Saturday, 20 August 2016

Mexico City 1968

The first Games in Latin America were played against a back drop of civil unrest and change - the Vietnam War (accompanied by protest the world over), the black civil rights movement in the US, the ‘cultural revolution’ in China, student demonstrations in France and the USSRs occupation of Czechoslovakia. In Mexico protests against government policies saw hundreds of people killed, while South Africa were banned due to its apartheid policies. The actual games were played at an extremely high altitude which favoured some athletes but put endurance event competitors at a disadvantage. Synthetic track (called Tartan) was used for the first time over traditional cinder.

The Athletes

Tommy Smith and John Carlos (first and third respectively in the 200m) is the most enduring image of the games, taking to the podium shod in single black gloves and giving a black power salute in protest of racial segregation in the US. Al Oerter won his fourth consecutive Gold Medal in the Discus for the States. Other successes for the Americans included Bob Beamon’s incredible jump in the long jump, Jim Hines’s breaking the 10 second barrier in the 100M and Dick Fosbury using an unconventional style in the high jump which became known as the ‘Fosbury Flop’. The Americans had put a lot of effort into building a successful team and had even trained at Lake Tahoe to emulate the high altitude conditions of Mexico. It is no surprise that they finished as the leader with 107 Medals [45 Gold].

Adidas at the Olympics

If the Americans had prepared meticulously, then so had adidas. In 1968 adidas had built a factory [called ‘Canada’] in Mexico to produce shoes for the games, which also gave them special dispensation for other shoes to be moved through customs. Unlike PUMA who found their shoes locked in the customs depot, some would say with a little helping hand from Horst and his agents. It took PUMA an almighty effort (and some tactics of their own) to get some of the shoes released in time for the games. The sports shoe companies received worldwide media attention when Sports Illustrated magazine broke the story of illicit payments to athletes with the headline ‘THE $100,000 PAY-OFF’. Any athlete who wanted to receive payment for wearing adidas or PUMA shoes was furnished with a brown envelope stuffed with cash, but many athletes refused to take part in the scandal. The IOC were furious but they could do little to stem the tide of athletes receiving payment for participation and the move actually began the long process of the governing body accepting that sponsorship was now part of the game. Adidas were once again the official outfitters of the German Olympic Team and their overall success was 85% of athletes at the games wore their brand.

The Shoes

How could you fail to notice these coming towards you! A gold kangaroo leather upper, Adi once again updated the technology of the track spike with special mention to the thick padding from the bottom of the heel to the ball of the foot, offering protection and comfort on the new Tartan synthetic tracks. Jim Hines took the Gold in the 100m wearing ‘Azteca’.

The ‘Mexicana’ was the official adidas training shoe of the Olympic games. Like the Azteca the shoe was finished in gold colour with its suede upper. The model is based on the earlier Gazelle shoe with a microcell technology sole.

Tokyo 1964

The Games were held in Asia for the first time and it was an opportunity for Japan to rebuild its reputation and show its economic progress to the world following on from the Second World War. The flame bearer was chosen as he was born on the day the atomic bomb exploded in Hiroshima – and marked a call for world peace. Japan invested heavily in stadia, facilities and transport networks to welcome guests. Tokyo was also the first Games to be telecast internationally.

The Athletes

British runner Ann Packer set a World Record in the 800m despite never having run that distance competitively before. USA Runner Bob Hayes won the 100m equalling Armin Hary’s World Record time. Peter Snell of New Zealand took golds in the 800m and 1500M finals wearing adidas. The USA finished top of the table with 90 Medals [36 Gold].

Adidas at the Olympics

Onsitsuka Tiger were the official sponsor of the Japan Athletic team, the Dassler’s had first come across the brand at the previous games. Once again adidas and PUMA went head to head to compete for the best athletes, with adidas having the advantage of being the official outfitters of the German Olympic Team. Horst could boast 80% of athletes wore adidas and a medal count of 33 Gold, 34 Silver and 32 Bronze.

The Shoes

The ‘Tokyo 64’ was another Adi secret weapon. Adidas kept their best competition models under wraps until just before an event, in fear of competitors copying their designs. Adi first tested kangaroo suede as an upper in 1963 and the material allowed for an even lighter shoe. The shoe has an ergonomically positioned spike plate and the lengths of spikes could be interchanged depending upon the conditions of the race. New padding and foot form were also utilized - to make the most state of the art track shoe to date. Mike Larrabee, Bob Hayes, Billy Mills and Ann Packer all took Gold wearing the Tokyo 64.

The ‘Olympiade’ (later called ‘Olympia’) really is the beginning of the modern training shoe. From a technical point of it features everything;- a new ‘Olympia’ sole with midsole cushioning encased in rubber foxing, a built in arch support, a strengthened heel support and additional padding around the ankle. Like the ‘Tokyo 64’ Adi kept the shoe a secret until just before the Games.

Rome 1960

The Event

Rome had been chosen as the location for the 1908 Games, but the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1906 had averted public funding to cover the damage to the city of Naples caused by the Volcano – the Games were moved to London instead.

The Athletes

German Athlete Armin Hary set an Olympic Record time of 10.2 in the 100m, switching to PUMA from adidas just before the race. Adidas could claim success with Wilma Rudolph ‘The Black Gazelle’ who took three golds in track events. A young Muhammad Ali took gold in the boxing and would later sign for adidas and become one of the brands most celebrated athletes. The USSR once again topped the medal charts with 103 Medals [43 Gold].

Adidas at the Olympics

Horst was again charged with promoting the brand at the event and could boast that 75% of the competing athletes wore adidas, winning 31 Gold, 29 Silver and 26 Bronze Medals. However, PUMA had latched onto adidas’ tactics and pushed their shoes at the Olympic village. Armin Hary famously accepted a hidden cash payment (forbidden under IOC rules) to swap from adidas to PUMA in his victory, thereby setting a precedent for future athletes and events.

The Shoes

In 1960 Armin Hary (at the time still running for adidas) set a World Record of 10.0 seconds in Zürich wearing the shoe called ’10.0’. Adi secretly developed a new sprint shoe for Rome called the ‘9,9’. Made of kangaroo leather and lighter than ever [less than 5 oz], with improved cushioning, form fitting and with wider spikes. The shoe was an instant hit (even without Armin’s help) and was still being used by top athletes at the next Games.

The ‘Rom’ (together with its sister shoe the ‘Italia’) was the standard adidas training model for the 1964 games, handed out to athletes in the Olympic village. It could be used for all purpose training and leisure but was also suited to indoor sports. The original was made of white elk leather with blue stripes and with a porocrepe sole. The shoe would be one of the brands most popular for decades, going through several updates of the sole unit. With thanks again the archive team for this picture of the original version.

Melbourne 1956

The Event

The first Games to be held outside of Europe or the Americas and planning started not without concern. The equine events had to be held in Stockholm due to Australian animal quarantine laws and funding for the building of stadia and facilities was not released by the government. The IOC threatened to move the games to Italy which pushed forward development and when the games actually began they were played in good spirits.

The Athletes

Australia dominated swimming events picking up 14 medals. The USA were the most successful track team led by the ‘San Antonio Bullet’ Bobby Morrow (and shod in adidas) taking Gold in the 100 and 200m. Athletes from East and West Germany competed in a combined team, a decision which was carried forward until 1968 Olympics. The Soviet Union led the medal table with 98 medals [37 gold].

Adidas at the Olympics

At the 1952 Helsinki Games Adi himself had infiltrated the Olympic compound posing as a track coach to get close to the athletes and get them to try his shoes, achieving great success. The process was repeated in Melbourne by Adi’s son Horst. Only 20 years of age, he was selected because of his English language skills and proved to be more than able, forging long lasting bonds with coaches and athletes, some of whom would rise to become powerful figures in sports over the next few decades. The market was still relatively new and athletes were happy to accept the gifts of new sports shoes - especially such excellently crafted ones. As amateurs they were forbidden to receive payment for competing and many had to fund equipment out of their own budgets. Endorsement payments, sponsorship and shoe contracts had yet to come into play. When the games ended adidas could count 25 Gold, 23 Silver and 24 Bronze in their victories.

The Shoes

The ‘Melbourne’ was specially designed for the games and was adidas’ lightest track spike. Adi had been experimenting with kangaroo leather in the build up to the games due to its suppleness, elastic properties and sweat resistance, it was merely a coincidence that the animal which provided the material for the upper was native to Australia! The shoe also featured four granite spikes and improvements to the heel and tongue. An instant hit, the shoe provided many medals and its white upper with green stripes were really eye catching in photos.

The Pik Ass [Ace of Spades] training shoe was introduced in 1951, but was still a popular model in 1956 amongst athletes. Adidas could modify the shoe for different sporting disciplines. The shoes in this picture are from the adidas archive and were used by Harold Vincent Connolly to win Gold in the Discus.


I’m taking a brief look back at some of the Olympic Games and some of the shoes produced for the event by adidas. The Games was a premier event for adidas to showcase its new products and build the brands reputation, particularly during the companies early era where the product focus was entirely on sports shoes for athletes – no textiles, no apparel, no focus on the leisure and the market was still product driven rather than consumer driven. Worldwide media coverage ensured massive potential for promotion for the major sports brands and the competition between them was at its most aggressive and costly in the build up to and during the event.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Did you Know?

Did you know that Adi Dassler never travelled outside of Europe? Hard to believe that the boss of the worlds biggest shoe company never did, but it's true. Dassler was most at home surrounded by his family, co-workers and athletes. He shunned the limelight, avoiding press conferences, functions and public appearances - leaving those tasks up to others in his company. Actually he had planned to visit the USA in 1978, but never lived to make the trip. His daughter found his U.S. visa in his personal papers shortly after he passed away aged 77.

Laces Out is back! Saturday 19th November, Camp & Furnace, Liverpool. Put it in the diary.

Check this link for updates

Last years was great fun and a few of us got together to have a stall.

We had vintage and re-issues for sale and had a great day. We will back this year with more stock so come and have a chat and grab some shoes.

My Collection - adidas Ibiza

Another shoe which is somewhat of a rarity and I doubt whether people are going to go crazy over it - but I like the design, which is a little different from your typical adidas model. Adidas themselves clearly saw something they liked in the design also, as it was re-issued in various colourways in 2006 (albeit with a different sole), although the original was always white or blue. The Ibiza was actually a Norwegian creation which gives me chance to talk a little bit about Gjøvik Skofabrik.

In 1956 adidas signed their first  manufacturing licence agreement when they made a deal with Odd Onsrud who owned Gjøvik Skofabrik (Gjøvik Shoe factory). The Onsrud family had been making shoes and work boots since 1916 and had expanded into ski boots and running shoes. They clearly saw the potential of licencing Adi's designs and manufacturing them in Norway. Onsrud was even allowed to put his own brand name 'Jette' on the products. The vast majority of licencing agreements adidas signed were with countries outside of Europe, so it would seem a bit odd to sign one on virtually their doorstep. In fact with the exception in the late 50s of an agreement with a company called 'Berma' for the French market (which was soon rescinded in favour of an adidas controlled subsidiary) there was no other European manufacturing licence awards. But the agreement was a product of its time - in the middle 50s the adidas export was only a small department, run by Kathe Dassler with only a few employees - as exports made up only a fraction of their sales in comparison to the domestic market. In fact you could still place individual orders with adidas at the time, so an athlete (in say Canada) could write to adidas and request the deliver of a single shoe! Adidas was still feeling its way in the market, growing steadily, before rapidly expanding in size during the 1960s. Even the concept of allowing Onsrud to write 'Jette' on the side of the shoes is a concept which wouldn't have even been considered a decade on, as the brands shoes virtually sold themselves by then.

Gjøvik Skofabrik was to manufacture adidas shoes under licence until 1986, with the distribution part of the agreement (known as Adinor) continuing until the early 2000s. Although adidas was produced in a state of the art factory in Gjøvik, they only produced select lines of shoes, with a lot of their range supplemented by products from the Austrian and French factories.

One of the select line was of course the 'Ibiza' which does not appear to have a direct equivalent manufactured by any of the other factories. As far as I can tell the shoe was introduced in 1979 and produced until 1986 (at least in Norway). Described as a light, comfortable and fashionable leisure shoe, the leather finish is actually aniline which gives it a high grade look and feel. The sole unit has a microcell hexagonal pattern encased in a rubber foxing like on a Gazelle, but the upper is completely different. Aside from being leather, a row of  perforation holes have been inserted in between the stripes and the leather overlay on the toe extends from the lacestay to the foxing in a very wide pattern. Actually this style of toe piece has more in common with PUMA, in fact it was one of their (almost trademark) looks in their 70s training style design.

Puma wide overlays were a common feature in their 70s designs.

I mentioned earlier that the model was also made in blue, but I've never actually seen a blue pair so if anyone has one then please get in contact. I also mentioned that the shoe was produced until 1986 in Norway (I reckon my pair date from around this time), but it's also worth saying that an Austrian version exists which look like they were made around 1987-88. They are virtually the same but have an adidas 'word plate' built into the side of the lacestay like the design on the 'Samba Super'. I think probably the Austrian factory made the shoe exclusively for the Norwegian market.

I've just got time to throw a picture of this brilliant adidas 'Jette' bag from Morten Lundstein's collection. He sent this picture to me years ago for an article I was writing for a Facebook page which sadly never happened. Sorry mate, but here it is now! Morten told me the zip on the bag is made by Mustad, another Gjovik based factory, actually famous for making fishing lures and hooks! I love the little details like this.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

adidas vs PUMA no. 4


Olympic themed today – The Nippon and Tokio were both released for the 1964 Tokyo games as all-purpose training shoes. There both made of cow leather, but have blue uppers with detailing and both have soles which were attached directly onto the upper using a fully automated process, a new method which was introduced in the 1960s to speed up production.

New arrival for me, PUMA Denver runners made in Taiwan from 1987. Hopefully the picture does the talking, but I'm well impressed.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Rio 2016 is here and I’ll be looking back over the history of the games with some articles over the next few weeks, starting with the ‘LA Trainer’.
'Spirit of the Games' was the adidas advertising slogan for the 1984 Games and they produced a range of shoes, textiles and bags to match.

The 1984 Los Angeles Games was certainly a memorable one; - Russia and the Eastern Bloc countries refused to participate in the event in response to the US lead mass boycott of the 1980 Moscow games, Carl Lewis romped home with four gold medals for the States in track events, Zola Budd collided with Mary Decker in the 3000m (causing her to fall and causing much controversy), while Daley Thompson and Sebastian Coe took Gold Medals home for Great Britain. Off the track the battle between adidas and Nike was just as competitive. After a disappointing Montreal Games, Nike viewed the games as theirs, being in their own backyard and giving adidas a bloody nose in the process but I’ll talk about that later in the Games.
The ‘LA Trainer’ is synonymous with the event but actually debuted in 1980 and was manufactured in Germany and Austria. Adidas had a habit of producing models earlier than the occasion to build up interest and sales. From a design point of view the ‘LA Trainer’ is flawless, packing all of the latest technological advancements. As the name suggests it was intended for preparation, with the lighter and sleeker ‘LA Competition’ for event running. The shoe was therefore built with durability and all weather conditions in mind. The upper is made of nylon mesh allowing the foot to breathe and is re-enforced heavily around the ankle, heel and toe. The toe box is the open ‘Racing’ style which improved ventilation but still offered a solid amount of protection from injury. An additional ventilation panel has also been inserted into the sides of the front of the suede. The rubber outsole has slanted studs for shock absorption but it’s the midsole that is most prominent, debuting the famous ‘Vario Shock Absorption’ system.
A row of three holes in the midsole allowed different shock absorption rods (commonly called ‘pegs’) to be inserted into the shoe offering different levels of cushioning. The runner could change the pegs using a key to suit their own body weight, running style or running surfaces. The Vario system would go on to be used on some of adidas’s most cherished models including the ‘Grand Slam’, ‘Kegler Super’, ‘SRS’ and ‘Columbia’ but it all started with the ‘LA Trainer’.
The Austrian made 'LA Super' from 1987. One of the few 'LA Trainer' variants.

Production carried on until 1987 with only slight modifications, before being relaunched as part of the ‘Originals’ series in 1991 and being manufactured in Croatia, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia throughout the decade. It’s pretty hard to source a vintage pair due the soles material. In case you missed it, adidas have re-released this model recently and I have to say it’s one of their best re-issues of the year.

There is still chance to pick it up from SNS here

Today also sees the release of the LA Trainer Consortium Made in Germany which can be found here