10 Pop Culture Moments That Define White Leather Sneakers | Grailify
10 Pop Culture Moments That Define White Leather Sneakers

10 Pop Culture Moments That Define White Leather Sneakers

White leather sneakers have never been out of style. They are one of those sneaker phenomena that just never went away. And by white leather sneaker we mean: the low-top. It's deeply rooted in fashion and available for 50€ to 500€ from every brand - most of which want a piece of the big Stan Smith pie. Speaking of Three Stripes, adidas has been a major driver of the trend and is about to release its "Home of Classics" collection with ten white models. With this release and the summer season already in full swing, we take a close look at white sneakers. Why are they relevant and what made them so big?

The Rise of the White Leather Sneaker

In recent decades, the white leather sneaker has quietly found its way into the dress codes of most offices from Berlin to New York and even from Würzburg to Tallahassee. It comes in various shapes and forms: Besides Stan Smiths, there are white-on-white Nike AF1s, Converse Jack Purcells, adidas Shell Toes, Reebok Workouts and of course the ubiquitous Common Projects Achilles. They have all written their own chapters in this story.

Why is this trend relevant at all? First of all, because white footwear creates a special look. They visually strip everything down to the core. When there is no colour, there is only shape. Pure white also makes them a projection screen for anyone who wears them, blurring the lines between categories like fashion and street culture, classic and hip-hop, formal and sporty, or luxury and sport. White leather sneakers can be anything for anyone - immaculately clean and crisp, worn and dirty, luxe and high-end or gracefully grungy. But no matter how you look at the white leather sneaker, it is a shoe that has been shaped by pop culture for decades. It has been immortalised by people and events. And we've picked ten of the best moments for this feature.

1. The introduction of Robert Haillet (1965)

Who invented the white leather sneakers? That title goes to adidas. Earlier trainers were great and iconic, but they were not leather shoes. The Chuck Taylor from Converse in basketball or the Jack Purcell in badminton, they were canvas shoes. It was Adi's son Horst Dassler who decided that tennis needed a sturdy and performance-oriented leather sneaker. First released in 1965, the signature shoe of French player Robert Haillet was just that. It provided great support for movement and changed the tennis shoe forever. And when he retired in 1971, adidas looked for a new flagship - and found it in the Pasadena-born Stan Smith. That is, the Stan Smith is originally the Robert Haillet.

2. Stan Smith (the shoe) Returns After his Sabbatical Year (2014)

The Stan Smith's great success from 2014 onwards was no coincidence, but part of a clever strategy.
When the market was oversaturated and demand for the iconic sneaker waned, adidas gave the shoe a well-deserved break. They took it off the shelf for about two years and prepared it for a big comeback in January 2014, true to the look and shape of the original.
And indeed, the shoe came back stronger than ever and Stan Smith (the person) would rightly say: "Now it's worn with almost everything except tennis."

3. Jay-Z's Signature Reebok Shoe "S. Carter" (2003)

At a time when sneakers were slowly moving out of street culture and into fashion, Reebok had its eye on one of the most influential rappers of the time - Shawn Carter aka Jay-Z. He was known for his obsession with white-on-white AF1 and his ability to set trends simply by naming brands or models. He had already made adidas famous with his song "The Blueprint":
"Lampin' in the Hamptons, the weekends man/The Stan Smith Adidas and the Campus", rapped Jay-Z in 2001.
In 2003, Jay-Z became the first non-athlete to receive a signature shoe from Reebok. The result was the S. Carter, which was sold mainly in Foot Locker shops. A week later, it was announced that more than 10,000 pairs had been sold at a price of $100. It was the fastest selling Reebok shoe in the history of the brand. The sneaker itself was not particularly unique, but a nod to the Gucci Tennis '84.

4. The Introduction of the Common Projects "Achilles Low" (2004)

When Peter Poopat and Flavio Girolami became friends in the New York fashion scene, they joined forces for a common mission. That mission was to design a sneaker that would bridge the gap between Nike and Gucci. Something with the casual charm of a trainer, but with the premium look and feel of a luxury Italian shoe. The result was the Achilles, first launched in 2004. Famous for its minimalist design and lack of branding, it sold for $265 - a figure that seems high but is actually a loss when you consider the material and other costs. The price was pushed up even further and so the Achilles became something like the iPhone of the shoe world.

5. The Introduction of the Air Force 1 Low (End of the 80s)

The Air Force 1 holds a special place in the history of trainers. Due to high demand and requests from three Baltimore retailers, Nike made the Air Force 1 the first model ever to be reissued after production ceased. The "Colour of the Month" programme offered new city-specific colourways. Such was its success that the Air Force 1 returned to more East Coast shops in 1986 with additional regional exclusives. But while the rise of Bruce Kilgore's immortal design is well documented, it's not entirely clear when the low-top version came out. Probably a while after the AF1 reissues in 1986, but one thing is certain. The lowtop version complemented the timeless look of the design and gave it an even more premium look. Especially in white.

6. Prada Sport's iconic SS01 Campaign (2001)

Prada's recently revived Linea Rossa was first introduced in 1997 after young designer Neil Barrett suggested to CEO Patrizio Bertelli that the brand should launch a sportswear line. Bertelli listened to the designer and put him in the driver's seat. The "Red Line" introduced the world to "metropolitan garments" with materials and shapes that took on the characteristics of "technical mountain clothing", in the brand's own words. The look of the SS01 campaign photographed by Phil Poynter immortalised this approach. It also popularised the premium sports look, which was much later called "athleisure". The white sneaker was subsequently worn by editors and bloggers at fashion shows in Milan and New York, while the same shoes were also seen on the catwalks.

7. A$AP Rocky Mentions Stan Smith and Raf Simons (2015)

A$AP Rocky was a fan of both Stan Smith and Raf Simons. He was also one of the first celebrities to put the Belgian designer in the spotlight.
His song "Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2 (LPFJ2)" was great name-dropping for both sides: "I've always been a stand-up guy, I'd rather stand up/Raf Simons, Stan Smith Edition with my bands". Apart from that line, A$AP was often seen wearing Stan Smiths on his feet, which represented the premium look of the white sneakers well.

8. Jane Fonda Training in Reeboks (1982)

In 1981, sales representative Angel Martinez presented the idea for a training shoe to Reebok CEO Paul Fireman. It was immediately rejected. Fireman had never heard of aerobics. Martinez then sketched out the idea on a napkin and another executive ordered a prototype, which quickly found favour with fitness trainers. This eventually led to the Freestyle - the first fitness sneaker for women. It was a real hit and the 32,000 trainers ordered were sold out within a few days. Reebok did not need an advertising contract with fitness guru Jane Fonda, who was partly responsible for the big hype through her videos. Jane was already wearing the shoe because she simply liked it. The interplay of all these forces made Reebok one of the most notorious "white trainer brands" in the industry.

9. The adidas x Run DMC Endorsement Deal (1986)

When Run DMC performed at Madison Square Garden in 1986, their road manager had invited adidas manager Angelo Anastasio to the show.
When it was time for the song "My Adidas", Run held his trainers in the air and the audience immediately followed him. It was at that very moment that Anastasio realised the sheer power of hip-hop marketing.
This led directly to a $1 million endorsement deal with Run DMC - and the band that is most synonymous with white shelltoes.

10 Raf Simons' Love for the Stan Smith (2014)

Raf Simons' collaboration with adidas, which began in 2013, was no surprise given his love for the brand. When it was time for the 2014 autumn/winter season, it quickly became apparent that the Stan Smith was one of everyone's favourites. And that's also because of the subtle edit of the classic shoe. It was enough to replace the stripes with a simple "R" and work with high-quality materials to create a pop culture icon. And a $400 price tag.

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