adidas, also known as The Three Stripes Brand, is a German sportswear company founded in 1949 by Adolf “Adi” Dassler. With roots in track and football, it has become a global player within the sneaker industry over the past 70 years.
With influence spanning football, basketball, tennis, skateboarding, fencing, and other sports, the company's first performance-related breakthrough occurred in 1936 within the running space. Jesse Owens famously wore Dassler's revolutionary canvas and rubber spiked running shoe in the Summer Olympics held in Germany that year. And while Owens' record-breaking performance at the global competition brought adidas attention, the brand hadn't yet found its identity; the spikes didn't feature the brand's now-signature 3-Stripes logo. (adidas acquired this branding from Finland's Karhu in 1952.)
The German company achieved similar attention in subsequent decades within both the basketball and tennis spaces thanks to the Superstar (1969) and Stan Smith (1973), respectively. Other made-for-sports models like the adidas Top Ten (1979) and adidas Forum (1984) similarly became lifestyle staples in New York, Boston, Chicago, and other cities. adidas' Superstar became the unofficial shoe of hip-hop in the 1980s largely due to RUN DMC's superstardom. (The shell-toe was the best-selling sneaker in North America in 2016.) While less popular stateside, running silhouettes like the SL 72 (1972) and ZX 500 (1984) boast devoted fans of trainers across Europe and Asia. These silhouettes have experienced resurgences throughout the decades, and are now offered under the adidas Originals banner.
Recent years have seen 3-Stripes-branded sneakers soar in popularity, in large part because of the Kanye West led Yeezy sub-label and UltraBOOST, as well as BOOST and adidas 4D cushioning. The German company has also pioneered high-fashion collaborations, hosting Yohji Yamamoto's Y-3 imprint since 2003. In 2020, classic silhouettes were reimagined by Prada and Craig Green. Elsewhere, partnerships with Beyoncé's IVY PARK, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Jonah Hill, Pharrell and others will ensured adidas remained the global behemoth it has been for decades.
Throughout 2021, the Three Stripes will surely continue its run as a proponent of the mix between sportswear and fashion. On this end, the brand signed FEAR OF GOD's Jerry Lorenzo to drive the creative and business strategy of its basketball category. While little has been revealed about Lorenzo's day-to-day, the American designer is likely to revamp existing signature sneakers for Damian Lillard, James Harden and Derrick Rose before creating his own silhouette (and possible subsidiary). Away from the hardwood, adidas has introduced the UltraBOOST 21, the latest chapter in its performance-running history.