There are fewer shoes with a connection to a specific, geographic location stronger than the one between Nike’s iconic Cortez and Los Angeles. Even as modern technology dissolves the bold map lines that delineate old, regional variations on style and culture, the Cortez is still known as not only the Los Angeles sneaker, but one of the ultimate symbols of West Coast style in general. Simplicity of design, widespread availability and, perhaps most importantly, an inexpensive price tag, made the Cortez an instant hit.
Los Angeles is, obviously, a big city, so we should specify that when we say the Cortez was a hit in L.A., we aren’t talking about Santa Monica Boulevard and Century City. We’re talking about the Los Angeles that made the front pages and the top of the 6 o’clock news. So the Cortez has definitely been down some decidedly dicey roads in terms of reputation. Just wearing the shoe in certain locations was a de facto declaration of gang membership, and some notable names can share stories of being forbidden to wear them at all as a kid.
Despite the rougher patches of its backstory, the popularity of the Cortez endured. A shoe as versatile as the Cortezcan’t possibly be pigeonholed forever, and as the wider connotations around Los Angeles and West Coast culture became less about headline ready violence and more about a kind of laid back, but gritty feel, the shoe’s reputation as a pure style icon made its way into mainstream culture.
Kendrick Lamar’s latest collaborative take on the famous nylon and suede runner, the Cortez Kenny IV celebrates the laid back aesthetic with a dose of inspiration from an icon of relaxation that outstrips even the Cortez, the house shoe. A complete subversion of the putting on appearances lyrical clichés that present fashion as an exhausting battle of one-upmanship, the Cortez Kenny IV revels in the state of next level style that can only be achieved through the perfect mixture of confidence and genuinely not caring about the reaction of other people.
A white with grey, navy and orange accents simultaneously recalls the old-school athletic style of classic Cortez models and the effortless universality of house shoes and beater sneakers. The classic, uncomplicated shape of the Corteznaturally transitions into a slip on silhouette without missing a step, while a unique, quilted insole offers an around the house interpretation of comfort cushioning.
In other words, the Cortez Kenny IV takes the feeling of of something you would be totally comfortable wearing at home, and makes it something that you bring with you anywhere you go.