Stan Smith, Accidental Sneaker Icon.

by Henrik Buzzi


In the 1960s, when Stan Smith was a tennis star at the University of Southern California, players wore canvas shoes. Americans preferred Converse, Smith recalls, and Australians favored the Dunlop Green Flash, with its zigzag sole promising sure-footedness on grass. In 1971, when Smith was the No. 1 player in the world, Adidas approached him about endorsing a fleeter alternative: the first leather tennis shoe, which had first been marketed seven years earlier and was originally named for the French pro Robert Haillet. They struck a deal that landed a sketch of Smith’s face on the model’s tongue. Eventually, Smith’s name overran the model’s brand, and today the golden age of Adidas tennis shoes is remembered for the Rod Laver, with its nylon-mesh uppers and polyurethane soles; the Nastase, with its euro air and wicked namesake, Ilie Nastase; and the Stan Smith, with its plain white body accented by a green heel tab. “It was considered high-tech,” Smith says. “My shoe has these little studs on the bottom,” offering improved traction. The leather felt light, the support strong, and a bit of air would flow through the air holes perforating each side like the crisp ghost of the manufacturer’s triple stripe logo. The shoe was elegantly spare and on its way to achieving prestige as a style item. Read the whole article at The New York Times