When they’re not looking to the future for bold new footwear concepts, sneaker brands have a habit of trawling the past for inspiration. Typically, this results in the resurgence of modest, easy-to-wear styles from a simpler time in shoe design. Think the Stan Smith or the Reebok Classic.
More recently, however, maximalism has taken over. Now this trend-recycling approach tends to mean reviving some fluorescent, elephantine monstrosity from the peak of 1990s sportswear exuberance and slapping it with Gen Z-friendly name. Which is exactly why the release of the Adidas Continental in 2018 came as such a breath of fresh air.
Rebranded as the ‘Continental 80’, this was a plain, unassuming tennis shoe that went against every trend in contemporary sneaker design. And yet there it was, flying off shelves quicker than you could say ‘Balenciaga Triple S’.
It was a masterclass in stylish subtlety and retro restraint, but what exactly made the Continental 80 one of the most popular shoes in recent memory? And where did it come from anyway?
History Of The Adidas Continental 80
The Adidas Continental first hit shelves in the late 1980s – a decade upheld by Three Stripes fanatics as the greatest in the brand’s history. It was crisp, clean and casual – its pristine white uppers punctuated only by a small branded tab and a thin red stripe to the side of each shoe.
Looks-wise, it borrowed more than a little from aerobic footwear staples of the time. Most notably, the shoes of now Adidas-owned, British sportswear brand Reebok. Still, at its core, the Continental was simply an updated version of some of Adidas’ earlier tennis shoes. It offered the same minimalist style, but with updated flexibility and improved performance on the court.
Despite all of this, it failed to make much of a splash when it first landed. That’s until it was re-released as part of the brand’s nostalgia laden ‘Yung Series’ in 2018, to unprecedented success.
The sneakers newfound popularity has been pinned largely on its similarity to the Yeezy Calabasas Powerphase, with some commentators going as far as to claim the Kanye West sneaker was based on it. In actual fact, Ye’s retro-tinged trainer was a simple reimagining of another archive model that originally released around the same time: the Adidas Power Phase (note the space).
The original Power Phase was a high-top athletic shoe that aimed to compete with the hugely popular Reebok Workout. It’s often confused with the Continental, something with has perpetuated the Yeezy rumour. Still, there’s no denying the two do have their visual similarities.
What Makes The Continental 80 Great
When pitted against other Sneaker Hall Of Fame residents, such as the Converse All Star or The Stan Smith, the Continental 80 may appear to lack some of the heritage and historical clout that make these shoes what they are. However, where the Continental makes up is for this in the fact that it was able to cut through a sneaker trend that has been gaining momentum for quite some time.
Sneakers have been getting bigger, brighter and bulkier at an alarming rate for at least three years now. It seemed that classic, pared-back styles had been all but forgotten. The ability of the Continental 80 to shift the attention back onto minimalist, retro kicks is testament to its flawless styling and timeless design.
This humble white sneaker single-handedly overthrew one of the biggest trends we’ve seen in footwear for decades and it did it all in the space of just a few short months.
How To Wear Adidas Continental 80s
Thanks to the Continental 80s simple design, it’s a very easy shoe to style. The perfect day-to-day sneaker, it boasts comfort, versatility and a price tag that won’t leave you flogging organs on the dark web come the end of the month.
For a failsafe weekend look starting from the feet up, pop on a pair of Continental 80s with some cuffed green chinos, white socks and a plain T-shirt. Throw a windbreaker over the top on cooler days and tie things together with an unstructured baseball cap, or a bucket hat if you want to take that retro styling a step further.