We’re doing the groundwork to school you on the most iconic silhouettes from brands like adidas Originals, Nike Sportswear, Vans, Reebok and more. Would you have guessed that your favourite kicks used to be worn by icons like Michael Jackson and the Beastie Boys and was first released as far back as the ’80s? Nope? Well, continue reading because there’s a lot more where that came from.

adidas Originals Gazelle

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Try tracing back the Gazelle to the source, and things get a little murky. According to Complex, though, it has its origins as 1960s training shoes like the Rom and the Olympiade (which was a hit with the German 1964 Olympics team). The use of a suede upper was unprecedented; the shock of the three white stripes against bright red (handball shoes) or blue (a gym version) turned heads, setting the tone for dozens of adidas designs to come.

As with many iconic sneaker designs, the Gazelle’s purpose as a sports shoe was short-lived; it’s really on the streets – and stage – that it had its biggest impact.

Its appeal traveled across decades and genres. You’ll see Michael Jackson sporting the kicks as a youngster in the Jackson Five; there are snaps of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones wearing them in the 1970s. Hip hop sneakerheads like Beastie Boys and Operator EMZ wore them too. But they really came into the own in the 1990s at the height of Britpop fever – synonymous with Oasis and Blur. The British model of the decade – Kate Moss – was often seen in them too.

adidas Originals footwear designer designer Jean Khalifé who told Complex he “literally grew up with Gazelles on my feet” was responsible, together with Gary Aspden, the British shoe expert (who also developed the adidas Speziale range) for the most recent major reissue, which hit shelves in 2016. Although Khalifé investigated 15 variants of the shoe, it was its 1991 iteration that provided the basis for the re-issue. “We had to rework it completely from scratch and remake all the blueprints and technical drawings,” he told Complex. Together with his team, “we made sure to recreate the perfect archive shoe replica, millimetre -by-millimetre and stitch-by-stitch.”

The 2016 re-issue saw dozens of new colourways and different material variants arrive in store – including a version with an all-leather upper. Two years later, and the new colourways and collabs continue, fuelled by the fierce hunger among sneaker connoisseurs for retro styles given contemporary treatments.

Most recently the Gazelle was included alongside another sneaker icon, the Campus, in the minimalist Stitch & Turn pack, which features solid colorways in premium pigskin suede with hidden stitching. Following its NMD racer collab, this month the Hong Kong streetwear boutique JUICE has teamed up with adidas Consortium (the premium range of adidas collabs with high-end retailers) to create the JUICE x adidas Gazelle. With a muted palette, it features the upper pairs woven-like material with pigskin suede heel, toecap and stripes; this is supported by an oversized crepe sole. 

adidas Originals Campus

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The adidas Campus started off its life under various names (including the Greenstar and the Tournament) as a low-top basketball shoe. In the early 1980s, when it was released under the “Campus” moniker, it soon found fans off the court who loved it’s simple, no-nonsense design, iconic three stripes and old-school materials (suede, leather, rubber).

While it was seen on the feet of music stars, it was the Beastie Boys who became most closely associated with the shoe, frequently donning it in performances and photo shoots (such as when Mike D and MCA, two of group’s members sported the shoe for the LP’s cover portrait). The rambunctious NYC hip hop band’s global appeal amongst teens led to a surge in sales.

As with many of adidas’s iconic kicks, the Campus has seen loads of different iterations, with new colourways, experiments with different materials, and collabs. It has even been reborn as a skate shoe, the Campus Vulc, which featured a vulcanised outsole.

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House of Pain x adidas Originals

Key special editions include hip hop crew House of Pain’s Irish-inspired take and the UNDFTD X BAPE release – which is not the only time the LA brand has worked with the Japanese fashion heavyweight. 

adidas Originals Stan Smith 

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More than 30 million adidas Stan Smith sneakers have been sold – and there’s no sign of demand letting up anytime soon. Ranked by Complex as the 19th most influential sneaker ever, the story of this enduring icon begins in the early 1960s, when adidas developed its first-ever tennis shoe: a classic all-white leather design with three perforated lines on the uppers’ sides.

From 1965, an endorsement saw the shoe named the adidas Robert Haillet, after the French tennis player. Following his retirement in 1971, the sportswear brand renamed the shoe after the American player Stan Smith, whose wins included Wimbledon in 1972 and the 1971 US Open – and who was, for a time, the World’s Number 1. Helping bring the shoe to the attention of spectators in North America and beyond, the tie-up has been ranked 13th out of the 50 most influential sneaker sponsorships in sports history according to Sneaker Report.

As the years have passed, the classic design has subtly evolved: green foam padding was added, and then, on the tongue, Stan Smith’s portrait and signature. Different variants released have include adidas Stan Smith Skate (a skater version) and the adidas Stan Smith Comfort (which trades laces for Velcro).

Skater versions of the iconic adidas Originals Stan Smith | Image via Highsnobiety

The shoe has long been a symbol of hip hop (you’ll find it cropping up in Lil Wayne and Jarren Benton’s lyrics, while French rapper La Fouine has a song named after the shoe, with the line “I’m preparing a classic like Stan Smith”. What might come as a surprise is the way that fashion has made it its own – perhaps more so than any other sneaker. Marc Jacobs and Phoebe Philo (who spent almost a decade helming Céline) have both worn it on the catwalk; Gisele Bündchen appeared in French Vogue wearing them and nothing else (well, save for a pair of socks) in a 2013 Inez & Vinoodh shoot. 

The shoe’s timeless, sleek curves have offered a blank canvas upon which the imaginations of adidas’s in-house designers and collaborators can run riot – with new colourways and collaborations coming thick and fast. High fashion collabs include kicks from Yohji Yamamoto, Jeremy Scott and Raf Simons. Pharrell Williams dropped ten Stan Smiths he had painted by hand at Colette, the iconic Parisian concept store, in 2014. While it’s damn impossible to get your hands on one of those, Pharrel fans can get a piece of the action with this year’s launch of the Pharrell x Adidas Stan Smith – a Holi festival-inspired shoe with purple and blue tie-dyed uppers (made with adidas’s super-light Primeknit material).

It’s incredibly rare for a shoe to be an instant classic – but that has been the case with the adidas NMD. Its launch in late 2015 in a dizzying array of colourways saw queues snaking out of the doors of sneaker shops around the world as aficionados sought to get in on the action.

The design, overseen by Nic Galway, Vice President of Global Design for Adidas Originals, is simultaneously retro and futuristic, with elements such as colour-blocking that pay homage to the 1980s, and stylistic touches that acknowledge iconic adidas kicks from that decade like the Micro Pacer, the Rising Star and the Boston Super.

“What I really loved about the products in the mid-’80s was it was a time where the future was the thing,” he told Sole Collector. “We, as a German brand, were making this wearable technology when no one actually had the computers. It showed a real great pioneering spirit that they must have had at that time. I always feel my responsibility as creative director now is to say we don’t just look at how the shoes used to look in our archive, we also have to understand the spirit that they were made in… I wanted to pick up some of those memories and inject in the latest emotions of today.”

Although the NMD is designed for every day urban living, its sole uses adidas’s Boost technology – a durable spongy foam designed for high performance running – making them extremely comfortable for pounding the streets. The extremely lightweight upper is made with adidas’s Primeknit material.

In spite of the shoe being little more than two-years-old, adidas has worked tirelessly on releasing covetable new variants. A laceless version appeared as the City Sock; this has evolved into the CS2 which has Shadow Knit technology that results in constant colour-shifting.

As part of Hu, Pharrel Williams’s collaboration with adidas – a collection of shoes and clothing that are inspired by humanity’s strength and diversity – a number of NMD Hu Trail shoes have been released. This year, the Hu Afropack features vibrant, clashing patterns, while the three pairs forming the Hu Powder Dye range offer an eye-catching homage to the Holi Festival of colours.

An altogether subtler option is the collab with Hender Scheme, the Tokyo-based brand which uses artisanal methods to handcraft sneakers out of leather. In a nod to the NMD’s original 2015 colour scheme, the adidas x Hender Scheme has a black leather upper with blocks of red and blue on the sole.

adidas Originals NMD

It’s incredibly rare for a shoe to be an instant classic – but that has been the case with the adidas NMD. Its launch in late 2015 in a dizzying array of colourways saw queues snaking out of the doors of sneaker shops around the world as aficionados sought to get in on the action.

The design, overseen by Nic Galway, Vice President of Global Design for Adidas Originals, is simultaneously retro and futuristic, with elements such as colour-blocking that pay homage to the 1980s, and stylistic touches that acknowledge iconic adidas kicks from that decade like the Micro Pacer, the Rising Star and the Boston Super.

“What I really loved about the products in the mid-’80s was it was a time where the future was the thing,” he told Sole Collector. “We, as a German brand, were making this wearable technology when no one actually had the computers. It showed a real great pioneering spirit that they must have had at that time. I always feel my responsibility as creative director now is to say we don’t just look at how the shoes used to look in our archive, we also have to understand the spirit that they were made in… I wanted to pick up some of those memories and inject in the latest emotions of today.”

Although the NMD is designed for every day urban living, its sole uses adidas’s Boost technology – a durable spongy foam designed for high performance running – making them extremely comfortable for pounding the streets. The extremely lightweight upper is made with adidas’s Primeknit material.

In spite of the shoe being little more than two-years-old, adidas has worked tirelessly on releasing covetable new variants. A laceless version appeared as the City Sock; this has evolved into the CS2 which has Shadow Knit technology that results in constant colour-shifting.

As part of Hu, Pharrel Williams’s collaboration with adidas – a collection of shoes and clothing that are inspired by humanity’s strength and diversity – a number of NMD Hu Trail shoes have been released. This year, the Hu Afropack features vibrant, clashing patterns, while the three pairs forming the Hu Powder Dye range offer an eye-catching homage to the Holi Festival of colours.

An altogether subtler option is the collab with Hender Scheme, the Tokyo-based brand which uses artisanal methods to handcraft sneakers out of leather. In a nod to the NMD’s original 2015 colour scheme, the adidas x Hender Scheme has a black leather upper with blocks of red and blue on the sole. 

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