ARTICLE BY Gabe Filippa

The Sneaker Evolution of Travis Scott

'I am the acid of rap', Travis Scott reflected in the lead up to Astroworld. It’s a statement that’s hard to argue with, the 28-year-old rapper combining psychedelic rap with the kind of kaleidoscopic pop stylings that got listeners so high the LP managed to generate 537,000 sales in its first week.

But hip hop is not the only industry that La Flame’s been regularly dosing.

He’s also been spiking the sneakersphere with hallucinogenic, rodeo-inspired drips that constantly reinforce his genealogical links to Missouri City, Texas.

From Helmut Lang to the Nike SB Dunk Low, Travis Scott’s narrative has been everything but straightforward. So buy a ticket and take the ride: This is the sneaker evolution of Travis Scott.

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The Bull From Missouri

Before his lucrative link up with Jordan Brand, Travis Scott cut his teeth with the high-end fashion house, Helmut Lang.

Channelling the aesthetic of Travis Scott's earlier work in the studio, the 2017 collection highlighted some of Cactus Jack’s more idiosyncratic stylings, including his infatuation with the rodeo, and penchant for Helmut Lang’s late ‘90s wardrobe.

‘I’ve been a fan of Helmut Lang for, like, 15 years’, Travis Scott told W Magazine. ‘Everything was just always fresh. I remember my mom bought me one of their shirts for Easter, so that I could wear Helmut Lang for Easter. That was my first piece.’

Inspired by his hometown of Houston, the collection was Travis Scott’s first major collaboration in the sneakersphere — a pair of minimalist, nylon sneakers manufactured in Italy and stamped with a bull on the tongue. It was a prescient motif that would foreshadow his aggressive moves in the competitive world of fashion and sneakers.

Travis Scott Jordan Trunner Lx
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Cactus Jack Meets Jordan

Travis Scott’s first collaboration with Jordan Brand came with a rather obscure silhouette from the 2000s, the Jordan Trunner LX. La Flame took the toolkit to the crosstrainer, installing an eclectic, faded colour palette that would offer clues to his later work with the Jumpman. While the Jordan Trunner LX ‘Cactus Jack’ never received a retail release, Travis Scott managed to slip them on during the DAMN tour with Kendrick Lamar, and one astute sneakerhead even managed to spot them at Beacon's Closet, a vintage retailer in Brooklyn.

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Travis Scott Nike Air Force 1 Cactus Jack Front
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Cleared for Takeoff

La Flame provided some stellar drip for the 35th anniversary of the legendary Air Force 1, stepping in on the sneaker DIY trend with clean canvas uppers inspired by Houston workwear.

Approaching the iconic sneaker with the same experimental logic of his meteoric rap career, Travis Scott installed interchangeable metallic silver Swooshes, reflective uppers, removable Cactus Jack Records tongue patches, and lace deubrés — a reference to Scott’s grills.

Like Astroworld, Travis Scott’s sneaker career was now moving with some serious gravitational force.

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Travis Scott Air Jordan 4 Purple
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Shoe Surgeon Air Jordan 4 Travis Scott
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Oil Is the New Drip

Travis Scott gave the iconic Air Jordan 4 some extra airtime in 2018 with a Houston Oilers—inspired drip, a locale that became an important context for Scott’s collaborative efforts.

He reflected on his first two major collaborations with M.

'My first pair of sneakers was the Jordan 4s. I got those and Forces.'

Dropping in June last year, the Air Jordan 4 was nuclear, combining clean blue suede uppers, black speckled wings, and Cactus Jack branding on the heel. Travis Scott’s first retooling of the Air Jordan 4 was not his last, with ‘Purple Suede’ and ‘Olive’ Jays continuing to appear across the Internet in recent months.

The Shoe Surgeon even took to the silhouette with his scalpel, paying his respects to La Flame with $3,500 ostrich leather Air Jordan 4s — built to mimic a real cactus!

Air Jordan 1 Cactus Jack Mocha
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La Flame Heats the Jay 1

In 2019, it was time for Travis Scott to take on one of the most iconic silhouettes of the Jordan catalogue. Following up from a flurry of high-profile Air Jordan 1 collaborations in 2018 (including Off-White, Nigel Sylvester, and Union LA), Travis Scott managed to create a space for himself by distorting the very DNA of the Air Jordan 1.

Flipping the Swoosh on the lateral sides, installing a stash pocket, and opting for a sophisticated ‘Dark Mocha’ colour palette, Travis Scott introduced a new, tripped-out vision for the Jordan 1, disrupting a 34-year-old silhouette with the kind of warped brilliance by which Travis Scott was now synonymous.

'Teased by Adam Levine during Super Bowl LIII, the design was one of the only redeeming qualities of the Maroon 5 halftime show (and, more broadly, the Patriots v Rams fizzer). One week later, the sneaker surprise-dropped at the Grammys, forcing most of us to add the Air Jordan 1s to our growing list of Cactus Jack Ls.'
Air Jordan 33 Cactus Jack
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33 Reasons Why the Jordan is Relevant Again

If anyone was going to make the Air Jordan 33 relevant it was Travis Scott. Appearing as part of the promo videos for Jordan Brand, Travis Scott reworked the sneakerboot with a deconstructed, militarised aesthetic that proved it wasn’t just Grails that Cactus Jack was capable of remixing.

Nose to the Grindstone

A material mashup of camouflage, corduroy, duck canvas, flannel, leather, suede, and wool, Travis Scott’s second rendition of the Air Force 1 again pays homage to his Missouri City roots.

Featuring a detachable lace cover, the Air Force 1 takes cues from traditional work coats, with heavy brass zippers and corduroy collars again reinforcing a topographical lineage.

Blending fabric with burlap accents (a reference to farm product), the Air Force 1 reveals the soaring storytelling aptitude of Cactus Jack, the 24/7 rager able to convey the intrinsic work ethic and ‘nose to the grindstone’ mentality of the American Midwest.

The Air Force 1 is without a doubt one of his most experimental footwear designs yet.

Six Appeal

Arguably Travis Scott’s hottest release to date, the Air Jordan 6 is a tour de force. La Flame’s fourth Jordan Brand collaboration, the silhouette was originally teased during the halftime show of Super Bowl LIII, before finally dropping in October 2019. Built with glow-in-the-dark translucent outsoles, nubuck and suede uppers, and compact ‘utility pouch’ on the ankle, Travis Scott’s raging Air Jordan 6 still generates huge prices on the resale market.

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Highest in the Room

Tapping into the meteoric resurgence of the Nike SB Dunk Low, Travis Scott sent the hype machine into overdrive in February, 2020.

Known for his heavy courtside flex of the Nike SB line (including classics like the SB Dunk Low ‘Freddy Kruger’ and ‘Paris’ in Houston’s Toyota Center), Travis Scott first teased his maiden SB Dunk on his JACKBOYS music video.

Already one of the most elusive drops of 2020, Scott’s Dunk is built with paisley canvas, plaid flannel overlays, rope laces, and mismatched pink and black Swooshes. Emblazoned with the rising Cactus Jack branding on the tongue, the Nike SB colab also features on-trend tearaway uppers that reveal elephant print underneath.

GANG GANG

Travis Scott’s inaugural Air Max collaboration, the Air Max 270 React, was originally expected to land on May 1.

Reportedly dubbed the ‘Cactus Trail’, Travis Scott’s first foray into Nike’s Air Max catalogue is one of the stranger collaborations from the JACKBOYS entourage, the oily, liquid-gold rendition built with mesh uppers, and white tumbled leather and suede overlays.

Like an Air Max en-route to the avant-garde via Texas, the Air Max 270 React shows that Travis Scott and his JACKBOYS aren’t afraid to mix it up with new silhouettes from Nike’s extensive range.

What’s Next?

Judging by the mercurial musical and stylistic mashup of Travis Scott’s artistic heritage, it’s hard to trace a defined trajectory. But rest assured, Cactus Jack’s sneaker evolution will continue to defy the biological standards of all those who wander through his hallucinogenic vision: Astroworld.

Keen to trace the evolution of another major player in the sneaker scene?

Check out the ongoing sneaker love story between Louis Vuitton and Virgil Abloh.

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