Hive Five: The Budding Musician/Shoe Crossover Market

Noel Gallagher in London, July 2011. Photo: Jo Hale/Getty Images

It used to be that musicians simply made music. But now that everything is about “synergy,” success for musicians can’t just be measured in album sales or YouTube views. They need movie roles, perfumes and clothing lines. This week it was announced that former Oasis guitarist and noted sibling-rivalry-sufferer Noel Gallagher had teamed up with Adidas Originals to create limited-edition sneakers (or in Gallagher’s parlance, trainers) with a picture of his face on their tongue. We never thought Gallagher was known for his style, but since he left his band in 2009 and is just now getting around to releasing a record with his new project High Flying Birds, we guess he had some time on his hands to focus on fashion. Gallagher’s not alone in his new hobby; Hive discovered five other sole stars that are making shoe design part of their cross-platform assault.

1. Kanye West‘s “Air Yeezy”

Having just shown his womenswear collection, DW by Kanye West, at Paris Fashion Week, Yeezy is clearly serious about sartorial matters. And the world of hip-hop has been obsessed with sneakers since the days of Run-DMC. So it follows that West would have to have a sneaker of his own design. He introduced the Nike Air Yeezy back in 2009, and pairs of the shoe are so rare now that they regularly sell for over $1000 online. Don’t have that kind of scratch? At this year’s VMAs, West performed “Otis” with Jay-Z while wearing a pair of kicks that sent sneakerheads into a frenzy. Could he have been wearing the Nike Air Yeezy 2? Only time will tell.

2. Eminem and Royce Da 5’9” “Converse Allstar”

Lots of musicians have become synonymous with Converse — Kurt Cobain killed himself wearing a pair of one-stars and practically every review of the Strokes Is This It? made reference to the band’s footwear of choice — but these Detroit rappers seem like an unlikely match for the sneaker company. As part of the promotion of Hell the Sequel, the debut by Royce Da 5’9” and Eminem’s collaborative Bad Meets Evil project, the duo teamed up with the shoemaker to create a super-limited-edition Allstar. (How limited? Only 100 pairs were produced.) The sneakers, which basically look like black hightops tagged with duo’s name and their label’s logo, were the least interesting thing about the Em/Royce collaboration, but at least the proceeds went to charity.

3. Animal Collective’s Keep Company Line

Sneaker partnerships aren’t just for hip-hop stars. The psychedelic experimentalists of Animal Collective may be better known for topping critics’ best-of lists than covers of The Source, but that didn’t stop them from creating their own line of footwear for Keep. Each of the four Collective members designed their own signature shoe — from Avey Tare’s pastel-hued, hand-decorated slip-on to Deakin Fish’s embroidered hightop — for the benefit of the Socorro Island Conservation Fund, which protects the threatened marine biosphere off the coast of Baja California. While supplies lasted, the shoes even came with cassettes featuring previously unreleased solo tracks by each member of the band. Talk about making bonus tracks!

4. Danielson’s Fluevogs

Offbeat indie pop/gospel outfit Danielson is known for their whimsical onstage attire. They once wore matching old-timey nurse outfits and more recently have taken the stage in what can only be described as naval-meets-boy-scouts uniforms. So when the band’s leader, Brother Daniel, was asked to design a shoe for John Fluevog, it was certain to be a kooky twist on a timeless look. The resulting shoe, out since late 2008 and now part of the group’s performance-wear, is like a thick-soled, cartoonish version of a wingtip. And did we mention it’s unisex?

5. Theophilus London’s Cole Haans

Dapper Brooklyn-based rapper Theophilus London released a lot of debuts this year: his first EP (Lovers Holiday), his first full-length (Timez are Weird These Days) and his first shoe. But instead of working with the usual suspects, like the rock ‘n’ roll or hip-hop shoe brands that the other artists on this list collaborated with, London made his “blue suede buck” for pricey, preppy Cole Haan. His shoe, which was released last month and is solely sold at Cole Haan’s Soho store, features a bright blue sole and laces to match. But London hasn’t forgotten about his music-making day job; each pair of his shoes comes with a 10-inch vinyl record of his cover of Nat King Cole’s “Calypso Blue.”

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