Over the years, champions are made and then generations shift, leading to what was once commonplace and at the forefront to just mere legend. These names, synonymous with their iconic silhouettes, have become more well-known for their signature shoes off the court than their achievements on it.
When Stan Smith is mentioned, the white and green comes to mind, not the former world number one American tennis player. The connotations of a Rod Laver is clean and low profile, not the two time complete Grand Slam competition winner.
In this piece we explore how the signatures upon the signature shoes were forged and made into what they have become today.
When growing American Tennis icon, Stan Smith, began wearing the world’s first leather tennis shoes in 1971, they actually featured the name of a former French tennis player. After two successful seasons, with victories at both the US open and Davis cup events in ‘71 and Wimbledon in ’72, the decision was made to officially re-christen the simple white leather silhouette to the Stan Smith and history was written.
Following the name change in 1972 the new Stan Smith sneaker took the stage with Stan’s name gracing the shoe box and his iconic silhouette image, scruffy long hair and all, added to the shoe’s tongue. In 1980, the Stan Smith shoe model really starting picking up steam, with units shipped globally, picking up sub-cultural followings.
These unique styles, along with the Spanish-made oddities featuring a vast collection of Stan Smith shoes with a side-stitched logo, became immediate collectors’ items in ‘90’s Japan. The 90’s saw a resurrection of all things old school, plus a re-emergence of the Stan Smith shoes and the adoption of the shoe as part of street skating’s new wave, which firmly placed the shoe in the lifestyle category. The shoe’s reputation as a classic remained and some different variations on the market, like the Velcro fastening Stan Smith comfort shoe that seemed to hit the Japanese style press with a vengeance in 1997, broadened the offerings.
Over the years, the Stan Smith shoes has been interpreted and reinterpreted with a variety of styles and looks taking the design into a variety of unique iterations, but the classic design of the Stan Smith sneaker has shone through every tweak and modification, and is still as iconic today as it was over 40 years ago.
Famously known for holding the record for most singles titles won in the history of tennis, Rodney George “Rod” Laver was once ranked as World No.1 for seven consecutive years, a feat that would be rarely seen in today’s championship tournaments . He is also the only tennis player, to have ever won the complete Grand Slam competition twice. With such achievements under his belt, it was no wonder that adidas carefully chose him to be a part of their select few representing the brand on the court.
Dubbed “Rocket” by Davis Cup captain Harry Hopman, Laver was also the first player to bank $1 million in prize money, mainly due to his use of a powerful left-hander that constantly won over his opponent. During the 1960s, he dominated the court by winning 17 out the 20 titles he took part in and finally at the start of the 1970's his first signature tennis model was created by the German sportswear brand, adidas.
Consisting of a simple mesh upper, a suede toe guard for durability and a comfortable PU midsole, the super clean adidas took a bold decision not to feature any 3-Stripe branding, and with this became a massive hit both on the and off the court. Its comfort-built structure delivered so perfectly that a new slim-lined version was released at the start of the 90s, celebrating both the classic style and the legend that is “Rod” Laver.
One of handful of players to have won over 100 ATP titles, Ilie Nastase was one of the first professional athletes to sign with adidas. Grand Slam wins at the French and US Opens led Nastase to the world number one spot in 1973 whilst wearing the ever-popular Nastase silhouette.
Renowned for his impeccable feel and touch on the court, the Romanian's temperament was constantly brought into action, making him difficult opponent to face before the game had even started.
So next time you see the shoes, you now know the story about the names behind them.
The latest iterations of the Stan Smith, Rod Laver and Nastase can all be found in our Tournament Edition 3.0
collection, in collaboration with adidas Originals.