“Who wear it all? I’m an adidas freak/ multi-thousand pair of sneak freak/”
So rapped Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon on the Pete Rock-produced track “Sneakers” on his second solo album, 1999’s Immobilarity.
At the end of the first verse, he name-drops an American Grand Slam champion who’s become known for a lot more than his tennis career.
“Stan Smiths, handlin’ whips, gravel pits, travel fox yo/ready to cop more sh**/”
According to the immense song lyric library Genius, that’s the only mention of Stan Smiths on wax in perhaps the history of music. So how did a Pasadena-born tennis player end up with a shout-out in a Raekwon track?
That, in a microcosm, is the beauty of the cultural crossover that is the adidas Stan Smith. And it’s a story that starts not with an American endorser, but a French athlete.
Back in the early 1960s, adidas released its first tennis shoe. Featuring a full-grain white leather upper and a rubber outsole, it was the first sneaker made for the tennis court to be made from leather and the brainchild of Horst Dassler, company founder Adi Dassler’s son.
Unlike signature sneaker models today, the Haillet wasn’t audacious or even particularly eye-catching. In a way, it didn’t even feature the brand’s iconic three stripes, instead utilizing perforations in the leather upper arranged in stripe-like designs. Heel tabs and tongue logos in kelly green offered a little brightness to the crisp white upper. The trefoil logo on the heel completed the look.
The shoe went nameless for its first couple of years on the market before it was branded the adidas Robert Haillet in 1965. It was named after a French tennis player who saw some success on the international stage in the 1950s and 60s. Kicks historian Russ Bengtson called 1965 one of the 10 greatest years in sneaker history, thanks in part to the arrival of the now-timeless model.
A few years later, in 1971, Haillet hung up his racket, and US Open winner Stan Smith’s likeness graced the shoe henceforth.
But it wasn’t exactly set in stone yet. Despite Smith reaching the world number one ranking in 1972, he didn’t sign a deal with the Three Stripes until the following year. For a few confusing years, Smith’s face graced the label on the tongue, but Haillet’s name was printed above it.
Once 1978 rolled around, the shoe was officially renamed the Stan Smith, and that legend lives on today. Only 10 years later, in 1988, it was included in the Guinness Book of World Records for most pairs sold at 22 million.
Remarkably, after all those years and all those sales, the Three Stripes did the unthinkable in 2012: it stopped making the Stan Smith.
And, as sneakerheads, you know what happens when demand outstrips supply: it creates hype. People wanted the Stan Smith, but pairs became harder and harder to come by.
So when adidas reissued the Stan in 2014, it was to much fanfare. Celebrities copped their personalized pairs with their own faces imprinted on the tongues instead of the 1970s tennis star and namesake.
Except for that mid-2010s break, the Stan Smith has remained a stalwart of the adidas line-up for more than five decades. It’s appeared in countless colorways and featuring a range of materials and features: with Velcro instead of laces; suede uppers; zippers; glow-in-the-dark editions; Primeknit; Boost midsoles; Swarovski crystals, and even vegan materials in a collaboration with Stella McCartney.
And now, to celebrate the 50th year of its timeless branding, adidas has been tinkering under the hood of the Stan Smith to focus on sustainability as part of the brand’s mission to end plastic waste.
Using high-performance recycled materials from the adidas PRIMEGREEN program, the newest edition propels the Stan Smith lineage into the environmentally conscious 2020s.
The upper is made of 50 percent recycled material, and no “virgin” (first-use) polyester is incorporated into the shoe. The outsole is also built from rubber waste.
Dropping in a range of classic colorways on 3/18 alongside a range of Stan Smith-branded apparel, you can renew your love for an iconic pair of kicks with a new, sustainable outlook.
Cop yours when the sustainable adidas Stan Smith arrives at finishline.com on 3/18.
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