2011 – the year or two thrones. Game of Thrones made its television debut with "Winter is Coming" at the same time that Jay-Z and Kanye west made their musical debut as the group known as "The Throne," delivering the era-defining album Watch the Throne.
In the 11 years that followed, eight seasons of GoT came to a close, with opinions divided by a finale that felt a far cry from the pilot. Similarly, The Throne split at the seams, leaving dreams of a sequel album in tatters.
While we currently live a throneless existence, reloading the album that delivered an eleven-play, forty-minute live performance of "Ni**as in Paris" is a stark reminder of fashion's evolving style and tastes – a reminder of a time where no fucks were given, and hip-hop 'fits nothing short of iconic.
Before the album's select visual treatments, its infectious lyrics spoke for themselves.
The project's first reference to fashion and style lands on track 3, the aforementioned "Ni**as in Paris," in which Ye raps: "What's Gucci my ni**er? What's Louis, my killer? What's drugs, my dealer? What's that jacket, Margiela?"
The luxury fixation felt throughout the album is nothing new to hip-hop, nor was it at the time.
It did, however, reflect a very different version of the Ye (and to an extent, Jay-Z) whom we see today, and nothing makes that clearer than 'fits sported on the pair's tour and music videos.
From the three visual treatments released alongside the album's singles, "Otis" came first. Nothing short of iconic, the video saw The Throne strip down a Maybach and joy ride it with models. An instant classic.
Somehow, the duo made the elitist act of tearing apart a $350,000 car feel almost relatable, thanks to their abundant love for Nike, wearing a pair of Air Jordan 1 "Bred" and Air Jordan 6 "Infrared" – these were the days of Air Yeezy, after all.
Although the pair's silhouettes fairly basic, the garments therein were extravagant.
Jay, on the other hand, rocked Balmain up top, Rocawear denim, and a Just Don M&N capsule snakeskin fitted cap (very of the times).
These flex 'fits were packed with braggadocios swagger, but The Throne's loudest, most expensive, and undoubtedly most iconic looks came courtesy of the Watch The Throne tour.
The custom apparel pieces cherry-picked animal and star graphic motifs from the house's mainline collection, now-iconic finishes that are synonymous with Tisci's tenure. This imagery seamlessly blended with the opulent themes from Watch the Throne.
For Kanye, finished looks comprised leather pants, shorts, or skirts, and "Solar Red" Nike Air Yeezy 2 sneakers – plenty of longline tees, too. Jay, on the other hand, would sport baggy black pants or jeans, blacked-out Timberland 6inch boots, hoodies, and plenty of gold chains.
Both audibly and visually, Watch the Throne is certainly a product of the times, with Jay and Ye at the peak of their egotistical rap. Sure, both remain cocksure throughout their verses — confidence is one of the core spices that gives hip-hop its distinct flavor, after all — but with billionaire status comes a taste for the finer things.
The Kanye West that donned leather pants with Jordan 1s and long-line tees feels like a distant memory.
Little did we know it at the time, but the Watch the Throne and Cruel Summer era was a bookend for Kanye's very loud, very obnoxious wardrobe, simultaneously signifying a distinct shift in sound.
With the release of YEEZUS in 2013, a divisive album that would drastically shift the soundscape of hip-hop for years to come, Ye's frustrations with the barriers to entry he was facing in the fashion industry bubbled to the surface.
If the album didn't make that clear, his infamous interview with Sway Calloway on Shade 45 dropped the same year.
These frustrations seemingly closed West's Balmain and Givenchy chapter, setting up the style evolution that would be informed by the debut of his YEEZY brand in 2015.
Now that he'd laid the infrastructure for his own brand, loud designer prints faded from view, ushering in earth-toned and neutral 'fits, baggier silhouettes, looser layers, dropped shoulders, cargo pants, and the switch from Nikes and Jordans to adidas YEEZYs.
For Jay-Z, billionaire status came long before his friend, and his stylistic shift came far sharper.
A businessman by nature (or is that a business, man?), Jay's stylistic transition seems to have followed his growing portfolio and lyrical maturity following the Watch the Throne era.
Bundles of gold chains disappeared from view, baggy black hoodies and Timbs were switched out for tailored suits in all the colors of a muted rainbow. Its a natural transition indicative of how Jay's perceived in the elite business circles he frequents, and one that's mirrored in his basic approach to casual dress.
Apart from unattainable timepieces, why make noise with designer clothing when everybody knows you've got all the money in the world?
Clearly, in the 11 years that have passed, the pair's paths have diverged.
Perhaps, Watch the Throne not only bookended an era of attention-hungry style — one that drew eyeballs through sheer wealth, hubris, and designer labels — but the end of Ye and Jay's relationship as we knew it. Sure, both have drifted apart as they've gotten wealthier but it feels that they've also settled into their own final forms.
Even still, though I'd never miss the exaggerated-length tees or skinny leather pants, boy, part of me can't help but hold heavy nostalgia for unabashed attitude of the 2010s. What a time.