Yeezy, Kanye West's fledgling sportswear line with Adidas, is much like its progenitor: well hyped, polarizing (is anyone other than Kim really going to rock a body stocking?), and, ultimately, kind of covetable. The pieces—the aforementioned sheer bodysuit, the slouchy, militaristic cargo pants—are lean and tough and sort of dystopian, like they could costume the cast of The Hunger Games. Kylie Jenner has modeled for the brand during New York Fashion Week. The blogs track Yeezy like an enemy missile. Buyers go bananas for it. The line sells out instantly.
And then there are the 950 Duck Boots: all sturdy canvas with a rubber bottom, like a cross between a moon boot and those L.L. Bean boots people in Maine wear to shovel snow. While Kanye may not have intended them to be worn anywhere more rugged than say, a packed Fashion Week party, the boots truly looked like they could be the most stylish (and useful) all-terrain travel gear made in a while. Winter snowstorms? Covered. (Even a wade through some salty Long Island Sound floodwater.) Maybe an excursion to the Hudson Valley on a soggy spring day? How about trekking up an active volcanic landscape some 13,500 feet above sea level in exurban Mexico City? Now that's a challenge.
In what was likely the most thoughtful gift I've ever received, I received a pair of Yeezy Season 1's 950 Duck Boots (in shades of black and clay) shortly after their 2015 release. Since then, I've wanted to pack them wherever I go—even on a trip up a volcano. When the opportunity presented itself this past weekend, I decided to test my theory, and my Yeezys were the first things in my suitcase. Manhattan to the mountain: Could they be the most dynamic shoes ever created? Would they be too heavy? Would I take a tumble due to lack of grip? Could I blame Kanye if that happened? Worth a shot.
6:15 a.m.: My friend Jack meets me at the Hotel Condesa DF in Mexico City. "You have them on already?" Jack asks, throwing a mildly skeptical glance at my boots. Jack is wearing Nike trainers, a logical choice, which means we can pit the low-pro, light-weight sneaker versus the vertiginous and already kind of ridiculous-seeming calf-highs. Despite good reviews on TripAdvisor of our upcoming four-hour hike up Volcan Iztaccíhuatl (which would first require a three-hour drive outside of the city), we'd both been told independently to use caution. (There had been a climbing accident in the area the week before.) We both stared out the window at the street lamps, wondering if today was going to be the day we die.
7 a.m.: We make a quick stop in the Zocalo to pick up fellow hikers and then we head to the highway along the southern edge of the Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl neighborhood, driving east and away from Distrito Federal proper. At this point we have met a nice exchange student from Liege in Belgium, who is wearing Adidas running shoes. "These are Adidas, too," I say, tapping a lug sole cockily. "Adidas and Kanye West." "That is so cool," says the Belgian, perhaps out of politeness. "Did you see his Twitter meltdown?" (Yes. Which one?)
We are all excited and taking thousands of pictures and maybe slightly oxygen deprived, having now reached around 12,500 feet: Base camp 1, Parque Nacional Iztaccíhuatl Popocatépetl. It's where you buy tickets to enter the park, and also where you can take your first photograph in front of Popocatépetl, the tallest and most volatile volcano in the region. I can see it emit tiny puffs of steam. Yeezy-wise, so far, so good—my feet are feeling springy, comfy, and temperature regulated.
10:30 a.m.: Base camp 2. We've made it, despite some doubts, given that the road to get here is the width of my arm span and dusty and trench-ridden, with dicey drop-offs on both sides. There are 22 of us on the bus; it has been hours. This is Iztaccíhuatl, which is more novice-friendly, I'm guessing, than Popocatepetl. It is very beautiful, almost tundra-like, and austere. Snow patches pock-mark the walls and the worn-down obsidian cliffs. My Yeezys are ready to get the hell off this bus and out on the trail.
10:45 a.m.: The hike has begun. My Yeezys are feeling great, because we've only taken, like, 30 steps and I'm cranked up on adrenaline and have not yet incurred the throbbing wrath of high-altitude headaches. In the background is a town called Amecameca. Beyond it, in the romantic smog, is Mexico City.
11 a.m.: Everyone is tired. It has been 15 minutes. But it is more of an upper respiratory and neurological exhaustion; deep breaths, slight dizziness. This tends to happen at high altitudes, and at its worst, it's altitude sickness. But my legs are great. The Yeezys did well ascending the first hill, which was slick with snow-melt, and quite steep—solid grip, decent ankle support. My only complaint is that the soles are tall—and I am already 6'5''—so this makes balancing more difficult, especially when lightheadedness is starting to creep in. I wonder if I'm getting old as I breathe laboriously and wobble and try to figure out why my SnapChat has stopped working.
11:15 a.m.: Mud is no obstacle. For Jack's shoes, however, mud might be an obstacle. +1 to Yeezy.
12:30 p.m.: We've gone rogue by leaving the trail and climbing a steep face to get a view of Popocatepetl across the way. This turns out to be awesome, as it gives us a place to relax, take shelter from the wind, and eat cookies. The Yeezys, so far, haven't let me down, even in unchartered territory.
1 p.m.: We decide to head back to base. I am very satisfied with how my Yeezys held fast when we were "off-roading." We find a picnic table, and I take them off because some pebbles have gotten inside. Some local women are cooking on an open grill. It smells so good. But we continue to eat cookies.
1:30 p.m.: I fall on the bus steps. My only fall of the day. Go figure. I think about whether or not this is something I want to share, perhaps with a caption or comment like, "Just did not jump over jumpman," but I decide against it.
2:30 p.m.: Driving back to Mexico City with a headache worse than any hangover. Waves. Swish. Saint. North. Kim: The Kanye universe is a whirlpool of confusion inside my head, but I am happy as an almeja despite feeling crazy.
Final conclusion: The only fault I could find with the Yeezy 950, in such extreme terrain, was its height. I think this might not be as big of an issue for someone shorter than me. They proved remarkably light and nimble despite their heft; I would totally go trekking in them again. I guess I will just have to wait for what Yezus unveils this coming New York Fashion Week with Season 3.