University of Minnesota Alumni Association

Alumni Stories

Stylish Kicks with a Message

Taoheed Bayo (B.S. ‘20), a U of M student from  Nigeria, recently turned his hand to shoe design.

Taoheed Bayo (B.S. ‘20), a U of M student from  Nigeria, recently turned his hand to shoe design and created a pair of custom sneakers for Nike he called “Afro-Yutes.” (Yute is a slang term for youth.)

Bayo, who will graduate this spring, is studying mathematics and actuarial science at the University, while also working as a part-time model. He entered an essay contest called Nike By You x Cultivator, which asked entrants to describe what message they would share with the world through the medium of designing a pair of shoes. Part of Bayo’s winning entry read, “Africa is the centre of the world, we are no third world. The yute are now equipped to fight the alien system that plagued our ancestors. … We are ambassadors of our origins and people, so whether we like it or not, it is our inherent duty to change the narrative.”

One of 37 guest designers selected to actually create a pair of sneakers, Bayo chose a color palette he felt represented both Africa and the Nigerian flag, and Nike created the shoes to help him tell his story.

“It was the right story to back up the design,” Bayo says. “It was a story that we all know and that resonates with every African and Black American.”

Bayo plans to travel to New York this summer to test out a professional modeling career for at least a few months. “It’s all about storytelling,” he says of his plans. “I want to share a story and be an ambassador of my color and race.”

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