Ten years ago, the adidas Stan Smith was in a pretty sorry state. It was a shoe you’d most often see worn by students, a dirty pair poking out from a pair of shit-flicker bootcut jeans with the hems trodden down. Even worse, numerous skate shoe companies had taken the elegant silhouette and ruined the proportions with fat tongues and excessive padding. With brands and retailers exploring the far reaches of their extensive back catalogues for alternatives, the adidas Stan Smith wasn’t enjoying its finest hour.
It hadn’t always been this way. The adidas Stan Smith was one of the all-time greats. The shoe was originally named for French tennis pro Robert Haillet. When he retired, adidas proved 1970s sports marketing was just as remorseless as it is today by giving the same shoe to US tennis pro Stan Smith. Stan Smith was one of the greatest tennis players ever, which undoubtedly helped the popularity of the shoe, but it was its looks that really made it one of the best-selling sports shoes of all time.
With its clean lines and subtle branding, the white leather and green said money with quiet confidence. Popular with everyone from US prep school kids, LA gangbangers, skaters, hip-hop moguls, casuals and the aforementioned students, these shoes mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The Stan Smith speaks to most people on one of two levels. Appropriated style often makes the strongest statement and taking a shoe more closely identified with the privileged world behind professional tennis is a significant statement of intent from a kid on the street. Secondly, in a world of hype, colour and nonsense these shoes are a strong counter-argument that less is more.
The skate scene’s relationship with the adidas Stan Smith had started off promisingly enough in the early 1990s. The Beastie Boys had relocated to LA and were part of the same scene as the local pro skaters (XLarge was an early distributor of Girl Skateboards), with a shared enthusiasm for deadstock basketball and tennis shoes. Videos of the time such as Goldfish, Mouse and 20 Shot Sequence showed pros in a variety of Converse, Puma and adidas, particularily the Campus, Superstar and Stan Smith. Some skaters wore them because they were cheap off the sale rack, but they all wore them because they looked good. As these skaters went on to design their own skateshoes, promodels like the DVS Tim Gavin owed a lot to the Stan Smith.
Yet as skate shoes got bulkier towards the late 90s/early 2000s, so the companies padded out their takes on this silhouette. Tongues got thicker and wider, laces got fatter and the nose got stubbier. Those clean court-based style cues had been lost amongst a pile of ball chain necklaces and nu-metal CDs. Fortunately, adidas skateboarding recognised the shoe’s status as a great non-skateshoe skateshoe and introduced the Stan Smith Skate in 2007. Just like the Stan Smith 80s made amends for the horror of the Stan Smith II, the Skate version demonstrated how to modify the shoe for skating without losing the style.
The mid to late 2000s saw a return to former glories for the adidas Stan Smith. It was a second tier shoe during the adicolor campaign, but it was the introduction of the adidas Stan Smith Skate and Stan Smith 80 that reminded everyone how relevant and good looking this shoe can really be. The calibre of collaboration releases reinforced that feeling. The Gonz got to work on the Skate line, utilising the natural blank canvas of a clean white leather upper to full effect. The Stan Smith 80 found a natural home in the world of streetwear, with Kazuki, Undefeated, A Bathing Ape and Alife all demonstrating why this tennis classic has such downtown appeal.
In 2011, it was announced that adidas was discontinuing the Stan Smith. The unthinkable had happened: by 2012 the greatest selling tennis shoe of all time would be off the market once and for all. Luckily, sense prevailed and the adidas Stan Smith is back for 2014. The two year breather allows enough time to reintroduce this shoe in all its glory. This is a reissue to pass the highest scrutiny of a notoriously particular target market. The shape is pared back to match the refined original and the premium leather feels and smells just right. It’s sorted – Stan’s back.