The Bapestas – arguably one of the most iconic sneakers to ever enter the game. Bursting onto the scene in 2002, the Bapesta shoe is a very apparent iteration of the Nike Air Force 1.
From the emblematic silhouette to even the most intricate of details such as the midsole branding, perforated toe box and cupsole seemed to be derived directly from the sneaker released by Nike back in 1982. Although some may confidently argue the Bapesta is a straight copy, a blatant rip-off of the Forces, we beg to differ.
All-White Bapesta Lows vs All-White Air Force 1 Lows
It was the unprecedented level of creativity and boldness that captured the attention of streetwear aficionados and fashion-forward hip hop artists alike. Unlike Nike, Bapestas were comprised of unconventional materials and textures including patented leather, as well as incorporating various vibrant colour combinations.
The irony behind the inception of the Bapestas is that Nike in turn drew inspiration from Nigo’s revolutionary sneaker, releasing a number of patent leather Air force 1’s for the first time in 2006.
We also cannot ignore the subtle differences, such as the BAPE shooting star motif know as the “Sta”, replacing Nike’s Swoosh insignia. The end result was a footwear canvas for which Nigo and his team could get beyond creative on.
And creative they got.
Over the past 15+ years, countless coveted colourways and collaborations have been bestowed upon the public. Although Bapestas are not pumped out anywhere near as frequently as in the past, there has been a resurrection in recent years.
A part of us wanted to see a comeback, but another part of us would have preferred BAPE to leave Bapestas to rest and let their legendary legacy live on.
So with all that being said, here are 10 Bapestas that we believe to be the most iconic.
BAPE X Kanye West ‘Drop Out Bear’ Bapestas
Year released: December 2006
AKA The Bapesta College Dropouts
Not including this grail in the list would be a massive slap in the face to all Bapeheads and OG Kanye fans across the globe.
BAPEs association with the Rap and Hip Hop industry began in as early as the 90s, made apparent by the famous photo of rapper Notorious B.I.G donning a Bape Camo Tech Jacket. But it wasn’t until the early 2000s that BAPE truly took off in the US – largely credited to the relationship formed between NIGO and Pharell Williams.
This was Kanye’s very first sneaker collaboration release. Although these Bapestas weren’t crafted from patent leather, that didn’t take away from their appeal one bit. If anything, the standard leather texture imparted a greater sense of luxury and a premiumness.
These red, brown and cream Bapestas also featured the Dropout Bear on the outer side of each pair – a colourful character featured on the cover on Kanye West’s Albums “College Drop Out” (2004) and “Late Resignation” (2005).
Details such as the red stitching around the STA and differing colours on each letter for the APE spell-out adds to the distinctiveness of this highly-sought after pair. The collaboration saw a very limited quantity released, and as you may have guessed, sold out instantly.
This enormous demand met by a scarce supply has resulted in resell prices going off the charts.
BAPE X KAWS “Chompers”
Year Released: 2006
KAWS and BAPE have collaborated numerous times since as early as 1999, on both apparel and footwear. The “APESTAS” or “Chuckstas”, “Skullstas”, and 2005 BAPESTAS that Nigo worked with KAWS on are all worth mentioning – but the collaboration that reigns supreme in our opinion is the Chompers.
Chomper – one of KAWS’s many motifs among Companion and BFF (which were featured heavily in the KAWS X UNIQLO collaboration) was the protagonist for the multiple pairs dropped in 2006.
KAWS's "Chomper" character
From colour combinations including green-red-white to yellow-blue-pink and red-purple-blue, these patent leather kicks were a loud statement when rocked, to say the least.
Each pair was adorned with elements of KAWS’s artwork – namely the X motif seen on the star and Chomper’s teeth lining the toe vamp. 2 pairs of Chompers were auctioned off at the Sothbey’s NIGOLDENEYE VOL. 1 event back in April 2019, along with 30+ other iconic KAWS and BAPE items.
BAPE X N.E.R.D Bapestas
Year released: ??
Pharell and Nigo have worked on various projects together, the most notable and celebrated being the now globally recognised clothing label Billionaire Boys Club, back in 2003. Aside from his multiple business ventures, Pharell was also a member of the 3-man Hip Hop group N.E.R.D (No One Ever Really Dies).
With BAPE so imbedded in the Hip Hop scene during the early-mid 2000s, it was only right that NIGO and N.E.R.D would come together and produce something that would go down in the sneaker history books.
These red, marone and musk Bapestas featured N.E.R.D’s brain logo embroidered on the rear quarter panel. As with the Kanye West collaboration, the quantity released was upsettingly scarce, leaving people wondering how they could get their hands on these without having to take out a mortgage.
Bapestas weren’t the only item the pair collaborated on – the “Star Track” tee, N.E.R.D spellout tee and trucker hats just to name a few.
Ostrich Bapestas (Pack)
Year Released: 2009
No, these were not made from real ostrich skin – just thought it would be best to just get that straight. The Ostrich Pack was released back in 2009, with 3 colourways on offer – an all white, brown/white/black, and blue/maroon/white.
The texture and pattern on the leather uppers mimics ostrich skin, as seen by the bumps throughout. This pack was a hit or a miss among the public, with some extremely eager to scoop all 3 pairs, while others were either apprehensive or down-right disgusted.
Regardless of which side of the spectrum people fell on, the Ostrich Bapestas sold like hotcakes.
BAPE X Ghostbusters Bapestas
Year Released: 2009
BAPE are known for their innumerable collaborations with fictitious characters and animations such as Hello Kitty, Mario and One Piece.
With this strong penchant for collaborative drops, in 2009 BAPE decided to join forces with Ghostbusters. The fantasy-comedy film series that came to life back in 1984 has had far from a ghost-like presence, still going strong to this day.
This pair of exclusive Bapestas were a celebration of Ghostbusters 25th anniversary, releasing in 3 colourways – white, black and red.
Adorned on the rear quarter panel of these emblematic sneakers were a portion of the iconic Ghostbusters logo. The full logo can also be seen on the back. 3 tops as well as a coffee mug were also released in this capsule.
The enormous success of this collaborative capsule saw A Bathing Ape teaming up with Ghostbusters again this year. Read more about the 35th year anniversary collaboration here.
BAPE X Daft Punk Bapestas
Year Released: 2005
The French duo Daft Punk create some of the most distinct and unique music, infusing elements of house music with disco, rock, techno, pop…you name it, Daft Punk have probably dabbled in it.
Their whole aura is akin to Bape’s philosophy and experimental nature – so it was only right that these 2 names joined to produce some heat.
Outside of clothing, Nigo had a fiery passion for music, DJ-ing for the Japanese rap group “Teriyaki Boyz”, and producing albums under the name of (B)APE SOUNDS. Matthew Trammell breaks it down Nigo’s music background elegantly here, have a read.
The mysterious masked musicians - Daft Punk
Without going off on too much of a tangent, these kicks were destined to be a classic from the day they entered this universe. But with only a measly 100 pairs of these gems produced, it’s almost mission impossible for even the most fierce and determined BAPE fans.
The pairs were only made available for Japanese residents who had access to BAPE Mania – an exclusive members-only online website that launched in 2006. You can read more about how it all worked here.
The asymmetrical embellishments of these Bapestas make them extra special (as if they weren’t special enough already) – with the left shoe coloured with a silver STA, while gold on the right. Daft Punk’s logo can also be seen in the same colours, contrasting wonderfully with the predominantly black patent leather shoe.
Year Released: 2003
Bape were always at the forefront of innovation and creativity – these slip-on Bapestas were no exception. The back half of these kicks slope down, forming a sandal/slides-shaped silhouette.
Although their functionality may be questionable, slip these on as you go to take the bins out in the morning; a brief and subtle flex indeed.
Aside from the sloped back-section, the STA has a noticeably shorter swoosh.
This unconventional sneaker first dropped in 2003 in a simple and clean all-white colourway. 5 years on and BAPE released the slip-ons again, but this time in a attention-jerking red, blue, yellow and white colourway, adorned with polka dots and stripes.
Speaking of Polka dots, this creates a perfect segway into the next Bapesta that made it into our top 10.
Lichtenstein Dots Bapestas
Year Released: 2007
The Bapestas, a blank canvas as we like to call them, allowed Nigo to share his love for art and various artists he’s drawn inspiration from over the years.
He has paid homage to figures such as Andy Warhole through various designs and logos used on Bape products (which we’ll talk about another day).
For this pair of Bapestas, an iconic American pop artist by the name of Roy Lichenstein was the source of inspiration. The “Ben Day Dots” were a recurring motif throughout Lichtenstein’s work, which BAPE also utilised to produce a sneaker that was as out-there as it was symbolic.
KAWS also hopped on board for another rendition of the polka dot Bapestas, propelling this design to grail-status for many.
Snake Skin Bapestas
Year Released: 2007
If you’re after a venomously fierce pair of Bapestas, the 2006 Snakeskins are it. Featuring snakeskin like material, these sensational kicks slithered their way into Busy Work Shops worldwide in 2 colourways – a brown snakeskin and yellow snakeskin.
Although these pairs aren’t as grueling to find nor as eye-wateringly expensive, a sneaker doesn’t have to be super rare or super pricey to be considered the shit. That’s what we believe at least.
The snakeskin pattern gives off an exotic look resembling snakeskin boots that have been around for years (and creeped back into fashion a few years ago, for better or for worse…).
BAPE x UNKLE x Futura Bapestas
We don’t know how a pair so special fell so far under the radar. American graffiti artist Futura 2000 and Nigo have a collaborative relationship that dates back to the 90’s when A Bathing Ape was still printing on Hanes Hefty Tees.
Nigo’s love for street art is made evident through his ventures with talents like Futura and KAWS. The 3rd collaborator for these limited Bapestas was UNKLE – a British musical outfit founded by James Lavell in 1992 that have featured a myriad of artists through their “incarnations” over the years.
The exclusivity of the pairs you see below might just be a point worth mentioning – only 100 pairs of each colourway were released, making these triad-masterpiece a rarity in the world of streetwear.
The outer panels of these Bapestas are embellished with the UNKLE signature, while Futura’s abstract art is celebrated on the inner side. If you’re ever blessed enough to acquire a pair, you’ll know which number of 100 pair you got, by the numbering on the back.
UNKLE and Futura came together again on a shoe collaboration in 2004 – but this time with Nike. Nike’s passive-aggressive revenge on Bape for borrowing the Air Force 1 silhouette? Maybe. Maybe not.
Futura x UNKLE x Dunk High Pro SB 'Unkle'
Which Bapestas are your favourite? Was it in our list? Let us know in the comments – if we dig them too, we’ll add ‘em to the list!
Also, if you’re looking to buy Bapestas online, you can find them right here at Top Floor Gallery. Shop from our selection of Bapestas and rock a pair of Japanese streetwear history.