Adidas’s “Speedfit” tracksuit is a prime example of their functional outerwear collection. The Japanese sportswear company made a comeback this year after two decades of inactivity with their latest re-signing of Michael Jackson as their sports ambassador.
Ahead of the release of their new range, we take a walk down memory lane and reminisce on their two-decade hiatus.
The Good Old Days: A Brief History of Adidas
Although they’ve been making sportswear for over a century, it was rather self-evident that Adidas didn’t begin their professional life as an active sportswear brand. They came up with the whole “non-activewear, but better than your average sports attire” name in the 1920s as a way to cash in on the surging popularity of cycling and other sports-related topics, like golf and racket sports, at the time.
When it came to activewear, they were clearly not the pioneers as they had already been active for years.
The Bad Old Days: A Brief History of Adidas
But that all changed with the advent of the Second World War. After being caught in the crossfire of two world wars, the demand for athletic wear increased, hitting an all-time high post-war, when people were eager to get back into shape. In order to meet this demand, Adidas had to quickly change tack and begin designing athletic wear that would become their Achilles’ heel.
What had made them popular during the pre-war years was their smart advertising campaigns that would attract people with their witty slogans and vibrant advertising graphics. But all this changed in the aftermath of the two world wars. During these years of austerity, people were looking for value for their money, so they focused on what was essential – like their health – and stopped buying into the hype of any one brand or item.
That is why almost all the their advertising during this time focused on the essentiality of a healthy lifestyle, as opposed to the brand luring you in with their witty slogans and vibrant advertising graphics – because those were the things that people stopped buying into after the war.
The New Days: A Brief History of Adidas
Although they were forced to close down a number of their operations during the war, and had to cut corners in terms of manufacturing, this was nothing compared to what happened after the war when they had to rebuild from scratch. This was due to a number of different factors, but mostly because of one man: Fritz Bauer, the former SS officer who had been put in charge of manufacturing for Hitler but had defected to the U.S. in the 1930s.
Under his leadership, Adidas became the world’s first post-war mass producer of sportswear, churning out everything from shorts and t-shirts for tennis players, to track pants and hoodies for street trackers. This was also the company that perfected the concept of sportswear as fashion, setting new trends that lasted well into the next century.
But perhaps the most significant development of all came in the 1950s, when Adidas decided to rekindle their post-war success by expanding beyond sport and into fashion. They released the Slogget, a line of trendy tees and hoodies that became popular in the grunge movement of the 1980s.
These items aren’t necessarily “sportswear” as we know it today, but they were definitely inspired by sports. For instance, the tennis player’s shirt features a red, white and blue print similar to that of a tennis racket – the sport they’re associated with. So although they didn’t produce shoes until later on, when they were incorporated into the brand in 1962, they were definitely the pioneers of modern sportswear.
A Look Back at the Slogget Range
If you go online and do a bit of research into the history of Adidas, you’ll find that the range of tees and hoodies that we now associate with the brand were inspired by the Slogget range. And that’s because these items were manufactured with the same technology that was used to create the Minimalism logo – the three stripes. This iconic mark can still be seen on almost every product sold by the company today.
This is due in part to the fact that during this time frame, Adidas continued to put out new items in this range – around 30 years before the release of a truly comprehensive look back at the entire Slogget range – but it’s also because the product, particularly the range’s tees, continue to be popular today, over 60 years later. It shows just how ahead of its time Adidas was.
Michael Jackson’s Impact On Adidas and Sports
Although there are countless reasons why Adidas chose to re-ignite their success with Michael Jackson, his biggest contribution, arguably, has been his impact on fashion. One look at any of his performances from the 1980s and you’d know exactly what influence he had on fashion and sport alike. His signature look was dark and moody, with a focus on pattern and texture, so it’s little surprise that his fashion legacy lives on in the work of today’s designers.
It’s fair to say that Adidas haven’t been resting on their laurels since the early 2000s. Far from it. They were originally set to celebrate their 100th anniversary in 2022, but due to the pandemic they were forced to put those plans on hold. But even during these strange times, they continue to make headlines, most notably with their latest re-signing of Michael Jackson as their sports ambassador.
And it is safe to assume that, if anything, his influence will only grow in the coming years. After all, he did leave an indelible mark on the company and the entire fashion industry, not just for the last decade or so, but throughout his entire career, starting in the 1960s, when he was still singing. He left a lasting impression on people that wore his clothes and supported his music, and it wasn’t just because of the unique and memorable fashion collaborations between him and Adidas. It was because he influenced and changed the way people dressed, sang, and danced – and not just in sport, but in fashion and lifestyle in general.
There’s a reason why this Japanese sportswear brand is considered one of the most fashionable and iconic companies in the world today. And it couldn’t have happened without Michael Jackson. The legendary singer and artist changed the game and set a new direction for fashion and sport, inspiring countless products and accessories, not just for Adidas, but for the entire fashion industry. The fact that he had a special connection to the company, and vice versa, makes this story all the more interesting.