While nearly every top taste-making celebrity — from Gisele Bündchen and Hailey Baldwin to Jessica Alba and Kendall Jenner — has made the Adidas sneaker a perfect piece of their everyday wardrobe, few shoppers know that the face stamped on the tongue is real, despite having once been the best American tennis player and winner of the 1971 U.S. Open and 1972 Wimbledon tournaments.
“I once gave an interview and said that 95 percent of the people who buy the shoe don’t know who I am,” said the 70-year-old Smith, who will be honored Nov. 28 with Footwear News’ Manolo Blahnik Lifetime Achievement Award. “Then my wife chimed in and said 99 percent of the people in the world don’t know who I am.”
Still, the tennis icon has made a simple white leather sneaker a fashion staple, thanks to its various color pops on the heel and perforated sides.
The Adidas silhouette, created by Horst Dassler, the son of company founder Adi, debuted in 1965 as the first leather tennis shoe, and it had French pro Robert Haillet’s name on it. But when the German company aimed for a stronger U.S. presence, it turned to Smith. The athletic label signed him to his first five-year deal and planted his face on the shoe’s tongue and left Haillet’s autograph on the side. By 1978, Smith had it all to himself.
“The shoe is timeless. The styling is quite simple but very distinctive. It’s a recognizable shoe and people gravitate to it because of its simplicity,” said Matt Powell, sports industry analyst at The NPD Group Inc. “This is a shoe for everyone. It was originally a performance shoe but most people didn’t wear it for its intended purpose. I think it’s an asexual, gender-free shoe that also appeals to both young and old.”
Click through our gallery to see the many celebrities who have sported the Stan Smith.
The FN Achievement Awards, often dubbed the “Shoe Oscars” of the footwear industry, will take place at the IAC Building in New York and will honor the brightest stars of the business. Among them: Company of the Year Steve Madden, Collaborator of the Year Ronnie Fieg and Style Influencer of the Year Hailey Baldwin. Additionally, the crown for Shoe of the Year will go to Virgil Abloh’s Air Jordan 1.