How The Adidas Samba Sneaker Became Fashion’s New Favorite Shoe (Again)

The Adidas Samba sneaker is by no means novel. First designed in the 1940s as a soccer shoe (or, rather, football, since it was created in Germany), the sneaker — a minimal style featuring a rubber sole and the brand’s signature three stripes and often constructed of a mix of leather and suede — spent over 70 years sitting amongst the athletic brand’s lineup of beloved sneakers which also include Superstars and Stan Smiths. But over the last year, and most noticeably the last few months, the Samba has emerged as the Sneaker of the Moment, preferred by trendsetters like Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, and Frank Ocean. 
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“We’ve seen a noticeable uptick in both supply and demand for the Samba,” confirms Aniza Lall, SVP of commercial at Stadium Goods, where sales of the sports shoe have increased over 600% since June.
While it’s a stark rise for a sneaker that’s been around for decades, it’s not entirely surprising: Thanks to a number of high-profile collabs including Jonah Hill, skateboarder Jason Dill, and, most notably, menswear designer Grace Wales Bonner, the Samba is now available in more eye-catching iterations that are drawing in both men and women seeking the next It shoe. According to shopping app Lyst’s newest quarterly report, Adidas has risen four spots in the “hottest brand rankings,” to 13th place. With, according to the report, “the Adidas x Wales Bonner Samba sneakers topping the men’s hottest products list.”
“The Grace Wales Bonner collab is one of the most special [collaborations],” says Lall. “Mixing the world of high fashion with the [European] football roots of the shoe.” On resale sites, Sambas from the debut collaboration are listed for close to $1,000 — a clear indicator that demand for the shoe has yet to diminish. (Newer iterations can still be found new in limited quantities.)
Photo: Courtesy of Adidas x Wales Bonner.
But, it’s not only recent iterations of the shoe that have sparked the interest of shoppers. As Gen Z explores the vintage market, many shoppers are discovering the sleek style for the first time. “I’ve always loved Adidas so when I would thrift, I would always be looking for some vintage old Adidas styles,” says creator Ruby Lyn. “I found my first pair of Sambas at a thrift store and have been obsessed ever since.”
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On Instagram, Lyn is among a generation of influencers who are incorporating the versatile sneaker into Y2K looks, complete with mini skirts, baggy pants, and bustiers (all of which are ways Hadid has also chosen to style her Sambas over the last year). “It’s a great way to dress down a dress or skirt,” says Lyn. “My go-to is probably with some baggy low-waisted trousers and tank top, something casual.” 
For Lall, it's this understated quality that makes it a particularly impactful shoe. "The low profile, sporty silhouette of the Samba makes it easy to style and is a departure from some of the more chunky, traditional Dunk, Yeezy, and Jordan silhouettes that have been popular,” she says. “The Samba’s vintage aesthetic and classic heritage serve to make it fresh for any season, and likely contribute to its unisex popularity.”
Still, don’t think that just because the Samba’s silhouette is simple means that it's interchangeable with other tried-and-true styles like Stan Smiths or New Balance 550s. While the classic, neutral iterations of the Samba — in grays, whites, and blacks — continue to be released season after season, it's Bonner’s bright red and green styles (along with the popular pink Gazelle number from Adidas’ recent Gucci collab) that are heralding in a new era of colorful statement-making sneakers. And while they may go with everything, they aren’t meant to blend in. 
Ahead of the 2022 World Cup this November and following the popularity of shows like Normal People (where Paul Mescal’s character wore the style) and Ted Lasso, soccer-inspired fashion is making a comeback in fashion; bright jerseys and boxy shorts are some of the athleisure staples that have also returned to the trend cycle of late. All to say: You can bet that this sports shoe is poised to become a game winner. 
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