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.