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    adidas Gazelle

    195 articles

    A shoe with its roots in the 60s Olympics that blossomed into an enduring cross-culture classic.

    Gazelle

    The adidas Gazelle was first released in the 60s, when it helped track sprinters to achieve world record-breaking Olympic success. Leap forward to today, and the contemporary silhouette has a captivating vintage appeal that did not come about by chance.

    In 1960, the adidas Rom appeared on the feet of the fastest woman in the world, Wilma Rudolph, who returned from the Rome Olympics as the first female American athlete in history to win three golds at the tournament. The Rom had some interesting aesthetic touches, such as a honeycomb structure on the sole that created a ripple effect and a suede toe cap, that were a precursor to the modern Gazelle. At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, a new design, the adidas Olympiade, which came with an additional heel tab and was beloved by the German sprint team, was released secretly. 

    The shoe that would eventually become known as the adidas Gazelle was slowly beginning to take shape. 

    In 1966, the first Gazelle was released with design foundations similar to those of the Olympic sprint shoes: a suede upper with two distinct versions dyed different colours, a stitched overlay at the front of the foot that connected the lace cage to the toe before splaying out into a 'T' shape, three white mid-quarter stripes, a distinct midsole and a heel tab. Each of the two release colours indicated a different intended use. The red version was made to be used outdoors and featured a tough, see-through gum rubber sole with an indented, undulating pattern which was taken from the ‘Olympiade’ design. The blue incorporated a novel air-bubble technology in the sole that softened the step, making it better-suited to indoor use. The adidas Gazelle harnessed kangaroo suede to give the blue and red colours of the original incredible vibrancy, especially when compared to the previous dyed leather models. Both iterations also had some common features, including support through the arch, a cushioned ankle zone and a moulded tongue. Finally, the three white adidas stripes came in a zigzag pattern for a new change to the original design.

    While the Gazelle grew in popularity through the 70s and 80s, adidas tried out a variety of outsoles and also added a cushioned heel detail and polyurethane tongue. During the 1972 Olympics in Munich, American swimmer Mark Spitz lifted his Gazelles to the crowd in celebration during the ceremony for one of his seven gold medals. This sparked conversation around product placement in sport, while doing wonders for the silhouette’s growing popularity. 

    As time wore on, the emphasis of the shoe gradually switched away from sports towards more leisure and lifestyle pursuits. But it wasn’t until the eighties and early 90s, when the line was decorated with a greater range of colours, that it became a full-blown lifestyle shoe and amassed a cult following. One place where it really took off was the United Kingdom, where it was adopted by people from all walks of life, including British ‘terrace’ football supporters and rock bands such as Oasis and Blur, who were pivotal cultural influencers in the 90s. 

    In 1993, Kate Moss, a young, beautiful supermodel, appeared cross-legged on a couch casually biting the end of her thumb. She was wearing black trousers, a black strappy top and some maroon Gazelles. Moss’ nonchalant pose and the Gazelles form the two focal points of the image, which was shot by Denzil McNeelance during a low-key test shoot. If the Gazelle’s needed any affirmation of their cultural relevance, this iconic image was it.

    Channelling the original energy of the 90s, the 2016 reissue was based on the 1991 silhouette, incorporating the same hexagonal outsole, colourways and materials. The campaign featured a collaged, unfinished, scrappy reworking of the original 1993 image of Moss created by the digital artist Doug Abraham. The reissues were embraced as a stylish piece of streetwear and have even been worn by James Bond as gym shoes, highlighting their huge cross-cultural relevance. 

    The adidas Gazelle began its life gracing the feet of sprinters in the sixties before going on to become a performance shoe for indoor use that provided speed and agility. In the seventies, it was celebrated by an Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer, while the eighties saw it worn on the noisy terraces of British football grounds. In the nineties, it supported the energy and culture of Blur, Oasis and Kate Moss, and the 2010s saw it casually slip into streetwear culture with its popular rerelease. The smoothness of these transitions is down to its clean, sporty, vintage appearance and its use of high-quality suede throughout. Taking inspiration from the animal it was named after, the Gazelle’s grace, beauty and athleticism have helped to make it an enduring phenomenon to this day.

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