Over the past year we have all seen the Adidas Stan Smith sneaker plastered over instagram and fashion blogs - but how did the humble sneaker make its mark as one of the top fashion sneakers? We find out below.
a young woman wearing classic white and green adidas Stan Smith sneakers ($75) picks up a pair of pale blue limited edition Stan Smiths designed by Raf Simons ($455) in a New York store, debates buying them, looks cool. It's official: the unassuming leather tennis sneaker first issued in 1971 has achieved the height of fashion influence. Since the shoe's reissue in 2014 after two years off the shelves, its popularity and fashion significance have reached icon status. Stan Smith is to sneakers as Levi's are to jeans and Kim Kardashian's Instagram is to selfies: the ultimate expression of the form.
But when - and how - did this humble sneaker become the ultimate fashion footwear, beloved by fashion designers, artists, stylists, and designers?
The shoe's history in a nutshell: adidas issued its first tennis sneaker in 1963, which was branded as the "Robert Haillet" after the French tennis player two years later. When Haillet retired, the company replaced him with Stan Smith, then the #1 player in the world (still alive in South Carolina). In 1971, the shoe became known as the "adidas Stan Smith," yet for much of the 70s the shoe showed Smith's face with "Haillet" written above it - identity crisis. It really hit its stride in the 80s, but only became a fashion phenomenon recently. Complex named it 14th on the list of most influential sneakers ever.
In 2013 Gisele appeared nude save for a pair of white socks and Stan Smiths in in an Inez & Vinoodh shoot styled by Emmanuelle Alt for French Vogue. When Stan Smith himself sent the picture around to his friends, the guys responded, 'What shoe?' Mr. Smith's homies may not have noticed the shoes, but everyone else did. Emmanuelle has spoken: the Stan Smith is worth wearing even if you're Gisele and otherwise completely nude.
Once the seeds of trendiness had been firmly planted, the shoe exploded onto the scene with its January 2014 reissue. The company began gifting shoes personalized with fashion insider's faces rather than Stan Smith's. Sneaker fans like Sarah Andelman and Humberto Leon flooded our Instagram feeds with their customized shoes, inducing some serious #sneakerenvy. Trade stalwart Footwear News named the Stan Smith shoe of the year for 2014.
As befits its icon status, fakes are popping up. Earlier this year, there was buzz that Isabel Marant's white and red leather sneakers were a bit too close to the Stan Smith for comfort. In a story on The Fashion Law that now seems to have been erased, the similarly distinctive heel tabs were called out, possible grounds for copyright infringement.
The ripple effect of celebrities, fashion people, buzzy collaborations, and cultural street cred has made the shoe iconic. But the Stan Smith would not be as successful as it's been if it weren't such an enduringly appealing object. That smooth white toe, the preppiness of the pop of kelly green. There is a pureness to its form, as with other design classics like an Eames chair or a Valentine typewriter.