adidas Superstar

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    adidas Superstar


    Adidas knew that to be more successful in the American market, they would need to do something innovative. Their United States consultant, Chris Severn, saw how the loose, canvas basketball shoes were a risk to players’ health and felt that this was where they could shake things up. When the adidas Superstar landed, it completely upended basketball shoe design, and the ripples of this seismic shift in shoe culture would be felt years into the future.

    The Superstar was the new and improved follow up to the Supergrip, which was released sometime in the mid sixties. This model introduced key technologies throughout the 60s and 70s, such as a tough leather outer and vulcanized rubber sole with its herringbone grip for on-court sticking power. The Superstar picked up where the Supergrip left off, adding a dense rubber toe that fanned out in a seashell shape to guard the player's toes against injury when stood on. They also featured the brand’s unmistakable three-stripe logo stitched in white into the medial and lateral sides with unique Superstar perforation strips.

    Compared to the canvas sneakers of the time, the adidas Superstar was technically the better shoe. It was made of tough leather, weighed 30% less, had better stability, and came with protective ribs that distinguished it as a one-of-a-kind sneaker. Severn knew that if the players could be convinced to train in the Superstar, they’d switch. So, in 1969, he traveled to the training grounds of NBA teams so that he could personally put them in the players’ hands.

    By sheer force of will and at a glacial pace, the tactic worked.

    Little by little, they started appearing on the NBA circuit, the uptake massively increasing when adidas signed top star Kareem Abdul Jabbar as their first professional contracted athlete. The shoes were lauded by the players for how the leather outer and shell toe cap combined to form a resilient sneaker that was comfortable to play in. By 1973, three-quarters of US basketball professionals wore the Superstar. From a slow start to near complete dominance of NBA basketball. The Superstar was a sensation.

    Yet, in the eighties, the Superstar’s court performance began to be outpaced by newer models with more innovative technology. But this was not the end of the adidas Superstar; the seeds of its legacy had already been planted. Thanks to the cozy relationship between basketball and hip-hop, fans continued to wear the shoe long after it had been pushed off the courts, raising it to the level of an aspirational lifestyle silhouette.

    Run-DMC regularly appeared on stage wearing the adidas Superstar without the laces and with the tongue sticking out, eventually using it to make a statement about the culture of the time. In 1986, they released a song called “my adidas” in defiance of the thinly veiled prejudice the followers of hip-hop culture received when they wore adidas. This created a powerful moment when 40,000 fans lifted their Superstars aloft during a Run-DMC concert in allegiance with the group’s message. After “my adidas” was released, Run-DMC signed with adidas, becoming the first hip-hop group in history to sign a sneaker deal, which ended up paving the way for future adidas collaborators like Pharrell, Ye and Beyoncé. With Run-DMC’s global influence, the adidas Originals Superstar became one of the most famous silhouettes in history.

    For the same reason it was worn by the majority of NBA players in the 70s, skaters also loved the sneaker since it could withstand the damage of more than a few falls. Hip-hop and skate culture blurred into one another to create the emergent streetwear movement of the early 2000s. The adidas Superstar merged into a new scene and was once again loved by a new set of sneaker fans, with the style ultimately becoming an aesthetic pillar of streetwear fashion.

    The power of the Superstar’s style–the three stripes, the ribbed toe cap, the heel strip–has captured the imagination of an eclectic mix of sports, brands and people over the years. This has led to it becoming one of adidas’ most successful, most collaborated-on and most recognisable silhouettes. While its tough leather upper and protective rubber shell toe cap put it on the feet of the majority of NBA players in the seventies, its iconic aesthetic has kept it on the feet of just about everyone else since. The legend of the Superstar lives on.

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