
OLD SKOOL BLUE PERIOD
And now for the high-school sweetheart equivalent of Tyler’s sneaker style: the Vans Old Skool, preferably in baby blue. This shoe was with Young T through his most formative years. The romance was first announced in the clip for 2011’s ‘She’ and was formally introduced to the public when straddling Jimmy Fallon after Tyler’s first primetime performance of ‘Sandwiches’. Tyler made the union official in December 2012 when he teamed up with Vans for a foursome of Old Skools, and from there the sightings got more prevalent. Over the next five years, the two shared their love of cats, channelled the late Dash Snow for an NSFW photoshoot, welcomed Earl back from Samoa, beefed with Gosha Rubchinskiy, shot fans with paintball guns, returned to primetime on Letterman, and had one of their last hurrahs in a GQ cover shoot.
YOU GET A SHOE!
Appearing in GQ (or as Tyler called it, the ‘Gent Quart Nasty Tony’) was the end of an era because better things were looming. In the profile, he spoke of his recent runway show in which he revealed his new GOLF Le Fleur sneaker. Not to be confused with his Converse colab, this shoe was a Golf Wang exclusive and featured a slim, low-cut profile with flower stems tearing down the sides and GOLF lettering on the soles.
During the reveal, Kanye West walked up to the stage and handed Tyler an envelope. Tyler then got a fan to read its contents, which promised every member in the audience would get a shoe. The Oprah-channelling ‘You get a shoe!’ tirade that followed was a gift that kept on giving, but it’s not clear if the shoes themselves were ever received. An r/OFWGKTA post a year after states as much, with bemused fans wondering what happened to the ‘real GOLF Le Fleur line’.
CONVERSATIONS WITH CONVERSE
It turns out the runway Fleurs vanished because Tyler had organised a new sneaker partner. In Flower Boy’s ‘I Ain’t Got Time’ he rapped that he was having ‘conversations with Converse because Vans fucked up’ (PUMA also caught a stray in this beef). And later, speaking with Dazed, he expounded: ‘Vans just wouldn’t let me grow. It was a ceiling and I was like, “Fuck this”. Converse is allowing me to bloom.’ The talks bore fruit in July 2017 when Tyler revealed his collaborative GOLF Le Fleurs. More than removing the ceiling, Converse allowed him to reproduce his OG GOLF design, flower stem and all, and gave him access to their huge production resources. Tyler showed love to the brand by featuring them in episode two of his Nuts + Bolts Viceland show and building a literal monument to them at his Camp Flognaw carnival. The two have been dominating billboards ever since.
FLOWER BOY BLOOMING
Today, the main development in Tyler’s sneaker style is diversity. He’s been seen in Skylon IIs, Air Max 180s, Humaras, Air Jordan 1s and even Balenciaga’s Triple S (just don’t come near him wearing P-Rod 2s like A$AP Rocky did). Mostly though, he’s developed a strange affinity for Suicoke’s breezy sandals. One version of which he has a colab with, and another he’ll often wear with white socks to master the holiday-grandpa look.
After all the iterations, this new Tyler is the most exciting yet. Staples are still in heavy rotation, but the Flower Boy is embracing footwear as a means of expression — and attracting more buzz because of it.