adidas skateboarders

Adidas Skateboarding Sneakers: A Complete History

adidas Skateboarding Sneakers: all there is to know

When you consider adidas Skateboarding, you really may not be tempted to jump out of your seat. After all, the storied brand is more known these days for their leading position in the athleisure category. And yet, the skateboarding subsection and adidas skateboarding sneakers have a long history.

Though not quite front of mind, adidas’s forays into the counterculture sport started during a critical time. In 1989, adidas was going through a moment of self-reflection. Two years prior, Horst Dassler suddenly passed away.

What would follow are troubling times, including some serious financial struggles. The brand that had come to represent the forefront of an athlete-first design philosophy was suddenly aimless. The consequences for this came in the form of diminishing sales after their overall quality took a tumble.

adidas busenitz pro core black
adidas Busenitz Pro Core Black

To add on to it, adidas’s upper executives had made some questionable business decisions. All of this prompted a ton of change. The Dassler family had one foot out the door, mulling an exit from the business for years, so things needed to be shaken up.

Fortunately, new appointments such as a CEO were just the perfect sequel. Part of the brand’s reconfiguration involved bringing in some new talent from a rival name in the industry. 1989 is when the Three Stripes officially started picking off names and executives that the Swoosh had parted ways with.

adidas Renews Itself

Two of the most notable names were creative director Peter Moore and marketing director Rob Strasser. René Jäggi (then a relatively new appointment to CEO of adidas) wanted to see what they could do to turn the brand’s reputation – and financial situation – around.

It reportedly took the pair under ten minutes to tour the adidas archives and realize something: this company was sitting on gold. There it was: the future of Yeezys, NMDs, and an overwhelming archive waiting to be explored.

All of a sudden it became clear that the brand’s problem didn’t have anything to do with its actual products. In fact, they just needed to re-think how they did business. This thinking was what led to adidas taking its focus away from being a sales-focused company to leaning more in the direction of marketing.

The key was to tell the adidas story and to become a way for athletes – as well as consumers – to tell their own.  One of the first targets of this new approach was a burgeoning sport that was very complicated for a corporation to get into.

adidas Starts their Skateboarding Story

Skateboarding culture was all about bucking society at large.  Simply put, you’d have a tough time selling wears to skateboarders as a big company with people in suits. It was even more difficult if they saw you as a reflection of the society they despised. What adidas did in response showed just how critical their change of direction was.

In that same year, 1989, the company puts together a dedicated section of their brand specifically for skateboarding. The exception here was that adidas wasn’t initially looking to “break into” the sport. Instead, it invited prominent names within the culture to participate.

Some of the names associated with the brand today are familiar. Mark Gonzalez is an icon even the furthest regions outside of the sport. Dennis Busenitz has been an absolute blur on a skateboard for a very long time (check out one of the latest versions of the adidas Busenitz right here). Just ask anyone who ever attempted to capture his antics on camera.

One of the most recent additions, Nora Vasconcellos is another globally recognized name who became the brand’s first female rider. An equally important appointment adidas made in this effort was that of Paul “Skin” Phillips as team manager.  adidas spotted his talent and connection with the culture, keying in on him as the perfect set of eyes to lead adidas’s still growing skateboarding efforts.

adidas skateboarding Matchcourt RX Nora Vasconcellos Real Lilac
adidas skateboarding Matchcourt RX Nora Vasconcellos Real Lilac

With the Skate Icons and Into the Future:

Phillips brings to the brand a legendary acumen not just for skateboarding, but for photography as well. This is another huge way in which storytelling and marketing fit into the vision of adidas skateboarding. Having fittingly began as part of the brand’s shifting focus back towards its athlete-centric roots, skateboarding was a natural choice for the Three Stripes.

Along the way, adidas had been a presence in the sport even before their dedicated efforts took off. Names such as Vans hadn’t really gone fullscale into the sport until the 1970s. In the meantime, basketball staples such as the adidas Superstar were a favorite for skaters back in 1969. This should come as little surprise when you consider the mantra of most riders: shoes are to be thrashed because of all the riding.

For those purposes, basketball shoes were a perfect fit. The leather uppers, thick midsoles, and re-enforced outsoles became a perfect go-to for riders that didn’t have much better options on the market. Even after skateboarding shoes proliferated, shoes such as the iconic Stan Smith were a regular sight on riders in the early 90s.

Mark Gonzalez makes it all real and live on tape:

As is now clear, a big part of adidas’s no impressive skateboarding roster has to do with its approach to the culture as a whole. Even a cursory look at the adidas Skateboarding YouTube page will exemplify a reverence for the sport and the names that dominate it. The shots in their videos and ad spots imply a deeply informed perspective – it almost feels like Mark Gonzalez himself was watching over the shoulder of both the camera crew and editors of each shoot.

mark gonzalez skateboarder
Mark Gonzalez

And yet, adidas’s strong connection with the sport and culture comes about thanks to an internal trait as well. As far as most of us can remember, adidas has turned a hyper-focus on athletes into elite designs. The shoes themselves may be memorable from a visual standpoint, but consider the functionality.

Torsion, a support system dating back to, you guessed it, 1989, comes to mind. This technology allows for the forefoot and heel to move freely and independent of each other, all while maintaining overall foot support. Considering how often skateboarders balance their body weight on just sections of their foot touch the actual board, these footwear advances matter.

Knowing what matters, both in the culture and on feet, is what has kept adidas in unending relevance in the skateboarding world.

Discover more about adidas Skateboarding sneakers.