Well it’s that time of the year again and despite the rain it’s already shaping up to be an interesting tournament! Let’s see if Djokovic can come from two sets down, while Andy Murray should be on Centre Court this afternoon. I thought I’d take this opportunity to look at the adidas Wimbledon - first released in 1979 and one of their most fondly remembered tennis shoes.
It wasn’t the first time adidas named checked the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament. Wilhelm Bungert was the star of German tennis in the late 1960s, reaching the final of Wimbledon in 1967 before finally losing to the Australian John Newcombe. After briefly bearing a signature model for Puma, Bungert jumped ships to adidas and had four different shoes produced under his name. The Wilhelm Bungert Wimbledon was introduced in 1970 and was marketed as a shoe for world class players. It featured a kangaroo leather upper, a long wearing rubber toe box and perforation holes between the leather stripes as well as on the shoes tongue for increased ventilation. The earliest incarnation had a herringbone dish sole which had first been introduced on the model ‘Tennis’ from the mid-1960s. This was replaced with a multi-nub dish sole in 1972.
The 'Wilhelm Bungert Wimbledon' from 1975 with multi-nub sole.
Bungert retired from professional tennis in 1972, but shoes bearing his name continued to be produced. In 1976 adidas rebadged the Wimbledon to bear Dutch champion and Grand Slam doubles specialist Tom Okker’s name. Basically - bar the name change, it’s the same shoe and was produced until 1979.
'Wilhelm Bungert Wimbledon' becomes 'Tom Okker Wimbledon' in 1976
1979 was a good year for German tennis shoes. Adidas Germany had originally only paid a moderate amount of interest in tennis, happy to let adidas France take centre stage in marketing and production. With the introduction of polyurethane [PU] soles in 1975 they started to take the sport more seriously producing the excellent models ‘Professional’ and ‘Centre Court’ in that year, followed by the pioneering ‘Forest Hills’ a year later. ’79 saw the introduction of ‘Master’, ‘Grand Prix’ and ‘Wimbledon’ all using the new dual density PU sole which offered outstanding shock absorption. At first glance (with the exception of the colour of the stripes) the ‘Grand Prix’ and ‘Wimbledon’ look very similar. Both models were derby cut with an upper made from oxhide leather and a perforated nubuck vamp, sitting on the dual density PU sole. However close examination of the ankle collar reveals the additional padding added to the ‘Wimbledon’ to improve comfort and the reason why it was recommended by many leading orthopaedists. The shoe was produced until 1985, with the final version being known as ‘Wimbledon GL’ and some variations along the way. Because of the material the sole was made out of, it is extremely difficult to find a vintage pair these days and even if you did it would be unwearable without a sole transplant. It is a shame that adidas have never revisited this model as I am sure there would be enough call to see it, but maybe one day we will see it once again.
The original 1979 'Wimbledon' made in Western Germany
And 1979 'Grand Prix' for comparison
'Wimbledon' from 1981. The shoe is now made in the Yugoslavian factory and the adidas branding has been omitted from the middle stripe.
This version of 'Wimbledon' with navy stripes was manufactured from 1979 to 1983 and only appears in Swiss catalogues.
'Wimbledon II' with navy and purple stripes from the adidas archive in Herzogenaurach. It is unclear whether this shoe was ever released or was merely a sample, it does not appear in any of the catalogues I have. With thanks to Phil Murray and Paul Coates for the picture.
Wimbledon was also produced under licence in several countries such as New Zealand, Argentina and Mexico. The Brazilian version (circa 80-81) has a completely different sole unit, presumably because Vulcabras (the Brazilian licensee) did not own the machinery to manufacture dual density PU soles. With thanks to Bobby Mac for the photo.
'Wimbledon GL' the final version of Wimbledon made in Austria (from a 1985 UK catalogue)