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How sneakers reached their high-fashion status while being a cult favorite among editors, rappers, and models, and a necessity in sports is a long history to write. Knowing the story behind Stan Smith and Adidas might clue us into it, though.

The Cut profiled the 70-year-old tennis player recently alongside telling the story of how the shoes became a tennis court staple to a coveted, multi-million selling item even after Stan put down his racket. We uncovered some facts from the story, focusing on both the man and the sneaker.

#1 Stan Smiths weren’t made for him per se

When Adidas created the white sneakers with the three stripes, it was for tennis star Robert Haillet  in 1965. Adi Dassler, the man behind the sports brand, approached Stan in 1971 to be the face of the shoes as Robert was retiring. Stan was, at the time, the number 1 player in the world, winner of the US open, recipient of the Grand Slam, and just 24 years old.

#2 The Adidas x Stan Smith deal would be the first major celebrity endorsement in sports

Long before Michael Jordan signed his name to Air Jordans, Stan would be a pioneer in making sportswear brands desirable in the fashion world. His initial contract wasn’t a multi-million dollar deal. Stan shares that he got “six shirts, a vest sweater, a regular sweater, socks, and that’s about it. You wanted to get in the main draw, so you could get the full set of clothes.”

#3 Not much has changed in the original Stan Smith design

Since 1971, the design of the shoes have not changed. This is perhaps why it continues to sell by the millions, closing out 2016 with over 50 million pairs sold. At the inception of the Stan Smith collab, Stan’s face would be drawn on the tongue. It would be found contentious as other sports personalities, those who went up against Stan or were signed on to a different sportswear company, wore Stan Smiths. Stan’s face would then be taken out and different colorways are introduced every other season, but they remain a sneakerheads’ favorite.

#4 The Phoebe Philo factor

There are many reasons why the German designed shoe transitioned from the tennis court, to artists’ uniform and then to the runway. In the ’90s, it fit well into the Waspy aesthetic, “… while Nike consumed the American sneaker market, a small circle of offbeat celebrities and influential marketing professionals latched onto the shoe as a sort of anti-fashion fashion statement, part of a Waspy, but not too Waspy, vintage style they helped pioneer: tucked-in Brooks Brothers shirts with ill-fitting corduroys or khakis. It helped if you drove a vintage Mercedes.”

So many other people were seen wearing the sneakers but it’s most recent wearer of significance is Phoebe Philo. “In March 2011, Philo took her bow on the Céline runway at the end of the fall-winter ready-to-wear show in Stan Smiths along with low-slung black trousers and a gray turtleneck, hair tucked in. The timing could not have been better. Philo was at the peak of her influence and power. Every editor and professional fashion woman from New York to London to Paris was shopping at Céline between the shows. Kanye West had just name-dropped her in his comeback album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and was so completely bewitched by her ideas that he performed wearing women’s Céline.”

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From then on, the cool girls wearing Stan Smiths with everything from jeans to flirty skirts was born.

#5 Stan Smith goes to Adidas stores to buy his namesake pair

Every five years or so, Stan renews his contract with Adidas. This makes him one of the oldest endorsers of the brand, and also gives Stan a lucrative source of income that his tennis career could not equal. There’s a thrill to how Stan Smith is a name beyond the man himself. The profile ends with this anecdote how Stan treats the fame, “Once, when Smith was in Rome and he saw his shoes in all black for the very first time, he decided to buy a pair, the first time he’d ever done so. ‘I used my credit card,’ he says, looking for recognition, but ‘the guy was not impressed.’ Now he’s taken to walking into the Adidas Originals store in Soho whenever he’s in town and introducing himself, just to get a reaction. ‘The guys are surprised,” he says, but “they know me now.’

 

Featured photo courtesy of The Cut, Phobe Philo image courtesy of iD

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