adidas Forum 84 Low
The Triumphant Return of an Icon
Words: Ernie Beckmann
Those who are dealing with trendy retro basketball sneakers these days cannot avoid the adidas Forum 84. When the first hints of a Forum comeback came up last summer through a couple of leaked images on Instagram, quite a lot of OG heads were probably cheering for joy. But, as it often happens when classics with such a significant history are going to be retroed, skepticism quickly spread among connoisseurs, since in the last decade most silhouettes didn’t get the love they deserved on the part of the brands.
A lot can be screwed up when re-launching a sneaker, especially when the model is quite old. It starts with the materials. Nowadays it is practically impossible to get leather of the same quality as in the 80s because such leather is priced in a range which makes a re-launched shoe hardly affordable for the customer or simply unprofitable for the brand. The size or arrangement of layers is also often not measured precisely. When designers deviate a few degrees in terms of angles or make a layer only a few millimeters larger or smaller, it no longer corresponds to the aesthetics of the original, which one normally adheres to for a retro edition. Reasons are quickly found by the brands: The shoe had to be »revised« or »adapted to the zeitgeist«. But for true lovers of the originals, these explanations do not count. Furthermore, the so-called shape is probably the biggest issue on retros, because it was and is consistently fucked up by many brands. The connoisseur of the vintage originals would like his favorite piece to have an adequate shape. The silhouette shall be relatively steep from the tip of the toe along the instep up to the end of the shaft. The so-called toespring, i.e. the upward inclination of the forefoot, must not be too big, as the shoe quickly shapes up like a banana ̶ and bananas are known to be crooked. The reason for the banana shape often seems to be the sloppiness of the brands. In previous decades they were not careful enough with their inventory. Often the original lasts are simply missing, so the upper of a retro model has to be shaped with newly made lasts. It’s often not comprehensible why the production of lasts that match the originals is so difficult in these highly technological times. But sometimes it does work out. adidas proved it with the latest adidas Rivalry and again impressively with this 2021 retro version of the adidas Forum 84. But before we go into depth at this point, we want to take a look back at the history of the Forum.
The Forum Hi was designed by adidas design legend Jacques Chassaing in the early 1980s. The Herzogenaurach-based company with the Three Stripes wanted to launch a shoe for the Olympic basketball tournament in Los Angeles in 1984 and the aim was to set new standards with the Forum in design and technology. Right in time for the start of the Olympic Games, adidas presented the Forum basketball shoe, named after the venue where all basketball games would take place. The shoe was a phenomenal success. With the Forum, adidas initiated a paradigm shift in the design of basketball shoes which was finally completed two years later with the release of the adidas Conductor. Until then, basketball boots, as these type of sports shoes were also called because of their height, were rather simple. Often, they were constructed of just a single layer without any additional panels on the upper or any visible features. Technology was mainly put into the sole or appeared in form of a strap around the shaft.
The Forum Hi, like the Conductor two years later, offered endless technology. The Forum had a rubber outsole for control and stability on the hardwood. The sole was designed with a MULTI DISK profile for an excellent traction. Together with the pivot point, which is also part of the sole pattern, players had a low torque and were able to turn quickly on the court, which was (and still is) important for the frequently used pivot step. In the sole, adidas installed the Dellinger Web, which has already been tried and tested in other adidas models. adidas developed it together with Bill Dellinger, a US athlete and winner of an Olympic bronze medal in the 5000m in Tokyo in 1964. The Dellinger Web is a polyamide fabric for shock absorbing, e.g. when landing after jumps. At the same time, the web returns the energy directly to the athlete. It is visualized on the inside of the midsole. Another technological feature of the Forum worth mentioning is the so-called STABILO HEEL, a semi rigid encounter that extends around the entire heel. It provides an ultimate rear foot stability and reinforces the arch support. Probably the strongest innovation of the Forum was the use of the CRISSCROSS technology. This layer sits on the outside of the Forum which goes around the ankle and turns into the adjustable Velcro strap that ensures individual ankle bracing. This, of course, can more or less prevent players from rolling their ankles, a typical basketball injury. The lining made of Dunova® textile by Bayer® was very comfortable and also able to absorb a lot of sweat without swelling. Back then, this was not a matter, of course. The usual perforations on the toebox and between the Three Stripes were intended for ventilation, so the feet wouldn’t get hot while playing in the Forum. With all of the technology described here, the Forum was ahead of its time, it was really innovative, a true high-tech performer.
For adidas, all of this justified an unbelievably high retail price of $ 100. Various statements about the price describe the Forum as the first sports shoe on the American market which reached this magical price limit. Fact or urban legend? In any case, the price aroused a great deal of desire outside the performance sector, because it made the Forum a real status symbol. With that shoe, people showed on the streets of the American metropolises what they were able to afford. However, if you didn’t have plenty of money in your pockets but didn’t want to forego the flair of the Forum, you were usually going with the adidas Decade, the cheaper takedown version of the Forum. At least the Decade could score with the CRISSCROSS technology of the Forum, which admittedly was and still is the most noticeable external feature of the Forum besides the strap.
Speaking of external features, the impetus for this text is the release of the adidas Forum 84 Low in the Gray One/ Orbit Gray/ Footwear White colorway on March 20, 2021. At first glance you can see that adidas Originals has put an incredible amount of effort into this retro. The shoe is made of high-quality materials and the aforementioned shape is just so much better than anything we’ve seen on the Forum in the last 20 years. Most of the angles of the different layers are practically identical to what Jacques Chassaing designed back then. The CRISSCROSS ankle system, now called the X-Strap, and the mustache on the vamp are made of white full-grain leather. If you take a closer look, you can see that the first two mentioned parts have an aged edge color to underline the vintage aesthetic of the shoe. The mudguard, the vamp and the eyestay are made of smooth leather in Cloud White. The laces and the midsole are Cream White, the outsole, the Dellinger Web and the collar underlay show an Orbit Gray. A cool twist comes into play with the Three Stripes. At first glance, they seem to be made of raw suede, but it is actually the backside of leather held in Dash Grey. This backside offers a slightly different grain than a true suede or nubuck, and also provides some subtle irregularity in color and feel. Speaking of nubuck and suede. The reinforcement running around the heel is made of nubuck, its color is called Grey One. Again, Dash Gray is used for the STABILO HEEL, which nowadays is also known as the heel clip. It is made of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). Despite the identical name for the color of the Stripes and the heel clip, we see a color divergence between those two. This can be attributed to the difference in the properties of the two materials. Another highlight of the Forum is its tongue, as the designer manages to create the aesthetics of an original Forum again. The tongue is made of wrinkled nylon and has a pink tint. Both of it is based on how a lot of adidas’ 70s and 80s basketball shoe tongues age. Back in the days, tongues were made of PU and after a few years they turned into a loose piece of nylon, which shows almost exactly this pink tint. Over the years, the adhesives in the tongue evaporate and cause the changes in color and shape.
But even this phenomenal retro cannot get away without criticism. For this retro, adidas should have taken two further elements of the OG Forum. On the one hand the strap misses the adidas branding, on the other hand the words »PAT PENDING« below the Trefoil logo are missing, which is placed on the outside of the CRISSCROSS layer of the 1984 original Forum. With these words, adidas made clear that the patenting of the groundbreaking CRISSCROSS technology has already been registered with the patent office, but was still pending at the time of the release in 1984. At least for the lack of the latter, concerns of the legal department of adidas are said to have been decisive. All in all, it is very positive that adidas Originals took long-standing concerns of collectors seriously and created a retro that is as close to the original as possible. Even if the first low cut version of the adidas Forum didn’t hit the market before the early 90s, adidas still provides the impression that this shoe, as it is seen here, could come straight from the 80s.
Finally, a few quick facts about the Forum: 1. The later NBA superstars Patrick Ewing and Michael Jordan wore the Forum on the basketball court before they got their own signature models from adidas and Nike. 2. Alongside the adidas Skywalker and the adidas Metro Attitude, the Forum was one of the first sports shoes to use patent leather ̶ definitely a matter of taste. 3. The Forum was the first adidas model to be available in low, mid and high cut versions. And 4. The adidas Concord from 1983 was definitely not used as a template for the Forum, as it is said in the adidas CONFIRMED app.
Don’t sleep on the adidas Forum 84 Low which will release on March 20th: