The Best Daily Drivers
While it’s all well and good to dream about five-figure resale kicks and hyped collabs, sometimes the best sneakers are ones you can actually get on your feet. While the words “effortless” and “timeless” are often sprinkled far too liberally in the sneaker world, the Adidas Stan Smith truly fits the bill.
A pioneer of its time, the Adidas Stan Smith can be credited with spawning hundreds of minimalist sneakers, from the elevated, suit-friendly Common Projects Achilles and Axel Arigato Clean 90 to the more casual Oliver Cabell Low 1 and Veja Campo. Still, none are able to match the enduring allure of the Stan Smith.
Like many sneakers that have stood the test of time, the Stan Smith has its origins in performance. In 1963, Adidas produced its first tennis shoes: the Robert Haillet, named after the French tennis star. Created by Horst Dassler, son of Adidas founder Adolf “Adi” Dassler, the Adidas Robert Haillet marked the first tennis shoe to be constructed from leather rather than canvas.
In 1971, Adidas inked a deal with American tennis star — and two-time Grand Slam champion — Stan Smith, with Horst Dassler proposing the Robert Haillet be repurposed with Smith’s name with the intention of gaining recognition in the United States. Following a brief period in which the leather sneakers carried both Haillet’s name and Smith’s portrait, the Adidas Stan Smith as we know it today was released in 1978, with the instantly recognizable kelly green heel patch and both Smith’s name and portrait.
Almost five decades from its initial launch, the Adidas Stan Smith’s fame has far surpassed the man on its tongue, a fact cheekily referenced by Smith’s book, Stan Smith: Some People Think I’m A Shoe.
However, the former world No. 1 is a fan through and through. “When the shoe came out with my photo on the tongue, I kept looking at it during my matches, and it was distracting, humbling, and exhilarating,” Smith recalled in an interview with Vogue. Soon enough, Smith’s opponents also began to sport his face on their feet. “I didn’t think it was appropriate for people to beat me with that shoe on,” he jokingly told Esquire.
The Adidas Stan Smith is defined by its minimalist, almost essentialist approach. All-white save for a dash of color on the heel, the Stan Smith swiftly transcended its roots as a performance shoe in the ’80s, as technical sportswear began to rise in popularity. Instead, the Stan Smith became a street style staple, sported by celebrities and everyday folk alike, with early adopters in the former camp including David Bowie and John Lennon.
In contrast to releases that gain desirability through scarcity, the Adidas Stan Smith has achieved notoriety through ubiquity. You needn’t line up for hours or drop a month’s rent to acquire a pair. “It’s a classic, wearable look, affordable and abundant in supply,” says Gijs Verheijke, founder & CEO at Ox Street, of the Stan Smith’s enduring appeal. “They are an easy choice since they are so commonly available and affordable.”
One of the key drawcards of the Stan Smith is that it doesn’t have to be “styled,” it simply looks good with everything. Innocuous in its minimalism, the streamlined aesthetic of the Stan Smith allows it to flit between dress codes. Verheijke attests to this, deeming it “one of the few silhouettes that you could feasibly bring as your only pair of shoes on a business trip.”
“Stan Smiths are in a league of their own in being able to look both casual and dressed up, depending on what you wear them with,” Verheijke tells me. “They look good with jeans, shorts, chinos, or even with a suit.” While the original white-and-green colorway is more than up to the task of accompanying any outfit, Adidas has also riffed on the classic design with an all-black iteration as well as an abundance of collaborative ventures that often see Stan Smith’s — the man, not the shoe — portrait swapped for that of its collaborator.
Still, the Stan Smith would not have the lasting appeal it does if it wasn’t for its beautifully essentialist design. The smooth round toe, perforated three stripes, and luxury leather look are lent a sense of playfulness by the dash of green. Epitomizing design purity, the Adidas Stan Smith can go pretty much anywhere — just not to the tennis court. — Tanisha Angel
You can buy a pair of adidas Stan Smiths at Amazon or adidas.com (from $70)