History of adidas Superstar


In the world of sneakers, there have been a whole lot of fresh styles over the years. But, if one shoe stands above the rest in the hearts and minds of sneakerheads everywhere, it’s the tried-and-true adidas Superstar.

After first hitting the shelves in 1969 as a basketball shoe for the new age, the Superstar has certainly taken the world by storm. Let’s travel back in time to discover the history of the adidas Superstar, to uncover how these classic kicks came to be.

The Early Days

With its timeless three-stripe look and herringbone shell toe, the adidas Superstar has infiltrated nearly every aspect of hip-hop culture and athleisure. However, the Superstar wasn’t always a top player on the court or on the streets.

In fact, the modern-day Superstar really got its start in 1965 when adidas released the Supergrip — the company’s first-ever attempt at a pair of basketball shoes. While the Supergrip never quite gained the traction that adidas had hoped for, the original Superstar hit the market just a few years later. 

The first Superstar was actually a high-top model crafted to compete with the Converse All-Stars, a fan-favorite among professional and casual basketball players. However, while the All Stars made waves on the court, adidas knew the market was ready for some innovation in the form of a low-top leather basketball shoe. Enter: the adidas Superstar.

Birth of a Superstar

The shoe that we know and love today was born out of a need to create a basketball shoe that provided better traction and ankle support on the court. 

Designed by Chris Severn, the newest Superstar left the canvas behind for more supportive leather uppers and introduced a completely revamped outsole to improve grip while cutting across the court. For added protection during games, adidas also introduced a rubber toe cap with the classic herringbone pattern.

However, the Superstar didn’t quite take off as quickly as adidas might’ve wanted. But the company knew if players simply tried these new shoes on the court, then they’d be instantly hooked, so adidas sent Severn out on a road trip around the United States with a car full of Superstars in tow. Severn stopped by gyms around the country, trying to convince players at all levels of the game to toss their canvas shoes aside for something completely revolutionary.

The adidas Superstar’s big break? The San Diego Rockets.

Making of a Classic

While the Rockets (which have since re-located to Houston) were among the worst teams in the NBA at the time, they were the perfect vehicle to propel the Superstars to, well, superstardom. Eventually, other teams started to take note, and players around the league donned their Superstars, pushing their old canvas shoes off to the side.

Within a few years of initial production, the Superstar was the shoe of choice for the vast majority of players in the NBA. Not long after, in the mid-1970s, adidas even signed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to an exclusive multi-year contract, thus solidifying the company’s dominance in the basketball market.

A Hip-Hop Sensation

Although the adidas Superstar was and is a shoe born from a need to improve performance on the court, its prominence in basketball alone isn’t enough to account for the shoe’s rise to fame. In fact, as new shoes like the Nike Air Force 1s made their way to the court, the Superstar eventually lost its preferred status in the world of basketball.

Thankfully, by this time, another movement was ready and eager to propel the Superstar to new heights: hip-hop.

In the 80s, hip-hop was a driving force in the fashion industry. Whatever the biggest names wore on stage, you could be sure that a style revolution would follow, especially if Run-DMC was involved.

By the mid-1980s, Run-DMC was easily the best-known hip-hop group in the United States and possibly the world. As pioneers of hip-hop and the first-ever rap group to have both gold and platinum albums, Run-DMC had an outsized influence on culture as the genre started to gain acceptance in mainstream society.

In addition to their music, Run-DMC also paved the way in one other major area of society: fashion. Most nights, the trio hit the stage clad head to toe in adidas three-stripes, with — you guessed it — Superstars on their feet.

Thankfully for the Superstar, pretty much every Run-DMC fan followed the group’s lead, sending adidas sales soaring in nearly every category.

A Bright Future

Basketball and Run-DMC might’ve made the adidas Superstar a household name, but the company didn’t stop innovating in the 1980s. Instead, they took the Superstar to the global market, ensuring that it became a household name around the world.

Around the 1990s, the Superstar became a fan-favorite in Japan, thanks to the shoe’s collectability and the popularity of collector culture in the country. Meanwhile, in London, rave culture made the Superstar a mainstay across the pond. 

Back stateside, big names like the Beastie Boys and Madonna spread the adidas love across different genres of music. And top skaters like Carlos Kenner, Mark Gonzalez and Keith Hufnagel gave the Superstar new life in the skateboarding world.

Eventually, the Superstar’s sleek design and timeless construction helped cement it as a popular choice in nearly every aspect of pop culture, from music to sports to streetwear. 

By the turn of the century, adidas made their first-ever Superstar collaboration, partnering with Japanese fashion designer Nigo to create the Super Ape Star. A few years later, in 2005, adidas even celebrated the Superstar’s 35th anniversary with a special edition featuring 35 new colorways for collectors to choose from.

Now that we’re well into the 21st century, adidas has set its sights on creating hot new colorways on a regular basis to breathe fresh energy into the classic Superstar design. With new Superstar collaborations hitting the shelves each year, the shoe’s future looks bright, and we can’t wait to see where adidas takes it from here.

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