As interest in auctions of sneakers continues to explode, a pair of shoes worn by Kanye West at the 2008 Grammys has notched a new milestone. Earlier this week, the sneakers sold for $1.8 million via a private sale orchestrated by Sotheby’s. They are most likely the first pair of sneakers to sell for more than $1 million, and they are the most expensive pair of sneakers ever sold, based on publicly reported numbers. Sotheby’s did not reveal the buyer of the shoes.
The sneakers, known as Nike Air Yeezy 1 Prototypes, were donned by the rapper as he performed his songs “Hey Mama” and “Stronger” on live television at the annual music award show. The shoes are black and gold, and feature a just-barely-visible Nike swoosh on their sides.
In a statement, Sotheby’s head of streetwear and modern collectibles Brahm Wachter said, “The sale speaks volumes of Kanye’s legacy as one of the most influential clothing and sneaker designers of our time, and of the Yeezy franchise he has built which has become an industry titan.”
Though sneakers have been sold as collectibles since 1985, their appearance at auction in sales held by major houses is a relatively new phenomenon. Over the past few years, houses such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s have found momentum by peddling sneakers to buyers as a major collecting category in their own right. “Sneakers is a category now and it’s going to grow,” Noah Wunsch, formerly of Sotheby’s, told ARTnews in 2019.
The record minted by the sneakers worn by West shattered the one set last year by a pair worn by Michael Jordan. Those sneakers sold for $560,000 at a Sotheby’s online sale, against a $150,000 high estimate.