adidas History: 1949 to Now
Adi Dassler started adidas on August 18, 1949 because he wanted to make a difference in athlete performance. Seventy years later, adidas has made an impact not only on sports and athletes, but also on fashion, music, culture, sustainability, and beyond. Travel through time and discover the history of adidas and the styles that have influenced where we are today.
Once the 3-Stripes became official in 1949, the ‘50s became a boom of technology, with innovations to equipment for world-class athletes. adidas’ first decade delivered the Samba, which soccer players still use today for agility and speed on the indoor soccer field and style in the streets. The ‘50s also marked the development of a world-record-holding sprint shoe, and the first soccer cleat designed with a nylon sole, which had an immediate impact on fit and feel. This decade laid the groundwork for later developments too, like the Allround training and basketball shoe that would become an icon in the ‘80s. These years were revolutionary, creating a shift in what athletes wore to perform at the top, but it was just the beginning for adidas.
The ‘60s was the decade for breaking barriers—from Kathrine Switzer blazing the trail in the Boston Marathon as the first woman to officially run a marathon to the introduction of the Fosbury Flop that forever changed how athletes approached the high jump. This was the decade for athletes to push the limits of their sport with top-of-the-line products for that time. adidas developed the first specialist running shoe, along with the Azteca Gold sprint spike for the Mexico Olympic games that gave competitors an extra edge. The '60s also introduced future streetstyle staples like the iconic adidas tracksuit and an update to the training shoe turned cult classic, the adidas Samba.
The ‘70s brought us iconic music, culture, and fashion, as well as prominent moments in sports history. From the Telstar, the World Cup’s first official soccer ball, to the first edition of the cult favorite adidas Superstar, the ‘70s proved to be an influential period for today’s culture. This decade laid the foundation for streetwear staples we still love today, like the Adilette—the world’s most popular slide—and the iconic white tennis shoe named after Stan Smith. As these styles evolved into today’s, we have kept sustainability and innovation at the forefront. The Nite Jogger lit up the ‘70s with new materials for running in the dark, and it was re-imagined with Boost in 2019 as a glowing street sneaker for late-night creators.
The '80s was a decade for innovation. Sports influenced culture, music influenced fashion and technology progressed. adidas made strides, bringing new technologies to shoes for athletes of all kinds. The Micropacer brought digital fitness tracking to running with a screen on the tongue of the shoe that measured distance, average speed, and calorie consumption. 1983 introduced the adidas Copa Mundial, which became the bestselling soccer cleat and an icon on the field that’s still worn by players today. Torsion ZX8000 gave running a flexible torsion technology, making it the first shoe to match the natural movement of a runner’s ankle. The ‘80s broke barriers in culture as well, with Run-D.M.C garnering a cult following with the M45k Best bomber jacket. New York Marathon legend Grete Waitz logged iconic miles in the Atlanta shoe. The Hercules shoe inspired a high-top revolution in the music industry, and the cushioning elements of the ‘80s inspired later shoes like the adidas NMD.
Though the ‘90s was a period of recognizable fashion, it was also a decade for bringing technologies closer to where they are today. For the Boston Marathon, adidas developed an iconic teal and white EQT Volunteer Jacket. This track jacket marked a new era for adidas, sporting the new 3-Stripes EQT logo that later evolved into today’s recognizable Badge of Sport. Other track jackets like the Anga featured colorful patterns and color blocking that is popular again today. In 1994, the soccer field got a new player in the game. The Predator Cup was a true revolution in footwear for soccer players, designed with ridges on the toe box to increase friction between the cleat and the ball.
The 2000s further developed what was already working. Next came a custom Predator Precision SG shoe for world-class soccer star David Beckham, and the Adizero Adios Neftenga, the shoe Haile Gebrselassie set a marathon world record in. The Supernova Cushion M became the classic 2000s running shoe, which has regained popularity today in the chunky shoe trend. adidas broke into performance swimwear when cutting-edge swimsuit technology was released for Ian Thorpe to reduce drag in the water. It was also the decade for collaborations, with Yohji Yamamoto releasing the YY MEI Brocade—which paved the way for Y-3—and Stella McCartney developing a line of high-fashion sportswear that continues today.
As the 2010s have progressed, sustainability has been at the forefront of new releases. adidas teamed up with Parley, an ocean conservation organization, to develop shoes and clothes made with recycled ocean plastic. This began a movement to end the wasteful fashion loop by reusing plastic and debris that is already polluting the planet. With increased awareness of sustainability came further technological innovation. The most recent decade brought the development of Boost, the energy-returning midsole that is a favorite among runners today. The Futurecraft 4D began a new way of crafting sneakers, with the midsole born of liquid sculpted by light and oxygen for another evolution of cushioning. This decade also brought iconic partnerships, with Stella McCartney merging runway fashion and high-performance sportswear for modern women, and Kanye West launching YEEZY, an adidas line with a cult following. As we’ve come closer to the here and now, we’ve watched barriers break and new generations fight for equality. In 2015, adidas released the Superstar Pride Pack, making it the first LGBT+ sneaker for Pride month.
When were adidas Superstars released?
adidas first released the Superstar on the basketball court in 1970. The innovative technology of these shell-toe shoes gained recognition among NBA pro basketball players, and it’s easy to see why adidas Superstar became popular among the masses. The Superstar was the first shoe on the court that had next level grip and durability while staying light and flexible, making it a favorite of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The shoe made an easy transition from the court to the street, and even inspired Run-D.M.C to rap about the 3-Stripes in 1986. Today you’ll find Superstars on the feet of every generation with a look that recognizes the past while remaining iconic in the present.
What does NMD stand for?
Adidas NMD stands for nomad and is made for creators who are always on the move. Made with a Boost midsole and Primeknit upper, these street sneakers are cushioned with comfort so you can spend all day roaming the city. They are inspired by the cushion plugs of ‘80s running silhouettes like the Boston Super, Rising Star and Micropacer.
What does adidas stand for?
The name adidas came from the founder, Adolf “Adi” Dassler’s name. He used his nickname, Adi, and the first three letters of his last name, Das, to create adidas.