Rio Olympic Games 2016
All About The Stan Smith
Celebrating A Sportswear Icon

Run DMC Image source: Wonderland
Run DMC
Image source: Wonderland

With the Rio Olympic Games 2016 in full swing and the athletes’ uniforms from Team GB to Team USA much discussed news, we return to one of sportswear’s most enduring classic. Adidas’ Stan Smith may not be part of the official Rio Olympic Games 2016 uniforms – the German brand did collaborate with London designer Stella McCartney on new designs for the Team GB uniform- but that does not stop the Stan Smith’s continued appeal. After all, even Raf Simons is a fan. Two days after Super Saturday, we celebrate Adidas Stan Smith with Rhianne Sinclair Phillips’ researched profile of the tennis shoe.

The first time I was introduced to the Stan Smith sneaker, was through the T.V. screen. Rap group Run DMC were bursting through the walls of an Aerosmith concert as Steven Tyler crooned ‘Walk this way’ in the infamous rap-rock collaboration. Rev Run, Jam Master Jay and DJ DMC were rocking the stage in matching buckets hats and the three stripe Adidas tracksuit, but on their feet lay the Stan Smith. Minimal and refined, the same sneaker is worn with everything from a Savile Row suit to that very tracksuit.

Named after the 1970s tennis star, Stanley Roger Smith, it’s been the best-selling sports shoe of all time since 1971. According to figures as of January 2015, the sporting giants have sold over 50 million pairs, informing the wardrobes of everyone from UK rude boys, to Japanese avant garde sports casuals. For two long years, the Stan Smith remained on the sideline, whilst Jordans took over the sneaker-head conversations, but it made an almighty comeback in January 2014.

Tennis players have an inherent sense of style. Whether Rodger Feder is skidding across the scorched summer turf of Wimbledon or Andy Murray is completing in the US final, their uniform maintains an air of elegance and gentility. Tennis shoes have long been one of the most appealing items of sports kits, yet none have endured longer than the Adidas Stan Smith.

Stan Smith's winning Wimbledon '
Stanley Rodger Smith’s winning Wimbledon 1971 Image source: The Independent

The sporting star isn’t the only one to lend his moniker to sportswear apparel. 1920s baseball star, Chuck Taylor, lent his name to the Converse All Star, whilst Rene Lacoste co-founded La Chemise Lacoste in 1933. Originally a company to mass produce polo shirts, Lacoste has gone on to become a New York Fashion Week favourite. However, Stan Smith, the athlete was a sporting zenith in his own right, before he became synonymous with a pair of trainers.

Throughout his quick rise to stardom, Smith donned a tennis sporting shoe labelled the Adidas Robert Haillet. Named after the renowned 1950s French tennis player, Adidas enlisted Haillet in 1965 to lend their footwear some extra gravitas. But as soon as Smith victoriously blazed through the US open in 1971, successfully took on Wimbledon and France’s Ilie Nastase, Adidas came running. Where Haillet had never progressed beyond the semi-final of the Slam event, Smith was number one in the world ranking, causing Adidas to swiftly rename the Haillet, the Stan Smith.

With Smith’s name emblazoned on a rending face of the tongue and the both sides, the motivations of Adidas to enlist the star are a case of hero worship. Before then, the German sports brand, founded in 1948 by Adolf Dassler, had hitherto been relatively unknown beyond Europe. The marriage between the American star and the European brand helped the label break into the USA, where the rest of the world later followed.

Adidas Stan Smith Upper Image source: The Independent
Adidas Stan Smith Upper
Image source: The Independent

Throughout the years, the form has remained relatively unchanged. Subtle variations, including Velcro additions that became a cult in 90s Japan, and injections of rainbow bright colours have all come and gone, prove that simplicity is the secret to its success. As trainers get more outlandish (hello Jordans), the Stan Smith has remained a sleek, minimal shoe. Free from the kind of high technology that syncs your iPod to your trainers, it doesn’t demand too much attention, yet is still functional.

The structure is just as simple too, with foam padding at the rear to protect the tendon and a row of perforations on the side for ventilation. Its simplicity has seen it become a favourite amongst the stars – Usher, Marc Jacobs and Mikhail Baryshnikov; as well as being a collector’s item amongst trainer connoisseurs.

Raf Simons x Adidas Stan Smith Image source: Adidas.com
Raf Simons x Adidas Stan Smith
Image source: Adidas.com

From 2011-2013, Nike remained at the head of the discussions when it came to the sneaker game. In the meantime, Adidas were cooking up a collaboration with menswear favourite, Raf Simons. Released in 2014, the Belgium designer reimagined the sneaker classic in premium upper leather, vulcanised rubber sole units while replacing Adidas’ three stripe with a perforated R. Despite changing the logo, Simons stayed true to the classic trainer in order to keep his more adventurous designs for his own line, licensed by Adidas.

Earlier this year, Adidas released a collaboration with Happy singer, Pharrell Williams to reproduce the iconic Stan Smith in every colour imaginable. “Supercolor is a celebration of equality through diversity” he says in a statement released by Adidas. “With 50 colours of the Superstar, everybody will be able to select his or her colour. It is more diverse than any pack ever before and therefore it is more individual than any pack ever before. With every shoe treated exactly the same, all colours are equal. No matter what colour you choose, you can be part of Supercolor. Choose your colour.”

Williams is no stranger to fashion, having fronted campaigns for Louis Vuitton and Moncler, he also launched the streetwear brand, Ice Cream in 2005. More recently, he brought into the company Bionic Yarn, who use plastic debris from the ocean to make fabric. Also serving as the brand’s Creative Director, Williams used their recycled materials for his Adidas collaboration.

Pharrell Williams x Adidas Original Superstar Image source: Opening Ceremony
Pharrell Williams x Adidas Original Superstar
Image source: Opening Ceremony

Through the rise of the internet, and the ever increasing presence of musicians at the fashion week, Adidas and Nike have taken an interest in the streetwear-meets-sportswear market. Both companies continue to jostle the crown of success in a healthy rivalry that often sees them reinvent their classic sneakers with a high profile collaboration. Taking it a step further, Adidas entered the fashion week schedule in New York City last February to mark their collaboration with the ranting rap sensation, Kanye West. Prior to West’s link up with Adidas, he was signed to a deal with Nike, producing a trainers that sold out in 11 minutes with a pair listed on eBay for a whopping $10 million. Now, as Adidas experiences Yezzy season, one can’t help but wonder who will be next to update the Stan Smith?

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