The Adidas Stan Smith may hold claim to being the most famous sneaker design of all time. It’s certainly one of the most easily recognisable. And of course, it’s one of the simplest – it’s the standard-bearer for classy white trainers, the benchmark by which all other minimal sneakers are judged against.
Unlike many of the most sought-after trainers today, which rely on hype and limited product runs to generate interest, the Stan Smith is something of an everyman. It’s far from rare – walk down any high street and you’re bound to see a pair or two, and it’s not favoured exclusively by any particular style tribe.
Everyone wears them – they’re the blank canvas you can style in your own way, unlike shoes such as the Triple S, which dominate a look. Stan Smiths also have the heritage, an unrivalled sporting pedigree that only furthers their appeal.
The History Of Stan Smiths
“Adidas Robert Haillet”. It doesn’t have much of a ring to it, but it’s what the Stan Smiths were originally called. Adidas’ new leather tennis shoe was introduced in 1965 and the German brand turned to French tennis professional Robert Haillet to endorse it, which of course he did.
The shoe’s simple design means they can be worn with anything
But, when he retired, Adidas needed to find a new face, which is where Stan Smith came in. Yes, the smiling illustration on the shoe’s tongue is actually a real person. Smith was a rising star in the late ’60s and early ‘70s and was the perfect athlete for Adidas to align itself with. The American won Wimbledon in 1972 while wearing his eponymous shoes – the perfect five-set advert for Adidas in its quest to dominate court style.
And of course it did. Stan Smiths proved immensely popular both on the court and off. Their comfort and hard-wearing leather helped with performance, and the simple design made them easy to wear with virtually anything. With time they attained a cult status and, when the 2000s rolled around Adidas had already been name-checked by RUN-DMC in their song My Adidas (although they favoured the Superstar model), and Jay-Z.
The Adidas branding is subtle and well executed
Two points worth noting: Adidas purposefully stopped producing Stan Smiths completely for 2012 and 2013. The idea was to generate a ‘want factor’ from shoppers, which worked when they came back to the market in 2014 with a host of collaborations to further generate hype – A$AP Rocky, Pharrell and Kanye all famously wore them.
Secondly, Stan Smith the man gets royalties on every pair of Stan Smiths sold. Just to clarify, that’s over 50 million pairs since 1971. Not bad.
What Makes Stan Smiths Great
Quite simply: its simplicity. These are trainers that can quite literally be worn with everything, all because of their minimal design. They’re an exercise in subtle branding, a far cry from the shouty logos many brands are relying on today.
The Stan Smith’s design is nearly half a century old
In its most classic colour way, there is very little colour at all. An all-white leather upper is paired with an off-white rubber sole and grass court green on the heel tab and tongue, outlining Smith’s headshot. Then there’s the stripes, which unlike all Adidas shoes before it, are perforated.
How To Wear Stan Smiths
Stan Smiths are a natural pairing to suitably minimal outfits – think monochrome colours, overshirts, selvedge denim and the like. But they’re equally adept at toning down something more lairy. Logo tees, hoodies, cargo trousers, printed shirts, they’re all fair game.
An illustration of Stan Smith has been featured on the tongue since their inception
Try experimenting with tailored looks, too. Opt for some pleated trousers, an unstructured double breasted jacket and a white T-shirt for off-duty suiting done well. Don’t worry about keeping them box fresh; they look better when they’ve been worn-in a bit. Just avoid the tennis court – their looks may have aged well in the past 50 years, but the technology has had its day.
Our Favourite Colourways
The shoes pictured cost £90.00 and are available from Mr Porter