The brand with the three stripes, adidas. Whether you're into sneakers, fashion, or sports, the Three Stripes has been serving the masses footwear and apparel since 1949, but what is the origin of adidas? How did adidas start? Where did the name adidas come from? I have no doubts you've got hundreds of questions about the German sportswear label. What started from a laundry room has now become the home of cultural icons such as Kanye West, Pharell Williams, Jeremy Scott, and far more. Let's take a look at the history of adidas and all the moments which made them the icon they are today.
Before we get started, I'm going to answer a frequently asked question about adidas. "Are the founders of PUMA and adidas related?" The answer is yes. Adolf "Adi" Dassler and Rudolf "Rudi" Dassler established the 'Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory' in 1924 and focused on developing the first spiked running shoes for athletes. In 1947, the brothers parted ways after a family quarrel which led to Rudolf forming PUMA and Adi Dassler registering Adidas AG officially on the 18th of August 1949.
The Beginning: 1949
Adi Dassler pursued his passion for creating the best footwear models for athletes, predominantly football boots which resulted in the birth of on of their first and most successful models, the adidas Samba. This silhouette was designed with suctions on the gumsole enabling football players to train on rough terrain and in difficult conditions. To this day, the Samba is the brand's oldest shoe that is still in production, even serving as a blank canvas for high-profile collaborations. During this time, Adi's wife Käthe supported him in manufacturing other athletic shoes.
Small Steps: 1950s
The 1950s was a memorable era for Adi. One step at a time, adidas started cementing themselves into the history of sport. In 1952, adidas track shoes with removable spikes were used at the Olympic Games in Helsinki, worn by Emil Zatopek, who achieved multiple gold medals. The three stripe brand's dedication to football shoes did not go unnoticed too. Adi provided the West German national football team with adidas football boots that featured screw-in studs, leading them to victory against Hungary and winning the World Cup for the first time in 1954.
Towards the end of the '50s, the adidas Samba remained at the forefront of the business alongside other models such as the Allround Basketball Shoe and many others that paved the way for subsequent offerings to be the icon they are today.
Breaking Limits: 1960s
At this point, adidas is no longer a stranger to the masses. But despite their growing popularity, Adi Dassler needed to surpass his limits in order to move on to the next phase. While adidas continued to sponsor athletes who represented their leading models alongside introducing the Azteca Gold sprint spike, Adi Dassler brought forth his first line of adidas apparel.
With the help of famous footballer Franz Beckenbauer, adidas tracksuits entered the scene. From top to bottom, the "Beckenbauer" lightweight track top and bottoms showcased the three-stripes branding borrowed from adidas shoes. It became a street staple alongside the adidas Samba and the adidas Gazelle which are still found in our wardrobes today.
Growing Popularity: 1970s
The 1970s had a massive impact on our much-loved sneaker culture of today. It became the foundation of legendary silhouettes such as the adidas Stan Smith, adidas Superstar, and many others that have become must-have shoes in every sneaker collection.
In addition to that, the adidas Telstar became the World Cup's first official ball in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, highlighting the company on one of the world's biggest stages.
With all that good news aside, the brand changed forever when Adolf 'Adi' Dassler passed away in 1978, passing on his undying love for sports to his wife Käthe and his son Horst. Accordingly, it's safe to say the mother and son did not fail to lead adidas to be one of the most successful brands ever and to legend status in the sporting goods industry.
Further Strides: 1980s
Despite Adi Dassler's departure, there was no stopping adidas. What was once a brand centred in sports alone became a massive hit in the music and fashion scene, with the basketball-turned-lifestyle adidas Superstar silhouette in the spotlight, as well as the M45k Best bomber jacket, thanks to US hip-hop group Run DMC. The partnership marked the first-ever collaboration between a music ensemble and sports company, opening the doors of other collabs that we know and love today.
In 1987, Horst passed away, just three years after his mother Käthe died in 1984. The adidas business was passed down to an executive and for the first time ever the adidas brand was no longer a family business.
Despite these huge hits to the heart of the company, the 1980s continued to be a decade of innovation for adidas. One landmark innovation was the adidas Torsion system which launched in 1988, right before adidas went up on the German stock exchange market.
The Comeback: 1990s
With Adi, Käthe, and Hörste now all gone and the majority share of the company being sold by various Dassler family members, adidas was now no longer owned by the Dassler Family. The brand with the three stripes almost fell into bankruptcy due to poor management in 1992, but when French businessman Robert Louis-Dreyfus took the helm in 1993, adidas started a new era once again.
Dreyfus launched one of the most famous football boots of all time, the adidas Predator in 1993 which were famously worn by David Beckham, Robin van Persie, and many other icons of the sport. Dreyfus also brough adidas into the new frontier, wheh he launched the first-ever adidas website and the Badge of Sport logo in 1996.
With world-class athletes joining the family and new apparel and footwear designs rolling through, Dreyfus had huge plans set for the company. After acquiring Salomon Group and other brands in the market in the late '90s, adidas' group of companies, titled adidas-Salomon AG, became official and set the stage for more partnerships and technologies to arrive. Reebok signed as a subsidiary label, world-famous Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto launched adidas Y3, Stella McCartney joined the crew, and many more prominent names in the industry followed.
The Modern Age: Present Day
Fast forward to the present day, adidas is now the largest sportswear brand in Europe, with multiple partnerships on lock, including LEGO, Prada, Bad Bunny, Palace Skateboards, and Manchester United, to name a few.
The brand's culture may be deep-rooted in sports, but their presence on the streets is also unmatched, thanks to the efforts of renowned rapper Kanye West and his ever-growing Yeezy collection, also Pharrell William and his line of adidas NMD Hu. Not only that but the brand's focus today is on their Boost and Futurecraft technologies, and a much more sustainable future—revamping their essential pieces with vegan-friendly adidas sneakers such as Parley Ocean Plastic and Primegreen.