My fascination with GORE-TEX additions to clothing is pretty well documented, but I have a particular interest in the adidas Waterproof. This blog was originally thrown together to cover things other than sports footwear, but because one outlet has closed, you might see a bit more shoe talk on here for the time being. You practically need to earn a suede and rubber PhD to navigate the nuances of the adidas archives. Navy running shoes are all over the 1983-1985 catalogues, but some made a bigger impact than others.
1984’s Waterproof is a truly cult creation on a number of levels — it was barely seen in its day beyond those in the know (especially on UK soil), it was incredibly expensive, and crucially, it had a GORE-TEX lining. Stylistically, the Waterproof looks a lot like the 1983’s New York training shoe (the Dellinger web version and not the alternate version) and its specialist, winterised look and feel made it a contemporary of the SRS (ostensibly, an LA Trainer on steroids) and the towering Jogging All-Round. But whereas those shoes looked like old favourites locked in a garage with the A-Team, the Waterproof was a more subdued looking creation.
Taking it back to 1984, a GORE-TEX coat seemed state-of-the-art, but on a shoe it seemed downright exotic. The GORE-TEX booty that brought the membrane material to shoes was honed by outdoor design pioneers like Willie Sacre and officially launched in 1982. The new breed of trainer-hikers took advantage of the technology (Nike’s 1982 Approach boot was an early creation using the insert), but I can’t ascertain who debuted it in a runner, though I suspect that the Waterproof was the first (and adidas marketing materials of the time say it was). It was the perfect accompaniment to an Allzweckanzug Athen GORE-TEX tracksuit too.
If it looked the same as a New York, down to the ADISORB insole, why was this winter runner so expensive? Membrane lasting is more complex than just Strobel or board lasting, so it costs. Water repellent leather costs. GORE-TEX membrane costs. The standards the GORE-TEX brand demands cost. Seam sealing costs. Untypical lasting methods cost. The gusset tongue (a lot of contemporary shoes at trend level forget this part in their quest for GORE-TEX branding) added more material, which, once again, costs a little bit more.
Those paying attention at the time single out the Waterproof and the Zelda (a ghilly-laced, Reebok Classic looking creation that can almost certainly never be reissued under its original name) for their near mythical status at the time. The Waterproof certainly seemed to get more of a push. Post 1985 (and images, as seen below, of a pair from an Austrian catalogue, include lettering down the stripes), the Waterproof was gone. 1985’s GORE-TEX lined Tokio seemed to replace it, with its more technical look and option of an All-Round style high variation. But in 2006, adidas Originals dropped a Waterproof reissue, with the addition of a small metal GORE-TEX badge on the upper (not present on the original, but cooler looking and presumably part of the licensing deal). After selling out, that retro started commanding some eBay prices akin to some hype fodder of the time with significantly less substance.
In an early conversation with Gary Aspden about the SPEZIAL line (which, I believe, had a different project name at the time), my first question to him was, “Will there be a Waterproof?” The answer is yes — a Waterproof SPZL in an appropriately moody grey and white modelled on the second volume of the SPEZIAL book is part of the second collection (with a water resistant leather toe rather than the suede of the original). I admire the nods to leisure designs and minimal, narrow-fitting rarities in the original SPEZIAL line, but I’m just not northern enough to appreciate them (having a Scottish mum doesn’t count). This one, limited to 1,000 pairs, is my kind of shoe. The £185 price tag is no joke though, so I fired some questions at Gary before he goes on the campaign trail once again, to talk 3-stripes with the media.
Q&A WITH GARY ASPDEN
GARY 1: Gary, what’s the impetus for including the Waterproof in the SPEZIAL line?
GARY 2: It’s a favourite of mine. They epitomise everything that is great about adidas footwear both in their design and function. They were at the forefront of footwear innovation when they were originally released. There is nothing in their design that doesn’t have good reason to be there.
Did you ever see the shoe on sale back in the mid 1980s or know anybody who had it?
I didn’t…I asked Gary Watson who I work with on the graphics for SPEZIAL the same question. I was hoping he would know something as he went abroad a number of times on trips to get adidas when I was still at school and is a bit older than me but he didn’t know anyone. I asked Paul Fox who has worked for JD Sports since the mid 80s and is a dedicated Birmingham supporter – he said there was only one person he knew who owned a pair back then was Dave Makin from JD (Dave also owned a pair of adidas Zelda). I have had a couple of older lads from Merseyside pop up on Twitter since we announced the SPEZIAL Waterproof reissue who said that they had owned them in 1984 and I am inclined to believe them as they are not messers. There were a few older scousers who showed up at the Manchester SPEZIAL who were specifically asking after Zelda and Waterproof. They were the best shoes in the market at that time — and that was reflected in the price point which in turn limited the amount of them that ended up on the shelves.
Do you think some of the shoe’s core appeal in this country was down to our bad weather as much as it was the rarity?
The adidas Waterproof became the stuff of legend, I guess because of its rarity, look and price. It’s like the yellow soled Forest Hills — speaking to people who worked for adidas in the UK in the late 1970s there was only one place in England they were available and that was Liverpool and they only ever had 400 pairs. No doubt a handful of people picked them up in the continent but it was the 1982 version with the white sole that I used to see around. I remember people talking about a mythical yellow soled Forest Hills but I never physically saw a pair until the reissue in 1999.
What’s the appeal of GORE-TEX to you? It sounds very exotic and always seems to represent a premium price.
It does imply value but it also suggests practicality. I grew up in an area where it rains a lot and spent much of my childhood getting soaked in Gloverall duffel coats and Polar Gear jackets. When the local Camping shop in Blackburn began stocking GORE-TEX anoraks they must have known immediately that they were onto a winner. It attracted a whole new audience to their store. The shop owners soon realised that they needed to improve their security after those appeared on the racks. Whilst I am a fan of it my love of waterproof fabrics isn’t limited to GORE-TEX — the organic ETA we have used in the Haslingden jacket is Swiss made and its water repellent qualities are mind blowing.
This time you never made any modifications to it, whereas every other shoe in the line seems to get a subtle change. Why was that?
All the components were available and the upper specifications of the previous 2006 reissue were true to the original shoe. Sometimes I choose to go for hybrids because of limitations on what tooling for the soles is in existence (creating new moulds for sole units that don’t currently exist is VERY costly). Sometimes this creates a scenario where we improve on the original shoe. I own a pair of vintage adidas Sevilla leisure shoes that were the inspiration for the Albrecht SPZL and the sole they used on those vintage shoes just isn’t right for 2015 although that upper with a few tweaks to the specs is still relevant so I wanted to give them a reappraisal. I am very happy that people are also excited about that shoe.
Did you try to alter the Waterproof at any point? Like put the upper on another sole unit like the other versions of the New York or the Boston?
No — it’s a great shoe and the moulds for the sole unit existed so the only thing I wanted to play with was the colour way.
That price tag is heavy — why is that?
The price tag appears heavy if you don’t know what has gone into building the shoe. adidas Waterproof were had an RRP of 155DM in the German catalogue in 1984. 155DM in 1984 = £63, however, you have to bear in mind the fact that adidas shoes in Germany at that time were significantly cheaper than in the UK, hence why so many entrepreneurs in the north west were going over there and buying up van loads to resell here. Considering that in Germany at that time adidas Dublin and adidas Hamburg were going for around 21DM, it puts it into perspective.
When we decided to go with the Waterproof SPZL we were faced with a choice — do we compromise the original construction (seam sealed GORE-TEX membrane/waterproof leather/gusset tongue/etc) to get the price down or do we keep the construction authentic and charge a much higher price than the rest of the shoes in the collection (as it was the first time around)? We opted for the latter and I stand by that. The adidas Waterproof was a super expensive shoe in 1984 and for good reason. I remember a running shoe by another company called Odyssey were £60 in 1984, they were the most expensive shoe on the wall of Gibsons Sports in Blackburn and they didn’t have anything like the technology that went into the hard to find adidas Waterproof. The distribution is very tight on the adidas Originals x SPEZIAL range as it is and with the price point on this particular shoe the retailers have been reasonably cautious so we haven’t ended producing many pairs at all. It’s a shoe for dedicated adidas connoisseurs — the Waterproof always has been I guess.
Images of the aforementioned Zelda are below, because if you made it this far, you’re probably a fan: