Sunday, 31 July 2016

One of?

One of a 500, One of 100, One of 25. Limited editions are an established part of the shoe market and have been since the mid-90s. I guess it’s a pretty smart concept and you can see the appeal of owning something which you know not everyone has on their feet. Also sports shoe companies often pull out the stops when it comes to creativity, quality of materials and packaging on these kind of projects. But I often wonder if there is much if any profit at all for them, once the design, marketing and production costs have been taken into consideration. But of course it’s all about brand promotion – sneaker magazines and social media are awash with the hype proceeding and long after the product has sold out. Even if you didn’t manage to grab a pair you’ll be buying something else made by them some time soon.

Now I do buy new adidas shoes, but I’m known for my love of past models. As a vintage collector you might think I miss out on the fun, but that would be far from the truth. For most people it normally starts like this – while leisurely scrolling through social media posts or Google images you come across a picture of an old shoe you’ve never seen before, which you simply must own. And so it begins; - you ask friends to look out for them, you spend hours searching auction sites, you post begging messages on social media, you drive 15 miles out to a car boot sale with the insane theory in your head a deadstock pair will be sitting on someone’s trestle table waiting you for to snap them up for £3. You hear ‘folk stories’ that some bloke in Glasgow has a pair but “he will never sell them” and you find grainy images of the shoe on Yahoo Japan from 5 years ago and wonder where they ended up. It’s the kind of quest that Indiana Jones or King Arthur would probably turn down because it’s too hard, but yet that’s the fun it. You live for the thought that maybe, just maybe, one day you’ll land a pair.

But if limited editions are a relatively new concept, then why are certain vintage shoes so hard to find? Were these sports shoe companies secretly doing limited edition way back in the 70s and 80s? Let’s start by saying all vintage shoes are hard to find. Ok so type vintage adidas into Ebay and you’ll find something – probably a Rom, Universal, Dublin, Samba, Stan Smith or Gazelle. And that’s because adidas made millions of these. So by a simple law of averages, the more you make, the more are likely to have survived. The very nature of a shoe means they are an endangered species. We walk everywhere in them, play sport in them, scuff them, stain them, abuse them. None of anything I owned in the 80s and 90s I still have, they all ended up in the dustbin - gone but not forgotten. But that doesn’t answer the question, why were some shoes rarer than others? What was the reason certain shoes were produced in more limited numbers? To answer that here a 10 of the rarest adidas shoes you will come across, so rare that maybe only a few pairs still exist in the world.

The Prototype shoe – Dublin Mk II circa 1980

Not everything adidas dreamed up made it the shops. Some shoes didn’t work, didn’t look right or simply were never chosen for production. Of course adidas made a mock up or prototype of the shoe to test it or see how it looked and from that prototype maybe modifications were later made and the shoe became commercially available. What happened to the prototypes? Well I guess some were taken home by the designers or marketing men only years later to be discarded and for some to wash up in collector’s circles. Bobby McDassler (the owner of these shoes) contacted adidas and they thought that these shoes are probably a never released prototype. Stamped with the article code for Dublin, they are called by collectors ‘Dublin’ mark II and produced in the exact same shape ‘Bern’ Mk II and ‘Jeans’ Mk II. Why they were never released no-one will ever know, but I don’t think many (if any) other pairs of it exist.

The Special Make Up [SMU] – SL 72 University of Texas circa 1974

We tend to think of adidas as churning out mass produced models for the commercial market but athletes were at the core of their business, even after their shoes became everyday wear for the everyday person. Adidas kitted out whole football squads, handball teams and Olympic delegations. Owned by Funkyadiadi these SL 72 were produced at the request of the University of Texas Athletics team in their own colours – burnt orange and white. Interestingly, aside from the colour their actually quite different from a typical SL 72 of the time with the sole being a wedge hexagonal microcell rather than the standard sawtooth Metzeler sole. How many were produced it’s difficult to say but these are extremely rare.

The foreign licence shoe – Vulkano circa 1976

Adidas were produced all of the world in many different countries. The reasons why are specific to each country but generally tended to for economic or logistical reasons. Licence agreements allowed shoes to be manufactured and sold in regional areas often bypassing expensive import duties that certain countries may have levied on adidas. Production in Brazil began in 1974 when adidas signed a contract with a pre-existing shoe company called Vulcabras SA of Sao Paulo (a licence agreement that still exists to this day). Generally the licence agreements worked around royalty payments. So for every pair Vulcabras made they paid a fee to adidas. How many were made? Well it’s Impossible to say but I imagine they were produced in limited numbers in comparison to European models. As an example a former production manager for M. O’Brien & Co Ltd (the licensee for adidas in New Zealand) said a good seller would be only several thousands. These came into my possession via a good friend Anders Pettersson and at a good price. How a pair of Brazilian made adidas ended up in Sweden though is anybody’s guess…

The shoe that falls apart – Miami circa 1986

In 1975 adidas commissioned a manufacturer of rubber and plastic to come up with a polyurethane [PU] sole for training shoes. Semeperit AG of Austria designed a hard wearing sole which could be cast in different measures of hardness depending on the process. PU soles were used on training, tennis and to a lesser extent running, indoor and football shoes. The problem was that unless stored in optimum conditions PU will over a time become sticky and tacky before hardening, cracking and crumbling altogether. This meant that PU soles had a typical life span of 10-15 years. Virtually no PU soled shoes from the seventies still exist, 80s ones are rare and many of the 90s ones are starting to go. If you found a pair of old PU soled shoes in your garage and they were falling apart I imagine they would end up in the bin – it’s only been over the last decade that collectors have been purchasing these unwearable shoes and either preserving them for historical purposes and getting them resoled. This particular pair are owned by super collector Kenny Manton and I think they were part of a large old sports shop stock purchase that emerged last year. The Miami are a leisure training shoe from the mid 80s made in my favourite factory adidas Austria and featured a slim-line PU sole as was fashionable during this period. Adidas have never re-issued any of the models with this sole to date and it’s such a shame that due to the material of the originals sole these shoes are so incredibly rare today.

The regionally exclusive shoe – Cord circa 1979

I’ve mentioned regionally exclusive shoes before, but to recap adidas produced shoes at the request of national distributors and based on what they thought would sell well. So for instance in the UK you could get lots of different cricket shoes and rugby boots because the sports are popular here, but you couldn’t get those products easily in the US. I’m pretty sure the Cord was an exclusive to the UK. I’ve got a lot of catalogues from this period and the ‘Cord’ only appear in the UK 1979 and 1980 brochures. The ‘Jeans’ model was extremely popular over here and that is what the ‘Cord’ is based on, albeit in a corduroy brown colourway. Because the shoes were made for the UK only they were no doubt produced it limited numbers. These shoes aren’t actually as rare as some of the other models featured on this post, I know of at least 9 pairs and it is likely more exist out there. But they are still pretty rare and extremely sought after. I used own this pair but sold them on and as they were too big for me.

The athletes shoe – Special circa 1970

For sportsmen on their roster, adidas produced shoes using premium materials and to the exact shape and size of an athlete’s foot in their Scheinfeld factory (they still do to this day). An athlete could also ask for design changes, different colours or modifications, for instance if the athlete was recovering from an injury they could ask for additional protection or padding to be inserted into the shoe. I picked these shoes up from a seller some years ago. The upper is the design of an ‘Olympia’ but the sole unit is actually a microcell ridge sole like on a ‘Mexicana’. Interestingly the shoe also bears the tag ‘Special’ reserved for shoes for specialist sporting disciplines. Intrigued by the shoe and not being able to locate a picture of it in any of my catalogues I contacted the adidas archive in Herzongenaurach. Martin at the archive told me they are what adidas call a ‘Frankenstein’ model, meaning they were an SMU made up from several different models and probably at the request of an athlete. Whether this is a one of a kind shoe or adidas made similar for others I do not know, but they certainly are special and I often wonder who owned these shoes before me?

By the way if you to look at other SMU’s and models for specific athletes then check out the amazing adidas archive at

The one season only shoe – Saphir circa 1970

Ok, you seen these before and as mentioned I’m pretty sure they were only produced for a single year, possibly with only a couple of production runs. There soft crushed patent look I guess was quite startling for the time and maybe they didn’t sell as well as adidas would have hoped. But they’re a great example of why some shoes are rarer than others. The typical life span of an adidas model was only a hand full of years at best, as shoe technology and fashions changed with rapidly. Even something like the ‘Rom’ which was mass produced for decades had a number of make overs will retaining the basic look of the model. When shoes are produced for only a limited time there are bound to be less of them available in the collectors market.

The did it even exist shoe – Malmo 1976

Sometimes you come across a shoe which is so rare no-one has ever seen it in person. Only a picture in a catalogue exists and leads to the question was it ever made or merely a pre-production design which never made it to the shelves? Of course if it’s in a product catalogue you’d like to think it did exist, but these catalogues were made months before and sometimes feature early version of the shoes which ended up looking slightly different upon release. The Malmo was released in 1974 and this Dutch catalogue image is from 1976, so it’s certainly not a pre-production version, however that doesn’t prove it actually exists. I do hope that it does and one day someone uncovers a pair as the net nylon finish on these makes for a stunning shoe.

The hidden shoe – Stockholm circa 1976

Ok, I’m cheating a little here as I’ve already talked about foreign licence shoes, but I love the ‘story’ on this one. These are Stockholm made in Australia and don’t look anything like the European version with the exception of the colourway. Why are they so different? Well adidas gave the licensees all the technical plans, lasts and design information for the shoes, told them where to buy the machinery to make the shoes and told them where to buy all the materials like the suede, leather and even who the stockists were for things like the laces. But the foreign licence companies were allowed a certain amount of leeway and artistic licence in what they produced, often buying locally sourced leather or changing designs to suit regional tastes. Sometimes they weren’t prepared to import in the soles or buy the (rather expensive) machinery to produce them and ended up sticking different soles onto different uppers as is probably the case here. Onto the story;- these were found in the bottom of a wardrobe by an Australian lady a few years ago, completely unworn and in their original box (the really great 70s Australian  ones with the picture of the shoe on the front). When I got talking to her I asked her how she came about them. Apparently her brother bought her them following an argument, but to spite him she just threw them in a cupboard and refused to wear them only discovering them nearly forty years on. So we have a family argument to thank for saving a pair of extremely rare trainers in deadstock condition!

The don’t even know what it is shoe – adidas unknown circa 1974

I’m finishing with a shoe that only one pair is known to exist and their identity is not even known. This shoe has been around a bit, originally with a collector named Craig and now I believe the property of another collector called Joe. They are simply known as adidas ‘unknown’ and are probably the most famous pair nameless model but certainly not the only one. What we do know is that they were made in Austria, around about 1974 and in a pretty intense colourway. Were they actually released or were they a sample? For now we do not know, but we can certainly say they are one of the rarest pairs of adidas in existence and possibly one of a kind.

Reading - I'm an adidas and PUMA man, but I did own some Nike for running in 80s and leisure in the 90s and I admit I'm partial to a few of their running designs from the 70s and 80s. Besides the story of the sports shoe industry, adidas, PUMA and Nike fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Adidas vs PUMA Number 3

Adria - 1970

‘Adria’ and other shoes of its kind certainly have their fans, but there’s nothing particularly special about them. Then again there never was meant to be – there are a simple canvas shoe with a rubber sole moulded using the process of vulcanisation - a technological development that dates back to the middle of the 19th century. So why did adidas, a forward thinking company bother to make shoes which wouldn’t have looked out of place on the feet of a Victorian gentleman strolling down a pier? Because they were still popular, even in 1970. When we think of training shoes we think of the technological advancement, the cutting edge in sport or shoes designed to meet changes in fashion. But there was actually a huge market for simple canvas rubber plimsolls in the 1960s and 70s. Kids would wear them for school, dads would wear them on holiday or for a game of tennis – you could pick them up from department stores or bargain buckets for next to nothing. Most of them came from Asia (Japan, Malay, Hong Kong) or Czechoslovakia. The production process didn’t require much in the way of specialist machinery and the labour costs were low which put serious competitive sales pressure on established Western sports shoe companies. In the UK shoes from Hong Kong could be imported without duty under the ‘Empire Rule’, while US rubber firms pressured the government to impose a tax on imported rubber goods during the 1930s which wasn’t relaxed until 1966.

So the ‘Adria’ was adidas’s attempt to grab a share of the canvas shoe market, they figured that people would be happy to pay a little bit more for a pair of canvas shoes with the three stripes rather than unbranded product. They still needed to produce them at their lowest possible price point and for that to work they needed some help. Step forward Vulcan Incorporated of Taiwan who would be the first producer of adidas sports shoes in Asia. The Taiwan factory would produce the ‘Adria’ as other simple canvas models such as the ‘Kiel’, ‘Eberhard Scholer’ and ‘Match’ during the early 70s at production prices that could not be matched in Europe. The fact that ‘Adria’ was still being advertised in adidas sports catalogues into the 1990s is testament to their popularity and universal appeal.

Capri – mid 70s

I’ve focussed on the ‘Adria’ but PUMA followed suit with their own canvas models. I’m not sure of the exact date these were first released (pictured are from a ’77 catalogue) but PUMA production in Taiwan did not begin until 1974. They’re pretty much the same as the adidas model in style with a canvas upper, rubber toe cap and vulcanised sole. Like adidas, PUMA would increasingly rely on production in Asia as the decade moved on, with a significant number of shoes being produced there by the middle 80s after increased production of Nike in Taiwan and Korea.

Well the AOA Book Volume 2 is shaping up to be real nice, especially this limited edition box set. The book isn't out yet, but go and have a look at their page from some interesting pictures and articles.

Monday, 25 July 2016

I’m looking for vintage sports shoe catalogues from the 1950s to the 1990s – mainly adidas and PUMA - but also interested in Nike, Ontisuka/Asics and Diadora.
I will buy or swap, but I’m more than happy to trade PDF, JPG scans or good quality digital photos of the catalogues. I have 600-700 adidas and PUMA catalogues scanned to trade with, from the 1940s to the 1990s – UK, USA, Japanese, French, Swedish, Austrian, Dutch etc.
Email me or post here if you have anything to sell or trade!

Real or Fake?

Sometimes a shoe appears where its authenticity comes into question. One of my IG friends (Dasslers Finest) recently received a pair of adidas ‘Universal’ and this question came up. Actually it’s the second pair I’ve seen exactly the same, as another friend Nick Thompson also had a pair.
Let’s start by talking about fakes. Fakes have been around for a bit. I remember the Superstar 35th Anniversary collection was heavily bootlegged and since then there has been a steady stream of fakes coming from Asia, but never that many that have to really worry about buying them by accident. Vintage shoes haven’t been faked; - meaning that no-one (to my knowledge) has attempted to remake old shoes retrospectively. Of course back in the day lots of companies copied adidas and that’s because the copyright laws weren’t as strong as they are today, meaning that you could get shoes that looked like adidas models and had three stripes but they weren’t adidas. Nowadays these companies would probably be shut down immediately, but as I say, back then the legal framework was a bit more complicated when it came to trade marks. Still I wouldn’t call these shoes fakes as such, as they didn’t use the adidas name on the shoes. They had their own company logos on the shoes; all they were trying to do was cash in on the brands appeal. Certainly there were lots of really bad fake shoes made in the 90s and early 00’s largely from Asia and Turkey with laughable brand names like Adas and Abbas which you’d never mistake for the real stuff. And there is also evidence to suggest that bootlegs were produced in Russia from the late 90s onwards from the lasts taken from the former Mocba factory after the Russian adidas licence ended.

Airwair from the early 80s, cashing in on the 3 stripes

So why might these ‘Universal’ be fakes? Well the shoes are well made and certainly look the real deal. The ‘Universal’ was traditionally white with black stripes and in the 80s you could get white with green stripes. But adidas did actually make some ‘Universal’ with blue stripes, also with red stripes and navy with silver accents too, so no issues with the colourway. What the shoes are missing is branding. There is no trefoil or mention of adidas on the heel tab, tongue or the outsole which is very odd. The insole does say adidas on it and it has the code 33700 written on the ankle collar inside which is the actual article number for a ‘Universal’.
The sole of the 'Universal' without adidas branding.

So are they real or fake? Well actually I don’t know 100% but I feel they are legitimate or at least were made in an adidas factory and my guess is one of the former Yugoslavian countries.
About the ‘Universal’ - it’s an easy shoe to come by. If you go on Ebay and type vintage adidas in then the two shoes you are most likely to find are the ‘Rom’ and the ‘Universal’. That’s because adidas made millions of them and as sturdy leather trainers they have lasted the test of time more than others. ‘Universal’ were introduced in 1971 and were in continuous production until well into the 90s. They made them in West Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Taiwan (in the 80s) and Slovenia, Croatia, Poland and China (in the 90s). They even made them under licence in countries like Mexico, Canada, Russia and Portugal, which amounts to a whole lot of ‘Universal’ being made over time.
From the 1978 US catalogue. Few adidas models were produced in bigger numbers or for longer periods than the 'Universal'.

So back to Yugoslavia and my theory. Adidas started making shoes there in the late 60s. I say adidas, but actually adidas didn’t own the factory, they contracted the work out to a pre-existing shoe company called Plankia and originally based in Kranj (now in modern day Slovenia). The reason adidas produced shoes in Yugoslavia was because the labour costs were a lot lower than in Western Europe. This allowed adidas to offer shoes at competitive prices as well offer budget ranges. What started as a relatively small operation producing trainers and football boots expanded rapidly during the 1980s and saw factories dotted all over Yugoslavia producing track spikes, hiking boots, bags, hats and tracksuits. The interesting thing is despite the fact the shoes were made there, you couldn’t actually buy them there at the time. As a communist country you were forbidden from buying Western goods and had to make do with local brands (ironically often made in the same factories). Even making Western goods in an Eastern bloc country may have seemed weird, but Tito had long distanced himself from Stalin and was manufacturing goods for export to the West in order to grow the Yugoslavian economy. Everything was going pretty well until the late 80s when ethnic, cultural and social tensions (always an underlying problem in the country) came to a head - accelerated by an economic crisis. The Yugoslav Wars would see the country split into separate states but adidas continued to be produced in the new countries of Slovenia and Croatia right up until the late 1990s, being the last of the European factories to close.
One of the upsides of the end of Yugoslavia was the end of communism and the opportunity for the population to buy Western goods including of course - adidas. So here is where we come to the ‘Universal’

These Universal cropped up on EBay some time ago and they share some similarities with our mystery pair. So they have an insole with adidas written on it, a tongue with no branding and a sole unit without the adidas logo. But the codes inside are different and not in a format I recognise and the heel tab does have a trefoil on it.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect however is the card which comes with the shoes. At the top of the card it declares “Manufactured by the shoe factory Sloga DD in Koprivnicia”. As Koprivincia is a city in northern Croatia my guess is these shoes were manufactured in Croatia for sale in Croatia sometime after the Yugoslav wars. The card goes onto to explain the materials the shoes are made from written in Croatian, something that would not have been included in an export model. So there we have it. Our mystery shoes share enough similarities with the Croatian pair to suggest that they were indeed made in either the same factory or a similar former Yugoslavian factory. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who may have more knowledge on the subject and perhaps even someone who may have worked in one of the factories. Please get in contact if so.

When I started writing this blog a month ago I did some research about blogging and I read that it was important to post updates regularly. Well I’ve failed in that capacity, but wait I have an excuse! I’ve spent the last couple of weeks busily writing for a friend’s project. I can’t reveal anything specific at the moment, but what I will say is that it will be dropping real soon and also that it is a top class piece of work all round. I can’t wait to see the finished product myself. Updates shortly!

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Thanks to Adam at SNS for sending me these Gazelle for my wife. It's only her second pair of adidas and she is very happy with them. I have to say they are extremely well made, with nice suede and adidas have sorted out the bulbous toe box shape which dogged the Gazelle II. Adidas are releasing a load of Gazelle over the coming months. Check out what SNS has in stock here:-

MR, JO and RN

Cryptic messages? Well not really, these are the codes (followed by a number) which Descente used on their Japanese released running models. I talked about Descente in my last post - they held a licence to produce and import adidas shoes in Japan from 1984 to 1998. After 1998 adidas operated it's own regional distribution of adidas in Japan.

Descente did a pretty good job with adidas to be fair. In the 90s in particular they experimented a lot with designs, materials and colours. So we had the Athens in those really vivid colours, Samba in faux lizard skin and Country in a metallic finish. They did some wild stuff with textiles too like racing jumpsuits during the Formula One craze in the early 90s.

Samba Lizard from 1995

Formula One race jumpsuit made be Descente [thanks to Adi-Files for the picture]

Anyway, back to mid 80s and running. If the 60s were all about leather, the 70s suede, then the 80s was definitely nylon. I remember in school everyone had nylon runners, whether you were a runner or not. Japan was no different and they pretty much had all the top models you could get in Europe and the US, but also some interesting variations of their own.

JO = Jogging

These were the budget runners - aimed at the amateur and casual joggers. Typically made in Taiwan or Korea to keep the costs down, they often featured little of the shoe technologies which adidas were incorporating into their top of the range models at the time. Descente released a lot of what you could get in the rest of the world but they also messed around with the colour schemes so we have some really bright looking shoes in the mix.

JO 4301 (Ranger 301) made in Taiwan. This model was known as 'Seaside' in Europe

JO 4300 made in Taiwan. An example of the use of different colours.

RN = Running

So these were the choice of top athletes and serious runners. Packed with all the latest technologies like Dellinger Web, dual density soles, 'adiflex' soles and durometer wedges. You could get all the top models in Japan like 'Centaur', 'Fire', 'Micropacer', 'Phantom' and the ZX's but they also made their own shoes.

RN 6300 was known as Centaur in the rest of the world. These amazing colours were again an exclusive.

RN 6200

Made in Japan 1985

The sole on these is lifted straight off the first version (pre Dellinger Web) of the 'New York'. It's an 'adiair' sole with a concave rubber outsole. The adiair  reduces risk of injury by softening the impact of the foot on hard surfaces while the concave outsole rolls the foot into it's correct position reducing stress and fatigue. The upper is made in two parts - the sides are nylon while the toe box is a breathable tricot nylon mesh. The shoe is reinforced with suede overlays and includes a 'vario' lacing system for individual adjustment. All in all it's a pretty sleek, lightweight runner and the colour combination is just so unusual; - gold nylon, with brown overlays and orange stripes.

MR = Marathon

Specialist shoes for long distance and marathon running.

MR 2500

Made in Japan 1985

First thing I notice when I picked these up was how light they are! When I put them on my feet they felt like carpet slippers. Reducing the weight of a shoe can save masses of energy on a long distance run and while I'm not going to be running in them I can see their value. The upper is made from a nylon twill and is reinforced at the toe and heel. Interestingly a row of small perforations have been inserted into the suede on the toe to further reduce the build of heat. The midsole is of two tone EVA dual density. The outsole has been lifted of the European 'Rotterdam' model and is divided into profile sections for landing, rolling and pushing off. It's a great looking marathon shoe but was actually the cheapest of the three Japanese made MR models released in 1985 coming at 6,900 Yen in comparison to 9,300 Yen for the MR 2111.

The Outsole of the 'Rotterdam' was used on the MR 2500

The MR 2111 - the top of the range Japanese marathon runner.

Monday, 11 July 2016

My Collection - Guam

Today’s shoe is probably one of the rarest in my collection and probably one of the rarest adidas you will come across, in fact I’m not even sure this shoe was released in the form I own, but onto that later.
Firstly what is a Guam? I’ll admit I had to look this up when I first heard about these shoes some years ago. Guam is the largest island in Micronesia in the North West Pacific and is an unincorporated territory of the United States.  It was first colonised by the Spanish in the 1700s but became the property of the US following the American-Spanish War of 1898. Apparently tourism is a large part of the economy on the island, being a popular destination for Japanese tourists.
Which leads us nicely onto the place of manufacture, which was Japan. I’m pretty sure everyone who is reading this is aware that adidas was made in the Japan – they remain amongst the most sought after shoes for collectors and were often produced in vibrant colours and incorporated different styles from the European factories.  The ‘Guam’ is a good example of this, because this shoe was never released in Europe in any form and the colourway is really quite stunning. Over the years I’ve seen a few ‘Guam’, not many, but a few and interestingly none of them have the sole unit which is attached to mine. Normally they sit on a transparent trefoil sole and are typically red with gold stripes, red with silver stripes or (much rarer) grey with red stripes. I’ve even seen a grey-red colourway leather pair. But if this silhouette looks familiar then that is because it’s actual based on another shoe - the Yugoslavian made ‘Milano’ model.

The 'Milano' an inspiration for the 'Guam'

The 'Guam' with transparent trefoil sole from the collection of Danny Holmes

The sole unit of the Guam, in this case the rare leather version.

Why did they change the colours of the ‘Milano’ and release it as the ‘Guam’? Well there isn’t really an answer to that, but it was quite common for licensee’s to change the colours, materials and names of European designed models when manufacturing adidas in their own countries. Sometimes they even took the upper from one design and place it on the sole of a different design to make a completely different shoe. I’ll cover adidas licences in a later post but generally the changes were down to regional tastes.  Japanese buyers tended to like bright coloured shoes in comparison to the more conservative European tastes of the time. The use of the name Guam appears to stem from its locality near Japan and is part of what I am going to call the ‘Pacific’ series.  Yes, I’ve made that up, but there never was a ‘cities’ or ‘islands’ series either. These are just labels that collectors use to refer to a group of similar shoes - adidas never called them by any series names when they were originally released. The models included in the Pacific series are ‘Guam, ‘Samoa’, ‘Saipan’ and ‘Hawaii’. All of these are islands located in the Pacific and are in some way connected to the US as dependents, territories or states. By the way, ‘Samoa’ and ‘Hawaii’ should not be confused with the French made shoes of the same name which form part of what we call island series. These are completely different shoes manufactured in Japan and for sale in Japan only.
So when was the ‘Guam’ released? Well that’s hard to say exactly, there are no markings or dates inside the shoes, but by a process of reasoning we can make a good estimated guess. A good starting point is to check adidas catalogues for pictures of the shoes. I have several Japanese adidas catalogues but none of them feature the ‘Guam’, ‘Hawaii’ or Saipan. The ‘Hawaii’ is so rare I’ve only ever seen three pairs and never one in good condition and the ‘Saipan’ I’ve never seen at all - only a recollection from a Japanese collector confirms their actual existence. However their absence from catalogues does not change anything. A catalogue is a ‘snapshot’ of the company’s products often highlighting new or popular models, not everything produced. The Samoa does appear however, in the 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1983 Japanese catalogues. So a starting point would be the early 80s.

An example of the colourways used on the 'Samoa', all told there were eight colour variants.

The rare 'Hawaii' model made in Japan

Also if we conclude that the ‘Guam’ is based on the ‘Milano’, then as the ‘Milano’ was released in 1981 in Europe - production of the ‘Guam’ could not have been any earlier than that year. The final jigsaw piece comes from the tongue label and box of the ‘Guam’. Now I don’t have the box to these shoes but I have a picture of it lifted from a Japanese website. Two companies actually manufactured adidas shoes in Japan. The first was Kanematsu Sport who held the licence for the sale of adidas in Japan from 1970 until 1984. Kanematsu didn’t actually start making shoes until 1977, before that the shoes were imported from the European and Taiwanese factories. Even after they started making adidas they still bolstered their product lines with imported adidas shoes.  Then there was Descente who also had a licence from adidas beginning in 1970, but they had the licence for textiles only. This made sense as Descente made ski wear and football and baseball shirts prior to their adidas agreement. But in 1984 for a reason I do not know (maybe someone can help me here) Kanematsu lost their licence and Descente got the shoe agreement as well as the textiles. So in 1984 the adidas product range changes, as do the design of the tongue tags and the boxes. So looking at the Guam and its box we can tell that the shoe was made by Kanematsu rather than Descente and is therefore from prior to 1984.

'Guam' box

An example of a Kanematsu style box from the early 80s, very similar to German style boxes.

An example of a Descente box circa 1987.

Well, all of this is an extremely long winded way for me to say I reckon that my shoe was probably made between 1981 and 1983. But hold on, what about the sole on your shoe? Well it’s a 3-zone ‘Samba’ style much different to the other Guam soles. It could have been attached at a later date. I see no visible glue marks to suggest this and it seems well attached. Or it could merely be a variant. Sole variants exist on other Japanese models such as the ‘Munchen’ and ‘Napoli’. But whether it’s a sole swap or a rare variant I’m happy to own this extremely rare curiosity.

My Guam with 'Samba' style sole.

Congratulations to Portugal for winning Euro 2016. I’m finishing off the coloured football boots with a pair of Puma Suisse (Swiss) from 1974. Like the aforementioned ‘Suede’ these boots were manufactured in the Puma France factory which was run by Rudi’s son Gerd Dassler at the time. The selection of colours is based on the Switzerland team of course.

The final adidas boot is a NASL Super manufactured in Yugoslavia and shown here in the US ’81 catalogue. Adidas started producing boots bearing the licence of the North American Soccer League in 1978 and produced several boots and a turf trainer. I’m hoping to cover the NASL at a later date but in the meantime enjoy the boots.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Big thanks to Adam and Erik at Sneakersnstuff for letting me write an article on the history of the Gazelle in preparation for the re-issue.

Head over to SNS to read the article and check out what's in stock.