MUNICH — It had to be this shoe. No other model could have achieved this revival. A sneaker invented 48 years ago and had since slipped into oblivion has now been resurrected. It's the Adidas "Superstar".
According to research conducted by the American market research institute NPD Group, the bestselling sneaker in the U.S., which is the second most important market for this product on the planet, was, for once, not produced by Nike but by Adidas. No other model has sold more often last year than the "Superstar."
Compared to the "Superstar," most retailers charge double the price for Nike's "Jordan XII," which came second in terms of units sold.
Adidas is profiting from a retro trend — Photo: Grumo
"Considering that a sneaker, that is not produced by Nike, is at the top of the bestseller list demonstrates the difficulties of the company on the U.S. wholesale trade market," says Matt Powell, sports equipment industry analyst with NPD.
This does not herald a change in market leadership. Nike remains the undisputed No. 1 leader at the top of the sports equipment food chain with an annual turnover of $32 billion (30 billion euros) while Adidas had a turnover of 19.3 billion euros last year — a record for the company. Nike still commands 60% of the market share while Adidas has captured 20% of it.
Adidas is profiting from a retro trend. The enthusiasm that was directed at the "Stan Smith" model in 2014, which used to be a tennis shoe, engulfed the "Superstar," a basketball sneaker with its distinctive rubber toe caps, a year later.
Basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wore the "Superstar" constantly — Photo: Adifansnet
Adidas released its innovative design in 1969, the year the Beatles released their last joined album. It was innovative because it was the first basketball sneaker that was not an ankle sneaker and it was made of leather and rubber — not fabric like most of the sneakers of the time. It became a regular feature in basketball with nearly three-quarters of all players wearing the "Superstar" within the first few years of its release. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of the best professional basketball players in NBA’s history, promoted the "Superstar" by wearing it constantly. "I thought wow, a leather shoe! That’s something different," he says. "Every single time I wanted to wear sneakers afterwards, I found myself wearing my 'Superstars.' I never wore any other shoe again while playing sports."
In the '80s, the "Superstar" became more of a lifestyle shoe than a sports product. The New York hip-hop band Run-D.M.C. even dedicated a song to the white shoe that dons three jagged stripes: "My Adidas and me, close as can be, we make a mean team, my Adidas and me." Superstars wore "Superstars" making other people want to wear them, too.
The highly successful model was soon replaced by Nike models in the U.S. Adidas only managed to stage a comeback through business partnerships, such as one with music producer Pharrell Williams. And all of a sudden it become cool again to wear the same shoes your parents used to wear.