Oi Polloi and adidas Come Through with a Spezial Northern Touch

Check out this new collaboration.

by Nick Schonberger

In the north west of England, adidas inspires true fanaticism. Influenced, in part, by the birth of the UEFA Europa League—which began in 1971, pitting the best soccer clubs from around Europe against each other—an appreciation for sophisticated continental sportswear brands fueled street style, birthing the “Perry Boy.” In turn, the looks favored in stadium stands became the predominant aesthetic of legendary venues like Manchester’s Hacienda Club and the uniform of the late’80s “Acid House” phenomenon. Donning Three Stripes, the region’s youth lead a creative boom over two decades that influenced the world—and thus authentically ingrained adidas in the greater cultural community.

Opened on October 24 in Manchester, curator Gary Aspden’s second SPEZIAL Exhibition celebrates adidas’ roots in the city and celebrates the brand’s most notable collectors. Among these folks is Nigel Lawson, owner of Manchester’s top menswear store, Oi Polloi. Aside from lending 100 pairs of his collection to the Spezial presentation, Lawson’s own ultra-rare adidas California provides the footprint for the top-choice of Aspden’s adidas Spezial footwear collection, the Topanga. 

The shoe is an exercise in exacting detail—the length of the toe and foxing return to original specification. In addition to the Topanga, Lawson’s California provides the blueprint for the adidas Ardwick—an Oi Polloi exclusive version, done in an apple-green color.

The name refers to Ardwick Park, a suburban area of Manchester, where Lawson first spotted a “Perry Boy,” and his love for clothing and footwear was ignited. Fittingly, the color doesn’t derive from an adidas archival hue, instead drawing from Lawson’s favored Lacoste polo of the time.

In looking for the name, Lawson considered several small areas of Manchester, before landing on the perfect place. “We could have just done a Manchester 2, or 4 or whatever, but we wanted to give it a different name."

“Ardwick Park’s at split in the road where the Apollo is located," he said. "The Apollo is one of Manchester’s most famous gig venues—Madness, the Specials, the Jam all played there. One of Crosby, Stills, and Nash was born on that road.”

But, the connection to the city, and its musical heritage, is secondary to shape. "It’s down to the toe," said Lawson. "The length of the toe hasn’t been seen since some early Tahitis."

And, in naming convention, the shoe also reminds of some of adidas' historically odd monikers. “Colors have names. Some shoes of different colors have the same name. Sometimes the color name is part of the name, but it isn’t on the shoe," explained Lawson. "For example, there is a Tahiti, and there Tahiti Marine, which is navy. Marine isn't on the shoe, but it is part of that name. There is a Bali, and a Bali blue. All of these shoes are the one this fits in with for the aesthetic. This one is actually called the Ardwick Green."

"It’s definitely very ‘60s," he said. "Porsches in this color are always the best."

This sneaker, Oi Polloi’s first collaboration with adidas, will release later this year. The store, founded in 2002 by Nigel Lawson and Stephen Sanderson, has a physical space on Thomas Street in Manchester, England, and a digital shop that ships world wide.