Kith Is Bringing Back the Real Adidas 350

A Japanese exclusive from the 1970s, the 350 has a meaningful history amongst Adidas collectors.

Kith Adidas Clarks AS350 Elevation
The Kith x Adidas x Clarks AS350 'Elevation.' Via Kith
Kith Adidas Clarks AS350 Elevation

The Adidas 350 is back. No, not the Yeezy 350. The Adidas AS350, the low-top, flat-soled sneaker that the brand made in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s strictly for the Japanese market. It’s not the first time the sneaker has ever been brought back, but it’s the latest Adidas silhouette used by Kith’s Ronnie Fieg for the wildly popular Adidas x Clarks collaboration. Last year, Adidas, Clarks, and Kith brought their reimagination of the Samba that released to fanfare and was debated amongst the best sneakers of 2023.

Fieg has taken the AS350’s upper, placed it on a thick Clarks crepe sole, and made the shoe exclusive to members of the Kith Loyalty Program. According to a press release on the Kith site, the model uses premium pigskin suede to go with Kith branding the shades of “Elevation” blue.

The sneakers released today exclusively on the Kith app.

The shoes look great. In my personal opinion, it’s the best Kith x Adidas x Clarks shoe that Fieg has done so far. The combination of off-white suede with the violet Three Stripes in a buttery suede is just too good. Also, I personally prefer the 350 to the Samba—but more on that in a bit. Fieg also did a Gazelle Indoor version for this ongoing collaboration earlier this year.

What makes the 350 stand out so much from the plethora of similar Adidas shoes from the same era? It’s the perforated toe box, which is a rarity on suede or leather trainer-style shoes.

But how did we get to where Fieg is now working on this shoe, something that’s virtually unknown to those who aren’t Adidas die-hard collectors?

Adidas Spezial sneakers ad featuring the classic 350 SPZL model with stripe details and gum sole

In Spring/Summer 2016, Gary Aspden and the crew behind Adidas SPZL, the brand’s line that brings back and reinterprets shoes from Adidas’ archive, retroed the 350 for the first time ever.

“The only thing that differs between Adidas 350 SPZL and OG Adidas 350s that were made under license in Japan,” Aspen said of the retro in an interview with Sneakersnstuff, “is that the Spezial version is made of much better leather.”

The white and black leather shoes fit in well with the Spezial collection, which was inspired by the French Riviera and also featured blue and white striped sweaters. When it came to recreating the 350 and the other shoes in Spezial, Aspden told me in a 2016 interview that it was an extremely laborious process.

“We try to work with the toolings that currently exist to keep down our overheads as we try to keep the quantities and distribution on the Adidas Spezial range very tight,” Aspden said. “The next challenge is finding the correct lasts for the uppers. The specification of the uppers are crucial—an adjustment of a few millimeters on the length of an eye stay and depth of a toe box can make a massive difference to how a shoe looks overall. We pay attention to the inside of the shoes, too, including patches and stamped codes to further give that authentic Adidas feel to them.”

The 2016 reissue was the only time 350 would be included in the Spezial range. But it was quickly adopted into the main line of Adidas Originals, something that hadn’t happened before with Spezial sneakers. Adidas released the shoes in a spectrum of colors in 2016. There was a collaboration on the model with Oyster Holdings, the brand ran by Woodie White, a Chicago designer that runs in the same circles as Kanye West, Jerry Lorenzo, and Don C. There was even a Moskva, or “Moscow,” version of the 350 made for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. 

This sneaker made a lot of sense at the time, and not only because of Adidas’ ties to the World Cup. But also because the Adidas Spezial typically catered to the European football casual fans, well-dressed “hooligans” that have a long history of wearing Adidas. They also have a history of importing, stealing, and smuggling the shoes from continental Europe back to the island of Britain as they traveled on football away days. Supporters of clubs like Manchester United and Liverpool would follow their clubs as they played European competition, pilfering footwear, clothes, watches, and money, along the way.

Back in 2016, when I interviewed Aspden, I spent the majority of my out-of-work time supporting the New York Red Bulls. I was a member of the good old GSU, the Garden State Ultras, a group of delinquent soccer supporters from the New York/New Jersey area. For the first away day I ever went on with the boys, to New England, I wore the Adidas 350. I remember walking to the Harrison-bound train station in the shoes with a tote bag packed to the brim with green Stella Artois bottles.

Person standing on pavement holding a blue bag filled with empty wine bottles and a book

A month later, I brought 350s to celebrate my 30th birthday in Manchester, England, with my good friend Jonny Mangas, who was also having his 30th birthday. He set me up with his mate Aidy, a man who served time in prison for football violence, to go see Salford City play in a promotion playoff against Workington. Salford City was a lower league club purchased by former Manchester United players and was the subject of a BBC documentary that was being filmed that day.

As an American, wearing the 350s and a Spezial parka helped me blend in with hardcore football lads I encountered that day on several occasions. Once, the Hull City casuals stormed into a pub where I was having a pint and mistook me for a rival supporter because of how I was dressed. Aidy had brought along two friends of his, Colin Blaney (may God bless his soul) and Hotshot, two of the most notorious Manchester United football hooligans of all time, and—because of what I wore—I wasn’t outed as an outsider. (You can read their stories here and here. If you’ve watched any documentary on football violence, you’ve seen Blaney’s face.) It was truly one of the most unreal experiences of my life. All done in 350s. Maybe I’ll write more about it one day.

During the pandemic, I went through some old boxes and found the 350s. They were torched to hell and back, still covered in dried-up beer and in absolute filth from God only knows what. 

It’s exciting to see something new happen with the 350s. Especially with the uptick in popularity of sneakers that built their legacy on the football terraces. I sure as heck never thought as I was stomping through the streets and pubs of Manchester and Newark, New Jersey, that the shoes I was wearing would become something that was preferred by the hype crowds. But life is funny. And here we are. If anyone can resurrect a lesser known shoe and make it appeal to a new audience, it’s Ronnie Fieg.