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Freedom for the feet! Why Adilette Slides are on-trend.

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No, the above wasn’t written by an online influencer. These were the words of the revered German daily »Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung«, or FAZ for short. And now, prompted by the FAZ, other media channels across the globe have started reporting on this long-lasting phenomenon:

Adilette Slides are selling like hot cakes – especially during the coronavirus pandemic. After almost half a century, they are still forever young. »Playboy« describes them in the following endearing terms:

»They’re an evergreen for people with a thing for casual footwear. At the same time, the Adilette Slide is edging its way into the trendier districts, too. This time combined with John Lennon glasses, a bottle of Club Mate and 200-euro vintage carrot jeans. OK, maybe you don’t have to go to such extremes but even so, Adilette Slides have clearly become an urban expression of nonchalance and casual living. Especially on balmy summer nights or on trips to the local supermarket.«

Adi Dassler invented the beach sandals back in 1963 when, so the story goes, a football manager and friend of his mentioned a problem that they encountered after the final whistle. Back then, walking barefoot into the showers of a football league club was like walking into a swamp of germs.

Although Dassler knew what he wanted to invent, he had to wait until the early 1970s and advances in technology to do so. When he found a machine that would inject foam into the soles, Dassler had finally achieved his goal. The Adilette Slides were brought to market in 1972, shortly before the Summer Olympic Games in Munich. The sandals were designed with suction pads on the sole to stop athletes from slipping in the shower. They were wide and had three stripes across the top, they were mostly dark blue and white. Their owners absolutely loved them. The Adilette Slide was precisely what they had been looking for.

However, it didn’t all start in 1963. It began much earlier than that. Dassler had actually been wearing his vision for a functional beach sandal for many years. Back in the days of black-and-white photography. The »boss« (as he was affectionately called) had taken a few days off, the sun was shining and, holding a wad of newspapers, he found himself a quiet corner in the garden where he perused the newspapers at his leisure. When he had finished, he shuffled back through the garden, papers in one hand, while dragging the lawnchair behind him with the other. On his feet, he was donning the predecessor to the Adilette Slide. It had a wide sole, wide band for the foot and a casual simplistic look. It was decades before his invention finally went into production. When it did, the Adilette Slide became a best-selling product almost overnight.

Adi Dassler could have sat back and simply enjoyed his success. After all, his Adilette Slides quite literally – forgive the pun – »flooded« the market. The gold medalists in the swimming competitions wore Dassler’s new sandals as they made their way to and from their races, turning the footwear into an iconic product for sunseekers and vacationers. Consumers especially in the USA scrambled to get their hands on a pair. But Dassler being Dassler, he did not take the success for granted, he was rarely completely satisfied. In his eyes, there was always room for improvement.

On 8 July 1973, he dictated the following lines to his secretary Helga Lang:

«Towards the end of 1971, I already found fault with the fit and design of our Adilette…

…You can see that even with such diligent people in our development department, you still have to tackle problems with a sledgehammer, otherwise matters such as theseare kicked down the road like a tin can.»

– Adi Dassler

In 1975, the determined company director made another important observation:

Our Adilette has recently experienced a marked decline in sales with demand apparently waning. A major reason is that we cannot make the instep band adjustable because of the three straps. This has proven quite a disadvantage because every foot has a different width and height.

With the earlier model, footballers with high instepscould override the problem by not sliding their foot all the way in and allowing their heel to protrude slightly over the back edge. However, our new moulded sole has such a high edge that it is no longer possible for the heel to extend over the back.

– Adi Dassler, 28 February 1975

And finally, on 5 March 1975:

When talking to customers, please point out that they shouldnot be put off by the loose fit of the Adilette. From a medical and orthopaedic point of view, this is actually desirable because the foot is forced to »work« while walking, strengtheningthe muscles in the foot (the health sandals currently available on the market are all based on this principle).

When testing them on myself, the band across the width of my foot feels extremely pleasant and comfortable.

– Adi Dassler

Of course, the »diligent people« improved the product to their boss’ satisfaction. The Adilette Slides had become an essential part of every athlete’s kit. When Germany’s national football team won the World Cup in Brazil, they were visited in the changing rooms by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Chancellor was overjoyed, the Manager, Joachim Löw, triumphantly celebrated and the players, with beer in hand, were caught up in the ecstasy of the win. The Chancellor was elegant, the manager presentable and the players barely dressed. The World Champions looked fantastic; happy, sporty, successful and with Adilette Slides on their feet, in the colours black, white and red. Would Adi ever have dreamt of this moment? And who would have thought that these modest sandals would send a reserved paper like the FAZ into such raptures – the world is indeed full of surprises:

The slip-on sandals have become a truly iconic shoe. Many magazines are touting the Luxury Adilette Slide as the most important shoe trend. Adidas has even unveiled its first ever bridal Adilette Slides. The Wedding Edition is white with discreet embroidery and satin ribbons.The perfect choice for a beach wedding.

– Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

The Adilette Slide (again, forgive the pun):

It has come a long way.