As one of the biggest and most recognisable athletic and casualwear companies in the world, it should come as no surprise that adidas has a storied history; the famous 3 Stripes have been ever-present in the worlds of sport, streetwear and fashion for the best part of the last half a century. But there are plenty of unusual nuggets of information that you perhaps haven’t heard through the grapevine. Here’s a short collection of 11 of the most interesting tidbits from the brand’s long history – and its future.
1. Adidas and Puma Were Originally the Same Company
This one is quite well-known, but it’s a story that bears repeating: in 1924, Adolf ‘Adi’ Dassler and his brother Rudolph founded a shoemaking factory together, Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory, creatively enough) in Herzogenaurach, Germany. As World War II ravaged the country, tensions between the brothers grew to the point of outright animosity, and things came to a head in 1948, when the brothers decided to split up and form their own shoemaking companies. Rudolph founded Puma across town from the original factory, while Adolf continued the company under a new name: adidas (from his name, Adi Dassler). Rivalry between the two companies continued until 2009, where they reportedly buried the hatchet with a friendly football match back in Herzogenaurach.
2. Adi Dassler Was Nearly A Baker
Incidentally, the sibling rivalry that resulted in both adidas and Puma’s formation nearly didn’t happen at all: before eventually deciding to continue the family shoe business, Adi completed an apprenticeship at a local bakery. Perhaps this fact was Kanye’s inspiration behind the Cornish pasty shape for the Yeezy Boost 350s?
3. The Famous Stripes Were Originally for Stability, Not Decoration
The 3 Stripes design is probably adidas’ most important piece of branding, as recognisable as the Nike Swoosh or Puma Formstrip designs. But they are a classic case of form following function; originating back in the Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik days as a two-stripe design, they were used on track running shoes to provide support and stability around the mid foot. When the company split, the newly formed adidas was no longer allowed to use the two-stripe motif, and apparently four stripes were too many (five was right out), which brings us to our next fact…
4. They Bought the 3 Stripes Design from Another Sportswear Company
Adi Dassler had decided that a three-stripe motif was the ideal way to represent his fledgling company. Unfortunately, another sportswear company, Finland’s Karhu, owned the rights to use such a design on their own shoes. Rather than the long, drawn-out legal negotiations that we might see these days, though, Karhu happily sold adidas the design, reportedly for the equivalent of €1600 and “two bottles of good whiskey”. Pretty good deal, if you ask us.
5. They Own Reebok, Among Other Brands
Puma isn’t the only big-name sportswear brand with ties to adidas. In fact adidas’ umbrella company also owns Reebok, along with shoe brand Rockport and the golfing manufacturer Taylor Made. Their latest acquisition was fitness tracking software company Runtastic. But high-tech running companions are old news for adidas…
6. The Micropacer Pre-Empted Fitness Tracking Technology by a Long Way
Released in 1984, the futuristic Micropacer was way ahead of its time, with a Velcro-fastening lace shroud that housed a pedometer to let runners track their number of steps and calculate how many calories their regime was burning. The OG shiny silver colourway also helped hammer home the point that this was some space-age stuff.
7. Their Run DMC Endorsement was the First for a Musical Act
In hip-hop’s infancy, the world at large still viewed the style as a novelty fad, evidenced by promoters outfitting acts like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five in loud, shiny disco garb – a far cry from the sportswear-based look that was prevalent on the streets that birthed the genre. By 1986 however, Run-DMC’s ode to their favourite Superstar sneakers, ‘My Adidas’ was a fan favourite, but an unofficial shout-out nonetheless. This changed when an adidas executive was present at one of the group’s Madison Square concerts, which saw them exhorting fans to hold their own adidas trainers aloft during the song. An unprecedented $1m endorsement deal shortly followed, starting a long tradition of hip-hop stars collaborating with sportswear companies.
8. They Invented Slides To Stop Athletes Getting Nasty Feet
adidas have always had a knack for innovative designs and technologies, from those original stability stripes that made their name to the now-ubiquitous Boost sole technology. But one of their less celebrated inventions is that summer streetwear staple, the slide sandal. Adidas created their Adilette slides to help protect the German football team from catching anything nasty in the communal showers, and unwittingly invented (arguably!) the only socially and sartorially acceptable alternative to the dreaded flip-flop.
9. They are Developing 3D Printed Shoes for the Mass Market
adidas’ Futurecraft research department has been experimenting with 3D printing technology for the last few years, with a view to revolutionising the footwear supply chain, cutting down material waste and lead times on new styles drastically. However it recently unveiled its latest foray into the field — and the first that will be available to the public — the Futurecraft 4D, which utilises cutting-edge tech from 3D printing company Carbon, wherein the sole unit is lifted from a pool of polymer and set in place with ultra-violet light. Only 5,000 units are expected to be made available at the end of this year, but this could be an exciting leap forward for the sneaker industry. Plus, they look pretty darn good.
10. They Are Making Shoes and Apparel for the First Virgin Galactic Passengers
Virgin have been dedicated to perfecting their space-travel airline for its eventual launch sometime in the future. And who better to design the uniforms for eventual space pilots, passengers and staff than the decidedly futuristic adidas Y3 division? The brand’s long-running collaborative diffusion line with Japanese fashion legend Yohji Yamamoto has designed a full range of apparel and footwear for everyone aboard the inaugural spaceflights, with the usual blend of stylish, futuristic design and focused functionality.
11. Their All-Time Best Selling Shoe is the Stan Smith
Finally, despite the huge popularity of styles like the Gazelle and Superstar, the humble Stan Smith tennis shoes are the all-time most popular silhouette from the brand. Recent sales figures aren’t available, but the company’s annual report from 2014 puts sales at “over 40 million”. We’d wager it’s gone up significantly since then, considering the style’s resurgence in popularity in the intervening years. As far as best-sellers go, we reckon they could do much worse than the good old Stan.