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Rihanna Is Back on the Samba Wave With A$AP Rocky & Everybody Else

One could easily romanticize pre-pandemic 2017 as a much happier time, yet to label it a golden year would be remiss when considering Brexit, Donald Trump’s inauguration, and the emergence of Post “Posty” Malone.
That same summer, I wrote my first-ever trend report for Highsnobiety: a mortifyingly raw but impassioned piece declaring the adidas Samba to be the shoe of the summer. As the Three Stripes’ second-biggest selling sneaker, the five-a-sides GOAT (and under-the-radar skate icon) has never truly been “out,” so it can’t exactly be “in,” right? Sure, although we’re seeing it appear in celebrity paparazzi galleries a lot of late.
On Sunday, Rihanna was clocked wearing a pair of Sambas, joining Frank Ocean, A$AP Nast, and, of course, her boyfriend A$AP Rocky on the list of style thoroughbreds to have worn the model in recent months. It’s Rocky who has been cast as the progenitor behind the shoe’s big return, but cast your mind back to 2015 and you’ll recall the former PUMA creative director was rocking them first. That’s right, while you were camping outside in sub-zero conditions attempting to snag a pair of au courant YEEZY Boost 750’s, the Barbadian queen was at home basking in the warmth, perhaps applying some suede protector to her reasonably priced, trend-proof shoes.
That the Samba has caught fire again is curious for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it doesn’t have an earthshattering campaign behind it. When adidas rebooted the Stan Smith line, it took them out of circulation entirely before sending bespoke pairs to carefully selected influencers ahead of the shoe’s 50th anniversary. Likewise, when Nike made an ill-fated attempt to bring back the Cortez in 2016, it enlisted the services of Bella Hadid for a shoot that was big-time even by their ambitious standards. Despite some high-profile collaborations, the Samba’s gatecrashing of the style conversation feels more natural, even if there has been a certain degree of planning: For example, the brand has certainly begun rolling out freebies to industry movers and shakers over the past year.
Secondly, like the Campus or Trimm Trab, the Samba has always been an unabashedly European institution. Its history on the terraces and with the British working-class is well documented, so why after 70 years has it become a hit among cool kids? When I wrote the aforementioned report four years ago, it was around the same time Virgil Abloh released “The Ten” and Sean Wotherspoon came through with his much sought-after corduroy Nike Air Max 1/97s. The secondary sneaker economy had frankly lost the plot, and you could either get caught up in it or remove yourself entirely. Not too much has changed. Maybe people have finally grown tired of messing around on apps and raffles for shoes with a built-in expiration date that they don’t really need in the first place.
As former Highsnobiety editorial director Jian DeLeon mused in our quarantine white paper last year, “[Shoppers] have been sick with hype, and now they’re sick of hype.” That applies to both the regular Joe on the street and the singer in the Hollywood Hills. The Samba’s status as a paragon of longevity is as much a draw as its pared-back, goes-with-everything design. In other words, heritage is hot. That Jonah Hill’s fairly collab would fall kinda flat is no real surprise. Why try and improve upon perfection? See also Raf Simons’ Stan Smith that ended up going to markdown.
Despite so many recent endorsements, the Samba has too much cachet to fall foul of overexposure. Consider it timeless, just like Rihanna.

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