History of Adidas and the Power of the Three Stripes

Adidas Trefoil Logo Blue

In this world of brands where they seem to be getting bigger and bigger, it’s nice to turn the volume switch down for a second and understand how the Adidas powerhouse became one of the biggest sportswear brands.

The first question is, where is Adidas from…Germany of course!

The brand dates back to the 1920s where Adolf ‘Adi’ Dassler started making shoes with his brother Rudolph, establishing the Dassler Brother Shoe Factory. They started manufacturing running spikes, with their design featuring two stripes, which actually helped with the structure of the shoe. The shoe company was a favourite amongst athletes of that era and even made running spikes for Jesse Owens during the 1936 Berlin Olympics.


Jesse Owens Running Spikes


When World War II broke out the German shoe brand unfortunately was taken over by the Government and repurposed for military efforts. However, it was during this time that the seeds of Adidas were sewn. Adi made a ‘joke-like’ comment about his brother being a member of the waffen SS who were a ruthless division of the German army. Rudolf did not take it as a joke at all and never got over the remark. The brothers then went their separate ways and formed new companies. Rudolf went on and started Ru Da, which we know today as Puma and Adi would go on and form Adidas.


Puma & Adidas Rivalry 

So if anyone asks you whether Adidas and Puma are related the answer is yes! Even though we think the biggest sportwear rivalry is between Nike and Adidas (which it is), the rivalry between Adidas and Puma was an intense family feud and even split the town of Herzogenaurach, quite literally. Adidas and Puma employed a large number of people in area and they both had their factory’s on opposite sides of the river that ran through the town. You couldn’t even go for a pint or do your weekly food shop without there being some form of tension. You were either Team Puma or Team Adidas.

Branding & The Iconic Three Stripes

When the brothers went their separate ways it meant that neither of them could keep their already recognisable two stripes. However, Adi kept to the same theme for Adidas and went with three stripes but it wasn’t as easy as that. Another sportswear brand called Karhu from Finland (sound familiar?) had already registered a three stripe logo. Fortunately, with some persuasion and speaking the language of money, Karhu let Adidas have the trademark. Drop a comment if you think that Karhu regret ever selling?!

Throughout the years Adidas has had numerous types of branding logos and strap lines including; Trefoil Leaf Logo, ‘Brand with the three stripes’ and my favourite ‘Impossible is nothing’.


Iconic Lines of Adidas


The Adidas Originals line uses the Trefoil logo (looks like a leaf) and has long been associated with retro fits and styles within sport. Also this particular line has long been aligned with the music scene and has been seen on the likes of the Beastie Boys, Katie Perry Snoop Dogg and many more.


Boost is Adidas’ answer to Nike Air. The material was apparently developed in conjunction with NASA and certainly does put a spring in your step. The Boost is only footwear related and can be found across a number of styles of footwear including NMD, Iniki (i5923) Ultra Boost and even the iconic Stan Smith shoe has been ‘Boosted’.

Clima Cool

This line was heavily linked to sportwear and very much could be classed as a very early version on of Primeknit. The shoe effectively was built with mesh in the midsole sported its iconic sphere Clima Cool logo. This line was birthed in the early 2000’s but has been brought back in recent years 2016/17.


Adidas EQT line stands for Equipment. This particular line of Adidas focuses around performance and less about the fashionable detail. This line has established its own branding within the sport clothing/footwear market and even has its own brand colours of dark green, black and white.

Adidas EQT Logo


Adidas & Its Brands 

Adidas is said to be the third biggest sportwear company in the world behind Nike and Under Armour but it hasn’t just got to be that big by itself. Adidas has bought and sold brands that you may or may not have been aware of.


Reebok – Bought for $3.8billion in 2005 and is very focused on active wear/fitness has a current particular focus around MMA and crossfit.

Taylor Made Golf – Was originally bought as part of the Solomon Sport deal in 1997 for $1.3bn and sold separately in 2017 for $425million.

Rockport Shoes – Was bought when Adidas bought the Reebok group. It was later sold off for $280millon separately in 2015.

Mitchell & Ness – Was bought in 2007 and sold in 2016 for an undisclosed amount but it is assumed the that the amount was somewhere between $10-$20 million.

Puma – Wait – What! Yes in 2017 for a very large undisclosed amount! So, after all of the years of bitterness between the company they are now under the same umbrella.


Adidas Sponsorship Deals 

In the sport sponsorship landscape there are two heavy hitters Nike and Adidas. In terms of sponsoring sports stars, teams and leagues if the one brand doesn’t have them to their name the other one does. If we take today’s modern sporting icons Adidas sponsor the likes of Lionel Messi, Paul Pogba and James Harden. If we look at iconic figures they have sponsored over time they have the likes of Mohammed Ali, Zinedine Zidane and the one the only David Beckham.

Here’s a fun fact in case you didn’t know, basketball superstar Lebron James actually wanted to be on team Adidas but due to some misjudgement on Adidas’ behalf Nike came in and swooped him up.

Adidas also sponsor the likes of:

  • Fifa World Cup
  • National Hockey League
  • Manchester United Football Club
  • Spanish National Football Team to name but a few.


Adidas Fashion Collaborations

Adidas has been quite fashion forward and somewhat better than its rivals considering some of its current partnerships.

Adidas has some very notable designers that it has partnered with over the years such as Yohji Yanamoto who’s iconic Y3 line lives on. Mr Rick Owens who bring his very high end fashion eye to the table and Stella McCartney who designed Team GB’s latest Olympic uniform. I feel Adidas have understood partnerships outside of the sporting arena and the value it brings to its customers. This could be said with its big push over the past 3 years with the collaborations it is running with Pharrell’s Human Race line and Mr Kanye West’s Yeezy Line.

Pharrell Williams Adidas Collaboration


Adidas’s Answer to Air – Introduction of Boost 

Personally, and what I think has been the most important development for Adidas has been the introduction of its Boost material. For so many years, Adidas has been trying to find its equivalent to AIR but had never quite found it. Now I can categorically now say they have! It’s amazing to think that when you look at a Boost sole your actually looking at lots of individual pellets that have been steam welded together. Primarily falling under the Adidas Originals line of footwear Boost is now on several lines of Adidas shoe but its biggest break through was on the Ultra Boost trainer.


The Round Up

So there you have it, a nice overview of Adidas. This brand really is steeped in history and it is amazing to think that if the Dassler brothers had not fallen out, then there is a strong possibility that there would be no Adidas. Could you imagine that?

Over the past few years, Adidas have really been focussed on what they do best and that’s making exceptional sportswear clothing and footwear. I guess this focus has overflowed too with the acquisitions of Reebok and Puma who now sit under the Adidas umbrella. That said the company has been kept on its toes by the likes of Under Armour, who are now considered to be a second to Nike. Adidas though continue to have strong collaborations with pop culture icons and highly respected designers, which seem to be working well from an overall brand point of view.

I feel that Adidas are currently heading in a really good direction especially with some of its newer technology and collabs it has done in the last three to five years. There has been a lot of buzz around the brand and has been very socially relevant with Yeezy collaboration and endorsements around Paul Pogba etc. With Adidas having a big re-focus now in play, I’m looking forward to what the next few years entails around new apparel and especially the sneakers.

Let me know if you’re an ‘Adi-fan’ in the comments below and what your favourite Adidas piece is?!

Until next time, Peace!

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