One of the most spectacular sneaker success stories has to be that of the now legendary Adidas Stan Smith.
However, the shoe which was first introduced in 1965 and has been called one of the most important sneakers in the world, wasn’t initially a massive success – or even called the Stan Smith!
Adidas originally made the plain white tennis shoe with green accents for one of the best tennis players in the world at the time, Frenchman Robert Haillet. What distinguished it from other Adidas shoes was the perforated holes in place of the company’s iconic three stripes, as well as displaying Haillet’s signature on the side.
While the shoes were popular enough, the leather making it the best performance shoe available, in 1971 Haillet retired. British tennis player Sam Smith was rated the best in the world, so the company approached him for a five-year deal. He was happy to have his name linked to the shoe, although it still came with Haillet’s signature for a few years – which was confusing, to say the least.
In 1978, Stan Smith’s signature would finally appear on the shoe, alongside his image, though without his signature moustache. He also pimped his signature slightly, after being told it was a bit on the boring side.
Smith may have retired from tennis in 1985, and his eponymous sneaker lost some of its relevance as a tennis performance shoe, but in the worlds of fashion and music, it was about to take off. The 21st century saw it reclaimed it as an icon of retro cool, getting namechecked in tracks by Jay Z, A$AP Rocky and Lil Wayne, amongst others.
Nevertheless, Adidas withdrew the shoe from production in 2012 – a wise move, since on its reintroduction in 2014, the world went crazy for the Stan Smith.
This was partly due to some brilliant social media campaigning from Adidas, who sent A-list celebs shoes with their portrait on the tongue, instead of the usual drawing of Smith. Soon, everyone wanted a pair, and the likes of Pharrell was even hand-painting his own take on Stan Smiths.
With more than 40 million pairs sold to date, the Sam Smith has become Adidas’ best selling trainer ever, despite being the one that doesn’t sport the iconic three stripes.