It’s hard to over-emphasise how much I loved adi training shoes (and how much I still do.) In the way that kids love to collect things I was smitten by adidas, and their training shoes in particular. No sooner did I acquire one pair than I was immediately lusting after my next conquest.
As with so many of us eternally young/ old men who were teenagers in the late 70s, I lived out some of my golden moments in adidas shoes. Samba were special (hell, Spezial were special!) and I had big crushes on loads of other models that came and went – Stan Smith, Forest Hills, Barrington Gold, SL80, Tom Okker, Nastase and Grand Slam to name a few. Certain shoes bring back great memories of high times on the trains and terraces, although the knuckle that invariably came with following your team in the 70s and 80s was, for me, an occupational hazard. I’ve never been a scrapper. I loved the camaraderie, the endless belly laughs, the actual football – and I absolutely loved the clobber.
As a lad who was into following the best football team in Europe between 1977 and 1984, the ‘Liverpool Look’ that accompanied those times was a thing to behold and a joy to be a part of. It became a part of your identity. I suppose the first punks must have felt the same – buzzing off the hostile stares they got as they waited at bus stops with everyday folk. That’s how it was for us going into cities in the Midlands or the North East, wherever, and getting these disbelieving responses. No scarves? Narrow jeans? Training shoes? Training shoes! It was the effeminate wedge haircut that threw them more than anything, but at a time when most teams’ ‘boys’ wore bovver boots, the training shoes thing definitely confused them.
A great year for me was 1981 and, if I really had to pick an all-time favourite trainie, it’s because of those times and this particular year. The Liverpool scal look had grown up a bit. Obviously the nightclubs had cottoned onto the football lads and sportswear. Most of the best clubs wouldn’t allow anyone in who was wearing training shoes. A kind of college professor/beatnik look started to proliferate – faded jeans, suede shoes, crew-necks, checked shirt, corduroy or tweed jackets…
adidas seemed attuned to the shift of gear, too. They started to bring out different types of, if you like, all-terrain trainies – shoes you could wear to the match, out and about and, with a fair wind, to clubs. The colourways were much more neutral and muted – lots of browns, tan, beige and so on. There were shoes like the Korsika and Palermo but my absolute favourite was the Fiji. It was a sandy beige leather, low-cut shoe and it looked great with jeans or cords. For me, it became a part of The Uniform. Nothing outstanding to distinguish it, a fairly boring colourway, but, for me, in all its design simplicity it was a thing of consummate beauty. A lifetime favourite training shoe.
Kevin Sampson (Author/Film Maker)