Brand-wise, there is almost nothing more important than a logo. It not only signifies a brand; it represents their philosophy. It’s there to get a message across, to be instantly recognisable and evoke emotion; and ultimately gain brand loyalty.
Some sneaker brands have changed names and logos completely, some have modernised their logos over time from the initial conceptual design, and some have stayed true to the original, maintaining brand identity from the get-go. No matter the market, most brands have high hopes of becoming household names, but relatively few ever reach the status where their logos are considered iconic.
A lot of thought and time (and money and marketing) goes into the logos we know and love today, and it’s been exciting seeing them change and adapt over the years. Not only do I think we should look forward to the continued push for current brand notoriety, we should take a moment to revisit the brands we have and wear now, and see what emotions they draw from each of us. It may help us understand why we choose the brands we do, and why these brands are where they are today.
Although Nike and Jordan Brand’s designs concentrated more on evoking a feeling and representing an action, adidas’ original Three Stripes design came from strips of material that were added to football boots for structural support. These stripes are visible on the ‘Adolf Dassler adidas Sportschuhe’ logo created in 1949, which included an image of an adidas running shoe.
As with Nike, adidas has changed its logos over the years, and has two main logos in common use across the brand today; The Trefoil and Equipment logos. The Trefoil logo, created in the early 70s is still going strong over 40 years later, but is used mainly on retro products including the Superstar and Stan Smith. It is said that the three-petal leaf shape represents the diversity of the adidas brand and in keeping with the history of the brand, the iconic three stripes are clearly visible as they lie horizontally across the logo.
adidas’ next logo made the three stripes the main feature. Created initially for the Equipment range, designer Peter Moore (of Air Jordan 1 and Air Jordan 2 design fame) used schematics to adjust the three vertical stripes in three different heights as if to portray a 3rd, 2nd and 1st podium stand, then tilted the stripes at a 30 degree angle which formed a mountain, signifying the challenges athletes face in competition.
Founded in 1908, Converse has had various logos over the 100 plus years they’ve been in existence, all of which incorporated a star which symbolised excellence and high quality. The most iconic of Converse logos, that of the Chuck Taylor All Star, was created in 1932; it was the first time an athlete had been offered a signature shoe.
The Converse All Star logo and sneaker was already in existence, but it was Chuck Taylor, a salesman for the company, who had begun consulting for Converse on modifications to the sneaker. He requested extra ankle support and improved grip, which Converse incorporated into the sneaker. If you take a look at your Chucks (800 million sold and counting… so chances are you have a pair), you’ll notice the logo is on the medial side of the sneakers, this was initially added for extra padding on the inside of the ankles to reduce injuries of players hitting their ankles together. As with the Lutz Backes and the PUMA logo, Chuck Taylor opted for a new car every year, rather than a royalty on every unit sold. It doesn’t take much to imagine just how much money he could’ve made from the brand had he made a different decision.
Another of the most famous logos ever created is Jordan Brand’s Jumpman. A concept created by designers Peter Moore and Tinker Hatfield; it has been said that the Jumpman logo was "inspired by" a LIFE magazine photoshoot before the 1984 Olympics, where Jordan was photographed doing a similar pose to that of the Jumpman. However, LIFE magazine photographer Jonas Linder took Nike to court over the use of the image, but fortunately for Nike, the ruling landed in their favour.
In the LIFE photoshoot, Jordan was wearing the New Balance BB480, a low-cut white and grey basketball sneaker. In the actual photoshoot for the Jumpman logo, he is wearing Air Jordan 1 "Black Toes" (as the logo didn’t appear on a sneaker until the Air Jordan 3), tracksuit pants, a T-Shirt with a jersey over the top, and a sweatband on his left forearm. If you grab your Jordans now and take a look, you’ll still see the outline of those details on the logo today.
Blue Ribbon Sports… Doesn’t really roll off the tongue, does it? The logo wasn’t very groundbreaking either, simply an overlapping of the initials BRS. Nike founder Phil Knight created this brand name on the spur of the moment, with his back against the wall, as he stood with sales and distribution managers at Onitsuka in Japan, assuring them that he was in fact running a well-known sneaker distribution company in the US, when he had done nothing of the sort… yet. He said his mind immediately flashed back to his wall at home, which was adorned with blue first place ribbons from his competitive running days. After 14 years trading as Blue Ribbon Sports, Nike was born. Named after the Greek Goddess of Victory, Nike wasn’t Knight’s first choice, but in hindsight, I’m sure he’s glad he gave in – as he had initially wanted to change from Blue Ribbon Sports to Dimension Six, which I think we can all agree… doesn’t have the same ring to it.
For Nike’s logo, Knight wanted “something that evokes a sense of motion”. Carolyn Davidson, a Portland State graphic design student whom Knight knew, came up with a multitude of designs and finally landed on the onomatopoeically named Swoosh. Knight took a liking to it as it “looked new, fresh, and yet somehow—ancient. Timeless.” Davidson was paid $35 at the time for the design, but as Knight has stated many times since, she received 500 shares in Nike when they went public, which would now be worth well over a million dollars. Not bad for 17 hours of work.
Although there have been varying iterations of the design over the years, the most recent form of branding they now use is simply the swoosh itself. A logo that is now so iconic, there’s no need for the brand name to run alongside it.
PUMA was created by Rudolph Dassler, Adolf Dassler’s brother, after they publicly cut contact for business reasons. Initially, Rudi wanted to name the company RUDA, using the first two letters of his first name and surname, as his brother Adi did when he created adidas. Presumably he was doing this to spite his brother, but in the end, he decided on the PUMA logo, and continued to update the leaping cat over the years.
The iconic cat has maintained its place in the logo from day one, jumping through a giant "D" for Dassler, until today, where you can see it alone, or jumping over the "PUMA" text in capital letters; the latter of which was created by caricaturist Lutz Backes. Backes only charged 600 marks for his design work, even though he had been offered a cent for every PUMA unit sold with his logo. Needless to say, I’m sure he regretted that decision.
There was a brief period in 1958 – 1968, when the logo text said Puma Form-Strip and had a drawing of a football boot with the famous form-strip on the side. In the 70s and 80s, the brand also added the form-strip to the logo, but eventually removed it again. This strip became the main sneaker logo for the brand, as it had initially been added to the shoes to increase strength and support, and therefore became synonymous with the PUMA brand, just like adidas’ Three Stripes before it.
Over the years, Reebok have seemingly not been able to make up their mind when it comes to a definitive logo. Although still a highly recognisable brand, they have changed from an initial logo with the brand name and a squiggly T-Shape representing the Rhebok (African Antelope) to the brand name alongside a Union Jack, to the brand name with the vector symbol, to changing Reebok to RBK, to a Delta triangle… and then back to Reebok with the vector symbol… Wow. That is a lot of rebranding.
The logo used on most Reebok products today was originally an abstract version of the Union Jack, in blue and red with a white background, where a triangle section shoots across a running track. And, although the brand was created in Bolton, England, the spelling of Reebok they have used is African, unlike the common spelling for the actual animal; Rhebok.
Pronounced ‘Sock-a-knee’ (as explained on the original shoe boxes), Saucony created their logo in 1898. The wavy fluid shaped logo was inspired by the Saucony Creek (also known as Sacony Creek) in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, where the company was founded. Within the creek, there are three boulders, hence the three dots in the logo, and Saucony say the dots represent the ‘boulders’ of their brand; good performance, good health and good community.
Spot-Bilt, a brand that almost signed Michael Jordan to a sneaker contract back in 1984, also used this logo as they were a sister company to Saucony until Hyde Athletic, which owned both companies, moved Saucony from Pennsylvania and absorbed Spot-Bilt into the famous running brand.