Adidas Gazelles – A Cult Classic Hip Hop Sneaker You Have To Own
Adidas became a cult symbol of hip-hop, rap and street culture in the 80s more or less by accident really. It was mainly due to breakdancing where the materials of the tracksuits and the lightweight shoes were ideal for reducing friction on cardboard boxes.
Basically, if you wore Adidas gear, you’d be able to spin and move that bit faster.
This rapidly took off and the first major band to really get behind the style trend was Run-DMC. Their album covers and videos of the 80s and 90s are iconic at this stage, and the branding and endorsement deal that was struck set the stage for the 3 stripes to become forever embedded in hip hop.
Strictly speaking, the Gazelles are not the sneakers you see on those album covers, but they are still truly iconic for a good reason.
The Gazelles were first released in 1966, and the design was very heavily based on earlier models of the spiked athletics shoes. The upper was kept pretty minimalistic, which is still the case for a lot of newer models that have been released.
At first, you could buy them either in red or blue with 3 white stripes on both. And the colour was important not just from a look perspective.
I’ll tell you more about that in the next section.
There were rereleases in the 70s and 80s, and the most recent batches hit the market in 2016 with tons of new colours available. But the look hasn’t really changed at all.
At the time of the first release, the company was experimenting with different designs and technologies for a wider range of sports. Until then they had focused a lot of attention on athletics, but soccer and many indoor sports were big opportunities.
The Gazelles were the first shoes the company made with a suede upper. This wasn’t really done for the look of them, but rather to make the shoes a lot lighter than using traditional leather. At the same time, the suede was durable enough to protect the feet.
I mentioned above that the red and blue colours were not just there for the looks. They actually also identified the types of soles that were attached.
See, the red ones had a transparent waved outsole which was ideal for outdoor sports where it provided good grip. The blue ones had a sole where the manufacturing process created tiny air bubbles in the rubber to increase cushioning and traction on indoor courts.
Simple, but highly effective, and the design remained for decades.
Popularity In Hip Hop Culture.
While Run-DMC and American hip-hop culture favoured the Superstar models, you would be forgiven not to be able to really tell the difference from a distance. At the time, the superstars were not readily available in Europe, and that’s where the Gazelles then filled a spot.
Since the 80s, these sneakers have continued to feature in countless music videos, and very obvious brand placements can be seen all the time. The great news is that you can buy them in dozens of different colours, all still in that highly recognisable simple suede design.