Kanye West's Style Evolution Proves Why He Is Truly A Fashion Icon, No Matter What The Haters Say

MIAMI - AUGUST 29: Singer Kanye West poses in the press room at the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards on August 29, 2004 at the American Airlines Arena, in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images)
Source: Peter Kramer/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

In the past 38 years of his life, Kanye West's style evolution has turned him from a buzzworthy artist to a fashion icon. When he started his career, West's choice of clothing mirrored some of the trends happening in hip-hop and street style, but it didn't take long for him to break out of the sartorial box and follow a more fashion forward aesthetic. West's relationship with design houses such as Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, and Balmain show up in his own fashion sense, whether he's on stage performing, walking down the red carpet, or sitting front row at Fashion Week. In honor of Kanye's 38th birthday, let's take a journey into his exciting, outrageous, and inspiring style transformation. 

Buckethead, 2002

A young Kanye kept it clean and simple in a white tee while posing with Roc-a-Fella’s Damon Dash.

Mustard on the Beat, 2003

The rapper looked casual in a mustard hoodie during an early concert performance. 

I Dream of Grammy, 2004

The Louis Vuitton scarf adds a nice touch to his Yearbook-ready photo. 

In Check, 2004

Kanye’s love affair with color and print goes way back. 

Pink Ranger, 2004

Giving Hamptons realness with the chairman of the board Jay-Z. 

College Chic, 2004

He rocked the teddy bear sweater while promoting The College Dropout on MTV’s TRL.

Grandpa Sweater, 2004

Colors and prints, part two. 

Total Prepster, 2004

Kanye looked A+ cool in pink and brown at the MTV Europe Music Awards. 

White Out, 2005

While he often went casual for performances, Kanye was all about dressing up for major red carpet moments like the Grammys. 

Sunglasses at Night, 2005

Kanye accessorized his pastel knit cardigan with a pair of Gucci sunglasses. Also, remember Ryan Cabrera’s hair? 

Hair Art, 2005

Speaking of hair… 

Fashion Forward, 2006

His Late Registration era gave way to Kanye going full force with his love for fashion, starting with this 1970s-inspired look at the Grammys red carpet. 

Band Geek, 2006

He later changed into a drum major costume for his Grammy performance with Jamie Foxx. 

Fur Real, 2006

Kanye wore a Vuitton fur scarf during an after party for designer Zac Posen. 

Shutting It Down, 2007

The rapper made the louvered sunglasses, better known as Shutter Shades, cool again during the Graduation era. 

The Prince and Me, 2007

Even Prince Harry wanted a pair of Shutter Shades. 

Fendi Forever, 2007

Aside from Yeezy’s bright yellow Fendi logo tee, the other notable fashion statement here is Rihanna’s cane (just ignore the dudes on either side of her). 

Emo Kanye, 2008

His 808s & Hearbreak album came with a nerdy chic aesthetic. I approve. 

Denim Delivery, 2008

Color blocking like a boss at the BAPE store opening. 

Louis Vuitton Don, 2008

Fashion literally had his back (by Vuitton, of course) during a concert at the Louisiana Superdome. 

All of the Lights, 2008

Kanye often experimented with different media, whether it’s with his music, performances, or his clothes. 

Taylor-gate, 2009

The leather shirt and jeans combo signaled another style change for the artist, but it was all eclipsed by him interrupting Taylor Swift during her MTV VMAs win. Since then, Tay has forgiven Kanye his outburst. 

Beat It, 2009

The sparkly jacket, the glove, the confident swagger… all inspired by the King of Pop. 

Take A Bow, 2011

Even though Kanye’s first runway show received mixed reviews, his personal style was understated and cool on the catwalk. 

Met Man, 2011

He rolled up to the Met Gala in a custom tux by Tory Burch. 

Rule Breaker, 2011

Not one to follow any conventions of fashion, Kanye wore a silk women’s shirt from Celine’s Spring collection at Coachella. 

The Rise of Kimye, 2012

Enter Kim Kardashian.

What's That Jacket? 2012

A fan of the fashion house’s avant garde style, Kanye attended the Margiela x H&M launch in a camel trench from the collection. 

Air Yeezy, 2012

He wore his own Nike Air Yeezy 2 “Zen Grey” at London Fashion Week. 

Power Couple, 2013

The stylish parents-to-be were all everyone could talk about at that year’s Met Gala. 

Why You Gotta Be So Blue, 2013

Kanye kept it casual in blue at the Hood By Air show. 

King of Coats, 2014

Just a full length rabbit fur coat, NBD. 

Balmain Royalty, 2014

His and hers Balmain, because Kimye. 

Masked In Margiela, 2014

He donned the now iconic Margiela mask during the Yeezus tour. 

Going Goth, 2015

Kanye attended Paris Fashion Week with the eternally cool Lorde. 

Another Day, Another Gala, 2015

“In the future, we will have our own Met Gala theme.” 

Bulletproof, 2015

Here’s to the next 38+ years of Kanye fashion goodness.