Long before A$AP and adidas crossed paths, the connection between Rocky and the three-stripes helped pave the way for hip-hop history. After Nike endorsed Stallone in 1982’s Rocky III, adidas had made friends with the Italian Stallion in subsequent years , leading up to the fourth chapter. Before the strange bit where it claims that he discovered Run-D.M.C. breakdancing in the mid 1980s (probably not true — b-boying was never their forte and they’d put out an album by 1984), Barbara Smit’s Pitch Invasion is a great source of information on “Mr. adidas” himself Angelo Anastasio. the entertainment promotion man behind that pioneering footwear deal. Anastasio went from a mid 70s pro with New York Cosmos to the Ferrari-driver schmoozing around Hollywood. From Paulie’s robot (after Paulie went from violent woman beating drunk to loveable oaf in line with the franchise’s increased shine) to Vince DiCola’s War — a composition capable of getting a pacifist pumped enough to put their fists through a kebab shop window —it’s understandable that this heavy-handed red menace tale is a fan favourite (I’m a Clubber Lang man myself). I can’t help but think that the only thing more 1980s than Rocky IV, is the thought of Anastasio making power moves around 1985 on the streets of Los Angeles? The world needs a documentary on that pre-Yeezy heyday of entertainment marketing.
We watermark crew members might be too cheap to pay to get our Getty shots unlabelled, but some images need to be shared. I won’t apologise for my relentless sports store nostalgia, and these 1984 shots of respected investigative reporter Armen Keteyian posing in a branch of Athlete’s Foot for a Sports Illustrated story photographed by Lane Stewart. There’s a beauty to those early 1980s walls, seeing as the majority of the stock has made multiple comebacks, but this one is a real beauty — 990s, Campus, Lavers, Air Forces, Grand Slams, Equators, Internationalists and Challenge Courts all seem to be present. As far as ageless design goes, it never got much better than this era. Flawless stock. Thousands of great shoes followed, but they were never future proofed like this display of masterpieces.
On the subject of watermarked imagery, this footage of skaters at South Bank from the 1970s via The Kino Library is gold. It’s devoid of audio, but you can open up another tab and play Back Street Kids by Black Sabbath or something similar to give it extra energy. Given the close call this historical area had over the last couple of years, this kind of thing is extra important. Plus, it was Go Skateboarding Day this weekend, which makes this extra timely.
I’m late with the updates because I’ve exiled myself to NYC for a week as penance for running an online store into the ground. Actually, I’m here on a holiday. That means I’m not keeping my eyes open for product or any releases, but a few things caught my eye. Will Robson-Scott is one of my favourite photographers and filmmakers — he’s technically great, but he’s curious when it comes to exploring the harder side of life too — I think that fearlessness when it comes to his personal projects sets him apart from the rest. The In Dogs We Trust series was created in partnership with Ollie Grove and explores human relationships with our canine buddies (which is beautifully depicted in Will’s John and George), the age-old belief that they look like their owners. Shot across several cities — from London to LA – it’s being published by Victory Editions this March as an edition of 500. I’m hoping it’ll be kicking off with a gallery show of pooches and their human buddies. This is everything I want in a book and there’s more information here.
The most amusing stories around signature shoes like the Air Jordan don’t come via the people who wore them and want to remind us, in tiresome fashion, how they saved/begged/skated a pair…whatever. Who cares? Every thirtysomething has a Jordan shoe story of one kind of another, even if they hated them. No. the best stuff comes from the behind-the-scenes hustles, and Sonny Vaccaro (who was meant to be played by James Gandolfini in an HBO film that never got produced) was at the heart of getting kids signed by any means necessary. The sports marketeer who pioneered a new breed of shoe promotions that made the canvas and rubber wheeler-dealing of old seem ultra-archaic is getting an ESPN 30 for 30 that’s full-length, but broken into online only chapters for a digital debut. Sole Man premieres on April 6th via Grantland and the Jordan Effect episode about the 1984 Nike deal promises, “…a Hollywood story that features secret phone calls, a six-figure check, a mansion in Oregon, and a plate of ribs at a Tony Roma’s restaurant in Santa Monica.”
Finding out the inside story of how LeBron ended up at Nike over adidas (beyond the monetary one-upmanship) should be interesting too. This talk at Duke from a few years back is a good Vaccaro primer before Sole Man screens.
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:
Sometimes an image is so good that it renders any text obsolete. Snoopy in the legendary Gucci Tennis from the book to coincide with 1984’s Japanese Snoopy in Fashion exhibition is a perfect case study. Idea Books Instagrammed it this morning and made my day. Even better than Donald Duck in Timbs. Speaking of wheat workboots, a couple of good promo print projects arrived in the post this week — Oi Polloi’s always excellent Pica~Post is back with some extra metal, an interview with Patagonia Alpine Outerwear Christian Regester and Mr. Gary Aspden (it’s heartening to see the low-key looks of the SPEZIAL Ardwick become an object of desire in a world where the same old Technicolor yawns get eBay bids) who really, really went on the campaign trail for his labour of love after years of not doing too many Q&As — Next’s role in casual culture, a picture of Gary with a spaniel and a Preston b-boy crew called Mystic Force makes this amazing. The increasingly prolific David Hellqvist (aka. the Baron) has done a good job with the Document project on the Timberland topic — there’s fashion talk in there, design talk and a really good conversation between my friends Nick Schonberger and Ronnie Fieg on the topic of the brand and its connection to NYC that I loved (sample quote: “Chris Webber used to buy 15 pairs of Timberland at a time”). That’s the kind of insight I want to read when we’re talking about brands that I’m smitten with.
The Manchester exhibition has finished now (but it’s heading to Paris), but the SPEZIAL project gave me a welcome excuse to chat with Gary Aspden — a man who bleeds adidas blue — on record, because I always fail to document our discussions. It was heartening to see the project succeed, because it’s a perfect case study in distilling a brand’s appeal and giving the diehards what they want rather than shape shifting the offerings to cater to a fickle customer. This interview ran on 032c.com (an appropriately Germanic outpost) a few days ago. Alongside the unveiling of the unreleased John Carpenter soundtrack compilation (complete with an excellent-looking website) and the trailer for the Music Nation Open Mic documentary by Ewen Spencer (based on his adidas-affiliated book), plenty of labours of love seem to be coming to life. It’s a good time to be a nerd.
Was the trip to a store in Argentina in the film more than just a video opportunity?
GARY: I was just beginning the look for the second season of SPEZIAL when we went to Argentina. Now I buy vintage pieces and archive them — there’s pieces I’m sitting on now that might not make an appearance for another four seasons — and I don’t know how long SPEZIAL’s going to run for either because the decision isn’t in my hands — but what Argentina was about was amassing products for research purposes, but also for finding interesting footwear to enhance what we were doing with SPEZIAL Manchester. What it does is enhance context — it helps to communicate the philosophy of the collection. It says a lot about the person curating the collection because, let’s face it, for anyone that’s a hardcore adidas fanatic, that trip is something we dream about. It shows that the collection has genuine roots, speaks for our mindset and if you’re going to say something’s archive-inspired, show me how you got from A to B. I wanna know! I don’t like to see stories attached to products unless they’re authentic. It starts and ends with product. The marketing stuff is the icing on the cake — the magic dust — but if the product isn’t fundamentally right, it’s unnecessary.
adidas was still broken into some rogue regional licenses until relatively recently — was Argentina the the last adidas license holder?
I think it was either Argentina or South Korea. Japan’s license ended in 1998. In Argentina the license holder held on to the death and when adidas started its three divisional structure in 2001, they needed to clear up adidas Originals. In 1999, when I started, there was no trefoil clothing available over here. They’d rinsed it out in the mid 1990s with Britpop so they just weren’t doing it at all, but they were doing it in America for some reason. So I was doing swaps. I’d go to adidas global marketing meetings looking out for people from licensee countries so I’d send them something signed by a band and they might send me a box of adidas New York made under license for Argentina.There was no system internally and you couldn’t order from the licensed countries so I used to do this bartering and trading.
Now you can buy the same thing everywhere. Those differences had a certain charm.
There weren’t global brands then like you see now. You don’t see so much branded clothing on people in the 1960s and 1970s. adidas was an early global brand, so licensees was probably a good way of getting out there. Then the money men realised that it wasn’t that cost-effective, so they wanted to centralise. I’m sure money men would see me as a hopeless romantic. There’s a generation who think that 1980s adidas was the ultimate sportswear — you had the ZX series, the city series…in adidas’s history it’s seen as a difficult time for the company. Karl-Heinz Lang, who worked as a developer for Adi Dassler, used to roll his eyes when you mentioned the city series. He worked on the development of the Marathon TR in the late 1970s and those city series shoes were just done to make money for licensees. adidas’s commitment to performance was way ahead of those gum-soled city shoes.Things like the adidas Waterproof and Zelda were pushing the envelope.
The rest of the interview is OVER HERE.
I hoard books on certain subjects. Inevitably, I’ve amassed an amount of sportswear-related publications that’s a little embarrassing. Being a nerd when it comes to that subject I’d found myself discussing the lack of a solid tome on the subject of Reebok. After all, the brand that Joseph William Foster created was one that led during a lion’s share of the 1980s, and its cross trainers and basketball shoes circa 1987 were expensive status symbols that pushed me into the industry I’m in right now. Having missed out on the recent London Reebok exhibition, I assumed I missed out on something decent, but the brand book they put together with Tangent Design is excellent. Discussing everything that makes the brand interesting, I haven’t seen a lot of coverage on this part of the project, so I expected it to be underwhelming, but at 206 pages, it’s a good accompaniment to the vast 2012 adidas book (a serious precedent, that like this one, seemed to be strictly promo-only) and necessary if you geek out over old stuff and obscure logos. I’m jealous that I never wrote the ‘FOR THE MOTIONALLY UNSTABLE…‘ ad too. I’ve never necessarily associated Reebok with blue suede, but it makes for a nice cover fabric too. I’m guessing that, as is the case with several similar projects, image rights, names and all the other stuff that can slow a project down, means that this one is destined to be strictly promo. That means that there’s a decent book for all the key brands out there now, though I’d happily pay for a 300+ page history of Troop’s rise and rumour-led fall.