The Evolution of Sneaker Collaborations
Trainers, sneakers, kicks, call them what you will. The evolution of collaborations plays a big part in their heritage.
When it comes to collaborations in the world of sneakers, they are nothing new. Shoe brands have been engaging customers through endorsement since the 1920’s. Originally, collaborations were sponsorship and product endorsement, with shoes named after sports stars.
The Converse All-Star, an all-time classic and instantly recognisable the world over was the first shoe made for basketball. In 1923 an Indiana hoops star named Chuck Taylor endorsed the shoes and they became known as Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Today they are the best selling basketball shoes of all time, albeit you won’t see may people wearing then on the court these days.
During the first half of the 20th century, sports shoes were worn mostly to play sports. But in the 1950’s they started to become fashion statements as influencers of the time were seen wearing them, pushed into the mainstream with James Dean who was pictured in his Jack Purcell Converse kicks.
1960’s – 1970’s
In the 1960’s Adidas started branding shoes tennis shoes with the names of sports stars and players. The Adidas Stan Smith is an iconic shoe, as fresh today as it was when it launched in 1965. Originally called the ‘Adidas Robert Haillet’, after the French tennis player Robert Haillet, they were renamed in 1978 after the American Tennis star Stan Smith.
1980’s – 1990’s
Collaborations are often the result of carefully planned marketing activity. But, once in a while they take on a life of their own. The union between Adidas and Run DMC made history as the first sponsorship of a musical group by a sports brand. By the time Run DMC released their first single in 1983, the Adidas Superstar was an old basketball shoe, albeit a very popular one. It was worn by around 75% of all NBA players in the late 1960’s, and competing against the Converse All-Star.
The way Run DMC wore their Superstars was fresh and striking, no laces, with the tongue out and later with ‘fat’ laces. New York streetstyle and the birth of Hip Hop sneaker culture. Stocks quickly sold out and the long-term success of the Adidas Superstar was secured, with the brand celebrating 50 years of the Superstar in 2020. Success leads to success with Adidas Superstar and Run DMC spawning an entire range across sneakers and apparel including jackets, tracksuits, sweats, and t-shirts.
In 1984, rising NBA star Michael Jordan signed a deal with Nike. Very nearly signing for Adidas, at the last-minute Nike made Jordan an offer he couldn’t refuse, with his very own range of shoes. And so, the Nike Air Jordan was born. Air Jordan’s became a brand in their own right, and these days you could be excused for not knowing Air Jordan is a Nike brand. In the 1990’s, Michael Jordan dominated basketball with the Chicago Bulls, leading them to six NBA championships. The rest is history and today Jordan’s are the most popular sneaker brand of all time.
2010 - Today
In 2015 Adidas came out fighting with its Yeezy brand in collaboration with Kanye West to rival Nike and Air Jordan. The rivalry between Adidas and Nike runs deep and Kanye West and Adidas seem intent on overtaking the Jordan brand. By his own design, Kanye West on his track “Facts” claims that he’s “jumped over the jump man” in a direct reference to Jordan and the Air Jordan brand.
In more recent times collaborations have evolved through designer, celebrity, and brand endorsement. Selena Gomez, Sophia Webster and The Kooples with Puma, Vivienne Westwood with Asics, Alexander Wang and Pharrell Williams with Adidas, and Travis Scott with Air Jordan. But collaborations run deeper today than they ever have as brands look to compete in a multi-million $ global marketplace. These days individual producers and influencers are running collaborations with their favourite brands, like Sneaker Freaker magazine with the Asics Gel Lyte III Tiger Snake, and Hanon-shop with Diadora.
Today collaboration in the world of sneakers is driven not only by sport and functional performance, and the latest in technology. It’s driven by design and the personal style of the planet’s hottest influencers.
One thing is for sure, collaborations in the world of sneakers will continue to evolve.
Check out the GetSoled range of collaborations.