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.

No comments:

Post a Comment