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How the adidas Stan Smith Became a Timeless Shoe That Makes for the Perfect Holiday Gift

Before basketball made the signature sneaker its own, the idea of marketing an individual athlete in namesake apparel was reserved for tennis.

It all began in the 1980s with tennis player John McEnroe endorsing innovation for Nike. Later, the likes of Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, Roger Federer and others would follow suit, pushing product on court and in commercials. Today, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka are best in show when it comes to record-breaking talent and on-court fashion.

Years before all those endorsements occurred, adidas had operated in the tennis space by selling a shoe composed of white leather with perforated sidewall branding and a rubber outsole. The idea for a tennis shoe was informed by Horst Dassler, son of adidas founder Adolf “Adi” Dassler.

From 1965 to 1971, the leather tennis shoe was worn in competition by French tennis star Robert Haillet, who served as the main endorser for adidas on the court and clay. Because of this, the model was marketed as the adidas Robert Haillet, solidifying the idea that signature footwear existed firmly in the world of tennis.

But when Robert Haillet retired from tennis in 1971, so did the approach of using his name to sell a shoe. Two years later, American tennis pro Stan Smith signed with adidas at the peak of his career and took over endorsing the signature tennis model. Consequently, the classic court shoe with green foam padding on the heel for Achilles protection was re-branded as the “adidas Stan Smith” and sold to a U.S. audience.

Over the course of the 1970s, the adidas Stan Smith was sold with a portrait of the American tennis star on the tongue, with Haillet branding at the heel as a callback to the shoe’s origins. By 1978, the brand dropped all references to Haillet from the shoe. During that decade, the adidas Stan Smith sold incredibly well due to the fanfare surrounding Smith as well as the shoe’s clean design.

adidas stan smith
Stan Smith photographed for Footwear News’ November 2017 print issue.
CREDIT: Patrick Miller for Footwear News

By 1985, Stan Smith the tennis star was ready to put down his racquet and retire from the sport as a competing professional. But his version of the shoe had become so popular, there was no reason to re-brand this time around. As a result, the adidas Stan Smith stayed in circulation as a tennis staple and lifestyle favorite for the remainder of the 1980s and through the 2000s to follow.

In the 2010s, the adidas Stan Smith had outlasted its run as a practical performance shoe but still served a purpose on the front of fashion. Famously, the adidas Stan Smith remained the brand’s signature shoe at start of the decade, only to be rolled back out for Fashion Week in 2014. Coinciding with the launch of the adidas Consortium, which collaborates with leading partners to create limited-edition styles, the Stan Smith was reimagined in color-blocked finishes and premium constructions by everyone from Phoebe Philo to Kanye West and Pharrell Williams.

The ubiquitous nature of the adidas Stan Smith design played well with wearers of all genders, timing perfectly with the trend of normcore. As adidas continued to bring in creatives under their brand umbrella, the likes of Raf Simons revised the Stan Smith with perforated R branding, luxury materials and, on occasion, velcro closures. Artists such as A$AP Rocky and Travis Scott regularly wore the adidas x Raf Simons Stan Smith collaborations, further boosting the appeal of inline pairs.

Despite debuting over half a century ago, the adidas Stan Smith proves to be a timeless canvas for self-expression. In fact, both leading fashion designers and film franchises have taken to the silhouette as a way to tell their stories subtly or boldly. Depending on the level of embellishment, the Stan Smith can be a staple or statement piece — providing great comfort to all who wear it.

As the holidays approach, the adidas Stan Smith makes a great gift for any man or woman on your list. Available in sizes for toddlers all the way to adults, there are styles available in the iconic White/Green look, all-over Trefoil prints, creamy colorways with glossy tooling, furry finishes tied to Disney’s Monsters, Inc and eco-friendly iterations composed from sustainable materials.

No matter the era, the adidas Stan Smith remains true to its origin story by allowing the wearer to decide its meaning. Below, shop some great Stan Smith models available now.

adidas Stan Smith

Adidas Stan Smith
CREDIT: Courtesy of adidas

adidas Stan Smith Primeblue

Adidas Stan Smith Primeblue
CREDIT: Courtesy of adidas

adidas Marimekko Stan Smith Shoes

adidas Marimekko Stan Smith Shoes 
CREDIT: Courtesy of adidas

adidas Disney Groot and Gamora Stan Smith

adidas Disney Groot and Gamora Stan Smith
CREDIT: Courtesy of adidas
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