»The adidas Archive. The Footwear Collection«
Words: Ernie Beckmann
In the last 10 years, various books about sneakers have been written which all focus on the increasingly popular subject of sneakers in various ways. In »Quote’s Archive« for example, you can admire the illustrated collection of one of the most famous vintage adidas connoisseurs in the world, the U-Dox books deal with selected limited-edition shoes of all sneaker brands, just like the bible »The Ultimate Sneaker Book« by the Australian SneakerFreaker Magazine. And the »SNEAKERS« book lets various big players of the business have their say. The approach to sneakers as a subject is similar for all these books, because they are all aimed at the ever increasing number of sneaker collectors, since they make the majority of buyers of such books. But »The adidas Archive – The Footwear Collection« published by TASCHEN is different, because it does not appeal to the typical collector, but to people who are interested in the things that adidas keeps in their legendary archive at the adidas headquarters in Herzogenaurach. Of course, it’s primarily about sneakers, what else? But not necessarily about the type of sneaker that makes a collector’s heart beat faster, but about the sneakers that make up the history of the adidas brand.
The two authors Sebastian Jäger and Christian Habermeier run the agency Studio Waldeck in Scheinfeld, about 40 km away from Herzogenaurach, which has been working with the adidas brand for many years. Among other things, the two entrepreneurs shoot photos of the entire archive for digitalization purposes. The idea to make a curated part of the adidas archive accessible to the public virtually arose out of this opportunity. The book emphasizes on the entire range of sneakers, not just on models that are interesting for sneaker collectors. The book consists of a total of 21 chapters, 15 of which deal exclusively with the beauties of the archive. After the preface by adidas design legend Jaques Chassaing, the second chapter deals with the history of the company. It is written by Marcus Wessel, a well-known sneaker blogger (Sneaker-Zimmer.de) and editor. From the beginnings of the Gebrüder Dassler footwear production in the famous laundry room of mother Dassler in 1924, through the years of war with the unavoidable switch to armaments production and the rift between brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler after the war, as well as the resulting founding of the competitive companies adidas and PUMA in Herzogenaurach, everything is looked at. Important milestones like the death of the company’s founder Adi in the 1970s and his son Horst in the 1980s, the sporting pinnacles of the company’s history such as the football World Cup finals victory in Bern in 1954 as well as the development of the best-selling adidas shoes Stan Smith and Superstar are thoroughly set up. The brand’s cultural influence in general and especially on the Hip Hop Crew Run DMC with their hit »My adidas«, the emerging crisis in the 1980s/90s followed by the flotation and the strategy change due to the takeover of Reebok in 2005 are also not left out in this part of the book. In other words, you can get a very broad overview of what has been going on in Herzogenaurach over the last nearly 100 years.
In the other text-intensive chapters, Sebastian Jäger and Christian Habermeier describe the photographic work on the sneaker as an object, as well as the responsibility that comes with the task of capturing such an archive and creating something representative for adidas. In Chapter 5, the founder of the adidas History Management Barbara Hölschen talks about the beginnings of History Management in 2007 and the relocation of the old adidas collection from Scheinfeld to Herzogenaurach. Under her leadership, the new archive was built in physical as well as digital form in collaboration with the aforementioned Studio Waldeck. With Martin Herde, another former adidas employee has his say. As an adidas archivist (Footwear Collection Manager), Herde worked on the progress of the archive for five years. In his chapter, he speaks about the importance of possibly the world’s largest collection of devotional items of a sporting goods manufacturer. He calls his objects »artifacts«, »unique museum pieces« or »part of the history of sports«, with scratches and stains and »bits of grass stuck between the cleats and sand in the tread [they] bear witness of great triumphs – and bitter defeats too« and therefore »document the essence of the adidas brand«. You can feel the enthusiasm with which History Management employees approach their job, but also the nature of the objects in the archive and the book.
The following 15 chapters revolve entirely around the »cult object« sneaker. The introductory chapter begins with shoes from the Gebrüder Dassler footwear production and extends to the emergence of adidas in the late 1940s. The next chapters show selected training and competition shoes from seven decades of adidas. Mainly sneakers that made history are depicted, either because they were innovational game changers, or because a famous athlete had them on his or her feet during a sporting success, or because they were a curiosity in some way.
You get to know the most important things about every shoe. The information texts on the shoes are kept very short, because so-called nerd knowledge, which some collectors would certainly have about certain shoes, is not provided here and would simply be redundant in this book. The last seven chapters highlight classics that have found no place in the chapter of their decade. The authors also look at the influence that certain models had on music and culture, they look at strictly limited models, at rarities, at test versions and at concept shoes. And they present results from collaborations of adidas with high fashion designers like Stella McCartney, Jeremy Scott or Yohji Yamamoto, which clearly show the impact the fashion industry has on the designs of adidas.
On the 644 pages of the book that weighs more than 5 kilograms are too many shoes to enlarge individual models here. Of course, every adidas lover will miss a few of their personal favorites because it is impossible to do everyone justice. And so the following conclusion remains: The close cooperation between the authors Jäger/ Habermeier and the adidas History Management has paid off, because it opens the halls of the adidas archive to us mortals through this wonderful book. The quality of the book, which is already evident from its packaging and the cover, designed with different materials, as well as from the fantastic photography of Studio Waldeck, justifies the price of 100 Euros on each page. A great cross-section of almost 100 years of Dassler sports shoe history is shown, which not only thrills adidas lovers, but also brings a broad smile to the faces of everyone with an interest in sports culture, company history, sports history and beautiful design.
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