At the time of its release, who knew that the adidas Superstar would go on to stand for so many things? Originally a low-top basketball shoe, the sneaker's revolutionary design quickly spread throughout the professional and college ranks, making it one of the top performance models of the early 1970s. As hip-hop and the culture surrounding it started to explode in the '80s, the sneaker took an an entirely different meaning and purpose.
So how did the adidas Superstar become so popular and stay that way? Click through the slides for a timeline of notable events in the shoe’s history.
Stephen Fiorentine is a freelance writer from Long Island. He loves his New York Giants and Yankees, as well as Cool Ranch Doritos. Follow him on Twitter.
adidas Introduces the Superstar
As a low-cut version of the Pro Model basketball shoe, adidas introduced the Superstar in 1969. At the time of its release, the Superstar was the first low-top basketball shoe to feature an all leather upper and rubber shelltoe. The shelltoe, of course, would go on to become the sneaker's signature feature, earning the sneakers the nickname "shell tops" in footwear circles.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Puts the adidas Superstar On the Map
As we saw with the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star and Wilt Chamberlain, great on-court performances are the best way to drum up hype for a sneaker. During the 1970-71 season, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar averaged 31.7 pointers per game in taking home his first of six NBA MVP awards. His shoe of choice? The adidas Superstar, of course. Credited with putting the shoe on the map, over 75 percent of the NBA followed Kareem's lead by lacing up the Superstar within the first few years of the sneaker's existence. The following year, Jabbar would become adidas' first-ever signature athlete when the brand released the Jabbar, which actually adorned Kareem's likeness on the tongue.
Pistol Pete Makes a Fashion Statement
With his droopy socks and pair of adidas Superstars, "Pistol" Pete Maravich was amongst the first players to make an on-court fashion statement. Pistol was already famous for making the Pro-Keds cool, which he rocked earlier in his career but later switched to the Superstar. If it weren't for Maravich and his droopy socks, signature accessories like Iverson's shooting sleeve or Lebron's headband may not even be a thing today.
Run-D.M.C. Starts Wearing the adidas Superstar on Stage
The adidas Superstar would reach iconic status in hip-hop culture largely in part because of Run-D.M.C. Beginning in 1983, the trio out of Hollis, Queens began dressing on-stage like they did on the streets. Included in the group's get-up were adidas tracksuits to go along with the Superstars. Run-D.M.C.'s signature look included rocking the Superstars without any laces with the tongue pushed out, triggering many fans to emulate the style.
The adidas Superstar Becomes a Hit With B-Boys
Just like Run-D.M.C., B-Boys had their own way of rocking the adidas Superstar. Rather than wearing no laces, the B-Boys went in an opposite direction and work extra thick laces that usually matched the color of the adidas three stripe branding on the side of the sneaker. This look would go on to become known as the "fat laces" look.
Dr. Deas Speaks Out Against the adidas Superstar
As the adidas Superstar's popularity in hip-hop culture grew, Dr. Gerald Deas recorded a single called "Felon Sneakers," which, like the title suggests, condemned the shoes and the negative connotation they took on. In the song, Deas talks about the sneakers with "fat laces" that B-Boys and Run-D.M.C. made popular.
Run-D.M.C. Records "My adidas"
Allegedly in response to Dr. Deas' criticism of the sneaker they helped make popular, Run-D.M.C. included the song "My adidas" on their third studio album titled Raising Hell. Produced by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, the single's popularity amongst fans would earn the group a $1.5 million endorsement deal with adidas, as the Three Stripes began releasing a line of shoes with trio's logo on them.
Missy Elliott Inks an Endorsement Deal with adidas
Years after Run-D.M.C.'s reign atop hip-hop, adidas ensured that the Superstar would remain prominent in the rap community by signing Missy Elliott to an endorsement deal. In addition to releasing her own Superstar, Missy can be seen sporting adidas apparel and sneakers in many of her trendsetting videos.
The adidas Superstar is included in Grand Theft Auto III
When the smash hit video game Grand Theft Auto III came to the PC, it included a version of Claude wearing the adidas Superstar. The sneaker would be included in later entries of the series, including Vice City, Liberty City Stories, Vice City Stories and Grand Theft Auto IV.
adidas Continues to Collaborate with Artists on the Superstar
Following in the footsteps of their deals with Run-D.M.C. and Missy Elliott, adidas continues to work with the most creative artists out today, such as Rita Ora, who designed her own addias Superstar for the Three Stripes. With a rumored Pharrell Williams Superstar collab on the way, look for the sneakers to stay relevant in popular culture for years to come.