History Class: adidas
Written by Travis Tong
Background cover image by Hung Nguyen (@han.ssp)
German sportswear powerhouse, adidas, originated from humble grassroots during its inception in 1924 where founders Adolf and Rudolf Dassler made a name for themselves creating track shoes in their mother’s laundry room. Originally known as the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory (Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik), the brand gained notoriety after becoming the first company ever to sponsor an African-American athlete during the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The athlete, Jesse Owens, would go on to win four gold medals at the event and catapulted Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik into mainstream.
In spite of Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik steady foray into becoming a common household name, the two brothers’ relationship suffered throughout the years and was escalated by the tensions of World War II. After the denazification of Germany, the brothers experienced a total fallout in 1949 – leaving Adolf to rebrand Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik to adidas (after his own nickname ‘adi’) and Rudolf to form his own competing company, Ruda (later becoming Puma).
The iconic Three Stripes branding was acquired in 1952 from Finnish sportswear company, Karhu Sports, for two bottles of whiskey and the modern monetary equivalent of €1600 and has since become a global icon.
After the passing of Adolf Dassler, adidas was left in a limbo as it had struggled to uphold Dassler’s philosophy of being product-focused and “only the best for the athlete”. During this period of time in the late 70’s and 80’s, adidas, without the spirit of its founder, continually made poor business decisions in an attempt to stay relevant against a fierce new American competitor, Nike. It was not until 1991 when adidas onboarded Jordan 1 designer, Peter Moore, and Nike’s legendary former director of marketing, Rob Strasser which helped turn the adidas’ fortunes around. Moore and Strasser helped refocus adidas by looking to their heritage and conceived a utility and athlete focused line known as Equipment (EQT) and separated the lifestyle wear into its Originals lineup.
With the success of the EQT lineup and a unified company direction, adidas has not looked back from its precarious days in 1990’s and has since become one of top sportswear giants in modern history, fiercely competing with Nike for the crown.
adidas is best known for its collaboration with designers, artists and athletes such as: Stan Smith, Yohji Yamamoto, Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Jeremy Scott, Alexander Wang and more.
Notable adidas sneaker models:
Superstar, Stan Smith, Gazelle, Samba, Campus, Micro Pacer, Trimm Trab, UltraBoost, NMD, YEEZY Boost.