Learn the history and future behind BAPE’s blockbuster Bapesta summer sequel, which benefits from wider distribution and compacted nostalgia.
This week, A Bathing Ape — otherwise known simply as BAPE — announced its new upcoming collection with Marvel Comics.
Arriving in a year where the Japan-birthed brand has redressed Reeboks, launched a strong Stussy capsule, and even entered the metaverse, the engagement surrounding the Marvel launch has already eclipsed all other projects in a matter of hours.
Using the infamous Bapesta silhouette — an homage to Nike’s revered Air Force 1 — the 2022 capsule sees Iron Man, Captain America, Incredible Hulk, and Thor takes dressed up in thematic patent leather with graphic heel hits. Each iteration recalls not only the hip-hop heyday of A Bathing Ape, but also the two parties’ first pairing years ago.
In 2005 and into 2006, A Bathing Ape worked with Marvel Comics on a range of Bapestas likened to Cyclops, Thor, Human Torch, Iron Man, Silver Surfer, Captain America, and Spiderman. Those early launches leveraged Marvel Comics branding on the heel base while telling tales of the superheroes through candy-painted patent leather palettes. Additionally, the shoes were packaged like vintage action figures, nodding to BAPE founder NIGO’s massive toy collection and ability to story-tell.
While sneaker collaborations occur every weekend in modern times, the idea of two worlds colliding on one wearable product was riveting in the early aughts. Especially when one of the worlds was thousands of miles away.
At the turn of the century, A Bathing Ape occupied an incredibly elusive and relatively niche space in fashion and culture. While hip-hop fans saw full-zip hoodies and shiny sneakers on the likes of Jay Z, Pharrell, Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and The Clipse on music videos in Rap City rotation, they could hardly touch or consume them. At the time of the original Marvel x BAPE launch, there were next to no US stockists for the brand, with American flagship shops existing only in New York City and Los Angeles in that era.
While online shopping was amplifying around then, there were still strong concerns about buying products off message boards or from international retailers. This celebrity clout and untouchable chase all added to the buzz of BAPE across the Internet and in sneaker communities.
It’s worth noting too that Marvel had massive commercial cache at the time of the first collaboration, with 2005’s Fantastic Four grossing $330.6 million and 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand producing $459.4 million. While Marvel and A Bathing Ape may not have needed momentum at the time of their first pairing, it set a precedent for unexpected collaborations erupting a new world of converge culture.
In 2007, A Bathing Ape brought the same energy on a duo of DC Comics collaborations channeling both Batman and Superman. They also pushed the price due to increased demand or perhaps more expensive licensing. Historical StockX listings place both ’07 DC drops at $250 MSRP — $100 USD more than the previous Marvel collabs. Interestingly enough, Hypebeast’s Eddie Eng recalls that the DC duo wasn’t nearly as popular or impactful as the buzz surrounding the Marvel madness.
Since the original Marvel Comics x A Bathing Ape collaboration, much has changed on both the supply and demand sides of the equation. In 2009, Disney acquired Marvel for $4 billion. In 2011, NIGO sold A Bathing Ape to I.T Limited.
One year later, the two companies collided again as a second Spiderman style was released, once again using the Bapesta for its foundation. This time around, the aesthetic angled towards something more modern and noir, electing an embroidered toe-box hit and textured paneling. The shoe was sold exclusively at BAPE’s NYC storefront, somewhat inverting the original chase.
Since all ownership has changed hands, both empires have remaind busy on their own when considering activity in each respective backyard. For those keeping track at home, Marvel has licensed footwear collaborations with the likes of Adidas, Vans, New Balance, and PUMA over the course of the last five years. Conversely, BAPE brought back Batman and Superman styles done with DC, while working with Medicom in the toy space and Ghostbusters in regard to film franchises.
Though 2022’s Marvel Comics x A Bathing Ape Bapesta collection may not have the allure associated with the ’05 introduction, today’s audience is much more sizable with distribution channels far stronger. In the world where streaming rules, online shopping is commonplace, and sneaker collecting is now mass, the appetite for a Marvel x BAPE shoe is widespread. In an era with much more mainstream access to products, the numbers will all be higher, even if the feeling is diluted.
Today, BAPE has over 30 flagship stores worldwide with registered retailers ranging from Social Status in Charlotte to BAIT in Seattle. Between their own online store, reputable resale sites, and countless consignment shops, this generation’s Marvel x BAPE Bapesta collection will actually be consumable for fans of all ages.
That’s a feeling last generation’s collectors only experienced through travel or television.