Every now and then it’s nice to take a step back, take a deep breath and just appreciate how far things have come. Whether that be the leaps and bounds we’ve made in technology, immense feats of human ability or just a really good pair of trainers. Since we’ve yet to break any world records or develop the next advancement in modern computing we opted to stick to footwear, taking a deep dive into a sneaker that’s left a footprint on many of our hearts, the adidas Gazelle.
Launched onto the scene in 1968 the adidas Gazelle paved the way for the modern day, 21st-century perception of adidas being the first to pioneer the suede and accompanying three-striped contrast design. Not only did this new material choice offer a much lighter alternative to the more commonplace leather but, it lent itself perfectly to the dying process making it capable of producing a spectrum of bright colours, first of which was the OG blue and red variations.
Despite the latter being adopted by the world of handball, there is actually a fair amount of mystery and intrigue surrounding the Gazelle’s true purpose. Was it an indoor football shoe? running sneaker? handball trainer? No one truly knows, but what we do know is that the Gazelle presented enough technical know-how and clever complexities to jump from sport to sport earning itself the title of an all-around athletic training shoe, with an understated, clean and streamlined wedge shape design that set a precedent for low-top performance footwear.
The true OG Trainers. Image credit: Shelf life
Perhaps the true beauty of the Gazelle story, however, lies within its ability to break down the barriers that separated fashion and sportswear with its acceptance into the quintessential uniform for a variety of subcultures and styles. Its first taste of such comradery was when it found itself quickly rising to prominence with football fans and the casual audience, sitting nicely amongst the adidas three stripe terrace offering which included other such greats as the Munchen and Forest Hills.
From aways days to locals, rain or shine, cider or lager the Gazelle was on foot for it all becoming a status symbol amongst brands such as Lacoste, Fred Perry and CP Company, forming an unwritten code for admittance into the football stadium. Even to this day over 40 years later, the adidas Gazelle still remains synonymous with football culture and you’d be hard pressed to go to a game without spotting a pair of brightly coloured suede trainers pounding the pavement in or around the ground. But, perhaps a true testament to the Gazelles affiliation with the beautiful game was when Daniel Baddiel wore a pair in the Three Lions music video. Case closed.
Noel Gallagher sporting the blue adidas Gazelles. Photo credit 80s Casual Classics.
If someone asked you to sum up the Gazelle in a sound what would you say? Well chances are after a brief moment of confusion and a few questioning glances you’d probably go for Oasis, Blur or, no pun intended, Suede. Britpop undeniably played a huge part in the Gazelle success story not only because this was the music that serenaded the ears of the Gazelle clad masses but, the people who were strumming the guitars and banging the drums were wearing the trainers themselves, taking them from the feet of working-class season ticket holders to those of celebrities and musicians alike.
The Gallaghers, Damon Albarn, Kate Moss and many, many more were all well and truly the face of the adidas Gazelle optimizing the look, attitude and edge that helped the trainer skyrocket from humble sneaker to cult classic. In fact, their association was so entwined with the retro classic that the iconic 1993 shot of Moss in her crimson pair of Gazelles was recently used to launch the 2016 reissue of the ’90s model when the sneaker was arguably at its cultural prowess.
The image in question, Kate Moss sporting Gazelles in 1993. Photo credit: Denzil McNeelance/adidas
However, it’s not just the footy and learning the chorus to Wonderwall the Gazelle was concerned with as it set out to fulfil its unsatisfiable urge to become best mates with everyone. With the likes of Superstars and the Campus cropping up in America thanks to its affiliation with basketball, the adidas Gazelle became the next best thing for European hip hop culture adopted by amongst others, UK b-boys such as Broken Glass who used the shoe and their US influences to carve a distinct hybrid style.
But that’s not to say the Gazelle didn’t make it stateside. With the help of Run-D.M.C who undeniably opened the adidas floodgates, being the first non-athletes to collaborate with the sportswear brand with the release of a limited edition Superstar, the hip hop spotlight was thrust firmly onto the sportswear brand. Among the masses of diagonal rectangles across the pond the Gazelle reared its head, being considered a connoisseurs choice when it came to footwear with the likes of The Beastie Boys powerless to its plush suede fabrication with Mike D, MCA and Ad-Rock seen donning the trainer in their fight against early bedtimes.
The Beastie Boys in a triple Gazelle ensemble Photo Credit: Pinterest
Since its inception, the adidas Gazelle has seen countless iterations, in colour, materials and design each bringing a fresh twist to the table – see for example the Supers below – but staying true to the original winning formula of minimal detailing, quality materials and a smart low silhouette. Throw into the mix its rich history styling the youth tribes of yonder year or its countless celebrity sightings – we haven’t even mentioned Jackon 5 era, Michael Jackson rocking a pair, Bob Marley doing keepy ups in them or their brief stint mastering kickflips – and it’s fair to say no matter what angle you look at it from the Gazelle was and still is an unequivocal cultural powerhouse capable of generation-spanning heritage charm and irresistible universal appeal.
So, back to the big question. Is it a dancing shoe? A free-kick curling mastermind? Or a species of very fast antelope? We think it’s a bit of a Jack of all trades but contrary to the popular saying the Gazelle has managed to master them all.
Take a look at our adidas Originals footwear here or come in store and see us, we’d be more than happy to chat all things three stripes.