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What began in a washroom as a humble operation to provide athletes with a better running spike has become one of the most dominant forces in sports, fashion, story-telling and innovation. And while adidas is constantly working on what’s next, it’s never been hesitant to revisit its past.
Since 1997, the German sportswear behemoth has been taking strolls down memory lane under the “adidas Originals” banner, but trips to yesterday don’t stop at the footwear designs that’ve made 3-Stripes branding iconic; they also include unforgettable collaborators. Many names come to mind when thinking of influential figures in the brand’s 73-year-old history, with Stan Smith arguably deserving the top spot.
To celebrate 50 years of partnership between adidas and the American tennis icon, we’ve teamed up with the Three Stripes to deliver a brief history of the Stan Smith shoe.
Dozens of styles are also currently available via adidas.com so you can celebrate the milestone Stanniversary.
If you’ve been paying attention to adidas since at least 2014, you might’ve asked, “Didn’t the Stan Smith already turn 50?” Yes, but let us explain: The original adidas Stan Smith design debuted in 1964. As the first all-leather tennis shoe, the pair quickly became a favorite among players, including Robert Haillet, the French professional that lent his endorsement and name to the innovative pair. Haillet would go on to showcase the performance benefits of the Three Stripes’ first tennis design for seven years, retiring in 1971. Who would be the new face of adidas’ industry-changing product?: Stan Smith.
Standing at 6 feet 4 inches tall and fresh off winning the U.S. Open in ’71, the American athlete was a force to be reckoned with. Smith had been playing in canvas models from competing brands, but the South Carolina-native was enticed by the opportunity to coincide with the boom in popularity tennis was enjoying at the time. Getting his name on the sneaker, let alone his face, wasn’t a part of adidas’ original contract. That, and history, changed in 1978 as the man named “Stan Smith” became a shoe.
Although the shoe received some modifications to coincide with its relaunch as the “adidas Stan Smith,” the most notable updates arrived in the form of the athlete’s portrait on the top of the tongue and name on the heel. The shoe remained popular as a performance option up until the early ’80s (Smith retired in ’85). Off the grass and clay courts, however, the Stan Smith remained an affordable, easily-available option for a large part of the three subsequent decades until the Three Stripes decided to stop production in 2011. Smith was hesitant to the idea of taking the shoes off retail shelves given how popular the sneaker had been, but his adidas family was planning for a reintroduction in time of the design’s 50th anniversary. With the help of creative agency Lloyd & Co, the German sportswear giant relaunched the adidas Stan Smith to overwhelming success.
The most popular version of the adidas Stan Smith continues being the original “Cloud White” and “Green” one debuted in ’64. And while the sneaker remains vital to the adidas Originals group, it hasn’t been afraid of experimentation. “Navy,” “Red” and other solid tones have traded places with classic “Green” at the heel and portraits, demonstrating that the model’s inherent design is “foolproof,” but the mid-century creation has also proven to be the perfect canvas for a wide range of creative expression.
With fans the likes of Phoebe Philo and Kanye West and with a collaborator roster boasting Raf Simons and Beyoncé’s IVY PARK, the Stan Smith is one of the modern era’s most widely-accepted silhouettes. Each aforementioned name has made the pair their own, as have countless of unnamed fans of the shoe. From the classic to the new, you can shop all styles for yourself or your loved ones via adidas.com right now.
THE NEXT 50 YEARS
THE NEXT 50 YEARS
While adidas and Smith have no plans to lay off the gas, they’ve begun thinking about what’s next for their partnership. Dozens of plans are surely “under wraps,” but both the German sportswear behemoth and American living legend have been vocal about their goal of making the Stan Smith more sustainable.
The current standard version of the shoe features a PRIMEGREEN upper and recycled rubber sole unit, both components rooted in the company’s END PLASTIC WASTE initiative. In addition to helping the environment with the sneakers themselves, the boxes in which the pair arrives has been updated through a sustainable lens, comprising more than 90% recycled paper. Visually, the decades-old product maintains the same look that’s helped make it a timeless style, but the Three Stripes and Smith’s commitment to a greener planet has achieved true timelessness as Stan Smiths can be recycled to create new product.
Away from the partnership’s sustainability efforts, the adidas Stan Smith continues to tap some of the most creative and influential figures in the world for compelling updates. Playful styles by everyone from Kermit the Frog and The Muppets to South Park’s Stan Marsh keep the decades-old design feeling young, while refined looks by size?, for example, demonstrate the shoe’s DNA will shine regardless.
Today, the man with his face on the tennis shoe has settled in Hilton Head, South Carolina. On December 7th, 2018, the American icon was awarded a lifetime deal with the Three Stripes, ensuring his name and likeness will endure the test of time. Some people think he’s a shoe – and he is – but Stan Smith is also so much more.