The First Shoe Ever Made – 65 years ago today, a young man in Germany registered his shoe company after a fight with his brother. His name was Adi Dassler, and his company was Adidas. More than half a century later, Adidas is worth $US6.8 billion. Come with us and take a visual tour through the company’s original designs.
As with many companies, the history of Adidas begins long before the company was officially registered, and centers on the conflict between the Dassler brothers. The two followed in their father’s footsteps, both literally and figuratively by stepping into the shoes when they returned from the First World War in Germany. From the back of their mother’s laundry, the Dassler brothers created a company together called Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik, which translates into English as Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory.
The First Shoe Ever Made
In 1936, Adi Dassler took a suitcase full of shoes to the Summer Olympics and convinced US athlete Jesse Owens to wear Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik shoes. Owens set four world records on the track using Dassler shoes, which established the brand in the sports community.
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The conflict between the Dassler brothers came to a head during the Second World War when the couple and their families sought refuge from Allied bombing. It is said that when Adi Dassler entered the hideout he uttered words to the effect that “they are bloodthirsty again”. Rudolf thought Adi was talking about his family, but Adi said he meant the Allies. Rudolf was later captured by American soldiers and accused of being a member of the Wafen SS in Nazi Germany, and assumed that his brother was responsible.
1947 saw the two separate and register their companies: Adi founded Adidas on August 18, 1949, while Rudolf registered Ruda, which later became Puma. Both types are worth billions today.
Since then, the three-line Adidas logo has undergone only three official changes. These days, the Adidas three stripes logo is emblazoned on everything from everyday runners to high-end Adidas Originals shoes. From cool… We may earn a commission from the links on this page, but we only recommend products that we recommend. Why Do We Trust Us?
Old waffle iron is rusty brown and breaks into pieces. But then it sits in a protective case, smack in the middle of Prefontaine Hall at Nike’s World Headquarters near Beaverton, Oregon. Why treat a waffle iron like a museum piece? The answer has nothing to do with breakfast.
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Forty-five years ago, Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman used this common device to create the company’s Waffle Trainer, a shoe that launched a billion-dollar empire. For decades, this icon of Nike’s success was thought to be completely lost to history, a device thrown in the trash but the story is shrouded in myths and legends. Then, in 2010, it rose from its dark grave when it was accidentally discovered in a backyard garbage can, prompting biblical hyperbole from its most ardent followers.
In early 1971, there were no Air Jordans. Not “Just do it.” Not the Swoosh. Nike wasn’t even Nike. It was a small company called Blue Ribbon Shoes founded by former athlete Phil Knight and his University of Oregon track coach, Bill Bowerman.
Bowerman was an Oregon legend long before Nike came along. He was born in Portland in 1911, a month after his father Jay Bowerman’s term as governor of the state ended. After excelling as a multi-sport athlete at Medford High School and the University of Oregon, he was sent across the Atlantic during World War II where he fought in several bloody and dangerous battles. Returning home a war hero, Bowerman quickly became Oregon’s coach. In a career that spanned more than 20 years, he led the university to four NCAA track titles, coached 33 Olympians, served as the Olympic track coach in 1972, and co-authored the definitive book on running. It was Bowerman’s constant persuasion and efforts to create a better running shoe, however, that tied him forever to Phil Knight.
By his own admission, Knight was not a star on Bowerman’s track teams of the late 1950s. Knight would say that he believed Bowerman chose him to try to change his shoes because “he wasn’t one of the best runners on the team. Bowerman knew he could use me as a guinea pig without much risk.” Bowerman was willing to try anything in search of a light shoe, including making shoes from carp skin, rattlesnake skin, and even kangaroo skin. To increase durability, Bowerman focused on creating lightweight replaceable spokes using different alloys of steel, rubber, and plastics, which allowed better traction on different surfaces. Bowerman created these prototypes for Knight and then bombarded him with questions about performance. Soon some of Knight’s team wanted two. That group included Otis Davis, the first person to win an Olympic gold medal in shoes designed by Bowerman.
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Nike ‘moon shoe’ worn by Mark Covert in 1972 U.S. Olympic trials. the shoes were made in waffle iron and were the first nike shoes worn during the competition.
Their paths diverged after Knight’s graduation, but the two reconnected in 1963 when Knight wrote Bowerman a life-changing letter. Last year, Knight made an unfortunate trip to Japan, where he had negotiated (perhaps using a few lies) distribution rights in 13 US states for Onitsuka Tiger, a running shoe that was virtually unknown in America at the time. Anticipating that Bowerman wanted to be a client, Knight received a surprising response—he asked Knight about “cutting your old coach in.” Within a week the two agreed on a partnership, and with a handshake, Blue Ribbon Sports was born.
Back in Oregon, Knight rode around to meet here selling shoes from the trunk of his green Plymouth Valiant. With the help of the company’s first full-time employee, Jeff Johnson, Knight showed his skills as a salesman, pushing the company to millions of dollars in sales by 1970. But operating costs were rising, and it became very clear that the relationship with Onitsuka (the company that would become Asics) was hurting. In the fall of 1971, Blue Ribbon Sports decided it was time to make their own shoes.
When his partnership with Onitsuka began to fall apart, Knight went looking for a new signature. Although Bowerman had designed the Cortez, it was under their contract with Onitsuka. Production had begun on the company’s first shoe, a soccer ball named after a Greek goddess. “The Nike”, released in 1971, would be the first to carry the famous “Swoosh” logo that was created by the recent college for $35. The company would eventually change its name to Nike, Inc., in 1978, but the shoe was not a big seller. This time, Blue Ribbon needed success.
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“The 18-month window was a funny step for our business,” says Reames, who has been Nike’s company historian since 2004. its shoemaking skills.”
Meanwhile, back in Eugene, Bowerman’s runners were having a lot of time adjusting to the new (and expensive) urethane track that had been installed at the University of Oregon. The traditional metal culture was tearing up and players were struggling to keep up. Bowerman went looking for alternatives, like a soft spike that wouldn’t ruin their new track and could work on other surfaces, like dirt, grass, and bark chips. Years later, Bill’s wife, Barbara, would describe her husband as struggling with this problem and unable to think of anything else—”just the urethane method.”
The story of the waffle iron took on an apocryphal tone all these years later. The truth is that Bowerman was looking for inspiration
. She always asked Barbara to search through her jewelry for anything that “had stars on them or things that we thought would be sharp or patterned on the legs.” And she loved working in the kitchen.
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Reames calls what happened next “The Breakfast Epiphany,” and tells the story like this: In late 1971, Bill and Barbara were sitting in the kitchen together on a Sunday morning. Usually at church on Sunday, Barbara decided to stay home that day to help Bill find the answer to this perplexing question. So he started making breakfast on an antique iron that was a wedding present in 1936, distinguished by its traditional Art Deco design. The epiphany came as Barbara served her husband breakfast.
“As one of the waffles came out, he said, ‘You know, by turning it upside down – where part of the waffle would meet the rail – I think it might work,'” Barbara told Reames in a 2006 interview. Nike Department