Half a Century of Classic Style: The History of the adidas Stan Smith
From tennis shoe to trendsetter, find out how the iconic green and white of a pair of Stans became a style classic.
Close your eyes and think of a classic white sneaker. For many people, it looks something like this: A sleek, timeless, lace-up design with an off-white sole and a pop of green shading on the heel cap and tongue. Synonymous with classic style, an everyday staple of footwear history, the Stan Smith shoe is a true sportswear icon. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the adidas Stan Smith and in the five decades since its release, the shoe has been reimagined, redesigned, and even relaunched. To understand this shoe’s story and its impact in fashion, lifestyle, and culture, we have to rewind to the very beginning to discover its sporting DNA.
The 1960s: A footwear innovation, rooted in sport
“The Stan Smith began life as a tennis shoe originally developed with the French player Robert Haillet in the mid-60s”
From the iconic Superstar to the classic Stan Smith, many of adidas’s most famous creations are rooted in the company’s sporting DNA and its promise to deliver ‘only the best for the athlete’. While the Superstar found its beginnings in basketball, the Stan Smith began life as a tennis shoe, originally developed with the French player Robert Haillet in the mid-60s. Known as the ‘Haillet’, the shoe was designed to improve comfort and breathability. The derby cut leather upper was not only more durable that other tennis shoes on the market, it was also more comfortable – in part thanks to the famous perforated three stripes on the side of the shoe which allowed for air circulation.
The 1970s: Enter Stan the man
Following his retirement in 1971, adidas began looking for a tennis star to replace the big name of Robert Haillet. And, after a fateful meeting with head of adidas France Horst Dassler in 1972, recent Wimbledon champion Stan Smith was ready to (literally) fill the shoes that Haillet had left behind.
“Charismatic, outgoing, and performing at the top of his game, American born Stan Smith was the perfect man for the job.”
Charismatic, outgoing, and performing at the top of his game, American born Stan Smith was the perfect man for the job. As former world number one and 1972 Wimbledon and US Open champion, he’s now considered to be one of the best tennis players of all time, he’s also one of adidas’ most famous and important partners of all time.
Find out more about Stan Smith, the man, in his own words.
In 1973, the first shoes featuring Stan’s name were released, but that didn’t mean Haillet’s legacy was totally forgotten. For the next five years the shoe known as the ‘Stan Smith – Haillet’ would feature the name of both players on the tongue, as well as Stan’s iconic image.
Fun fact: Take a look at the tongue of your Stan Smiths. Now take a look at a photo of Stan. Notice anything different? The image you’ll see on the shoe was taken during the only time in Stan’s adult life when he didn’t have a moustache. In fact, his famous moustache only appears on one special skateboarding edition of the Stan Smith shoe released in the 2000s.
The 1980s – 1990s: The Stan Smith breaks records
It wasn’t until 1978 that adidas dropped ‘Haillet’ from the shoe’s name, and with that began a new era for the Stan Smith. By the 1980s, its popularity as an on-court performance shoe was beginning to wane, but off-court, this was a totally different story.
By 1989, adidas and Stan Smith made their way into the Guinness Book of Records after selling a staggering 22 million pairs. Today that number stands somewhere around 40 million pairs… and rising.
The 2000s – 2010s: Give it a rest
While the success of the Stan Smith looked unstoppable throughout the 90s and into the 2000s, by 2010 the hype around the shoe had begun to shift. The shoe was in need of a rest and refresh, so in 2011, adidas decided to remove the iconic shoe from the market, waiting two years to relaunch this classic style. With a scarcity of Stans on the market, demand was certainly on the rise and by the time the shoe hit stores once more, it was the must-have item.
Relaunched in 2013 for its 40th anniversary, a special edition was designed with 100 limited editions ‘endorsed by’ celebrities to tell their Stan Smith story. From David Beckham to Pharrell William, stars were rocking Stan Smiths. The shoes even made their way into a November 2013 Vogue Paris fashion shoot with the supermodel Gisele Bündchen.
The 2010s – 2020s: A Stan for every occasion
Throughout the 2000s and into the 2020s there have been numerous designs and collaborations centered around the classic Stan Smith. From Raf Simmons and Pharrell Williams, to Stella McCartney, the history of the Stan Smith shoe is as rich as the diversity of designers who have shaped its look over the years. Despite the long list of high fashion names associated with various versions of the shoe, perhaps one of the most famous iterations the Stan Smith was the Disney Kermit the Frog shoe which featured the character’s famous line ‘its not easy being green’ on the heel caps of the shoe.
Other iconic models include the slim and elegant Tuxedo Version from 2008 – perfect for your wedding day – and one of Stan’s favorite pairs, the special edition shoe to commemorate the legendary 1972 Wimbledon final match. Spoiler: It was a match Stan won.
There’s no doubt that the Stan Smith shoe has become an icon among sneakerheads, the shoe has seen so much success that Stan’s most famous quote “Some people think I am a shoe” became the title of a 2018 book launched in collaboration with adidas Originals, Stan Smith, and the adidas archive, to tell the story of the iconic man and the classic shoe.
But story didn’t end there. As adidas began to focus on sustainability in its products, this iconic shoe also got an makeover. In 2021, the first Stan Smith made with at least 50% recycled materials in the upper was released. This was soon followed by the Stan Smith Mylo, which featured uppers partially created using Mylo material. Mylo is made with mycelium, the root-like structure of mushrooms – harnessing natural technologies, billions of years in the making, to shape the future of footwear.
Celebrating our Stanniversary 50 years of the Stan Smith
This icon of shoe has seen many iterations over the years, and at its core lies a great partnership with a man whose name will likely be forever synonymous with a shoe. To celebrate the 50th anniversary, or as we like to call it the Stanniversary, of Stan’s famous Wimbledon victory and the partnership between adidas and the legend that is Stan Smith, in 2022 adidas welcomed Stan to campus for a very special HQ moment with adidas employees. From tennis to sustainability, and the legacy of the Stan Smith shoe, Stan shared his story with the 3-Stripes and what an iconic story it is. Here’s to the next Stanniversary!