With constant new shoe drops and trends coming out of the woodwork, sometimes, we can forget the classics exist. They may fall off your radar until you see a refurbished version of the style on the gram, hear an influencer sing their praises on TikTok, or catch a peek of a celeb reigniting their aesthetic powers in a perfectly composed ‘fit. Or, you may go on a massive closet cleanout spree and find an iconic style of sneakers buried under a pair of over-the-top platform Crocs. Given the versatility, timelessness, and backstory of classic sneakers, they always somehow make their way back to us. One shoe that is a bona fide GOAT and has made a lasting impact? The outstanding epitome of unisex athleisure—the Adidas Samba.
Anyone well-versed in soccer culture knows of the Adidas Samba. Originally made as a shoe for better traction on icy soccer fields in the United Kingdom, it was later transformed into an indoor soccer shoe. Born in Germany during 1950 from the mind of Adidas founder Adi Dassler, its original design looked eerily similar to a pair of bowling shoes. The timeless silhouette we know and love was updated in the 1970s, and has a classic leather upper body, lightweight gum rubber outsole, oblong tongue, and low profile.
Sambas have since reached a higher-end audience outside of the sports realm and transitioned into a top-tier streetwear shoe have been spotted on the feet of supermodels like Bella Hadid, hip hop style icons such as Frank Ocean and A$AP Rocky, and, of course, sneakerheads (like this writer). British Vogue recently deemed the shoes the “it-girl’s favorite trainer,” showcasing A-listers like Rihanna sporting them with torn denim, chains, pearls, and a fitted blazer. Street style photos on Pinterest also show European city folk pairing them with high-brow statement pieces like a pair of wide-leg trousers or a vintage crewneck sweatshirt for more of a grunge vibe.
The Samba’s gritty appeal is also part of the shoe’s history. Think Ewan McGregor as Mark Renton inTrainspotting—he wears burgundy Samba Supers throughout the whole film. The shoes have an edgy, punk-adjacent allure that feels perfectly matched with his shaved head, deviant-sexy misadventures, and the soundtrack of “Born Slippy.”
Variations have since been introduced, such as the Sambrarose, which has the same design, but with a thick-soled platform. (I own these kicks, which I wear when I need an extra lift.) Designers have also collabed with Adidas for special-edition Sambas, including British design house Wales Bonne, whose take on the shoe includes a unique shade of worn-in red suede and white stitching.
But it’s the traditional Sambas in black that reign supreme—my closet is never without a pair (although I finally had to retire my white Sambas that I’d had since high school—RIP). Sambas are the crème de la crème—they look just as slick with a leather jacket for outings to the bar as for walking to the office in a gorpcore pairing with Patagonia and chinos, or they’re superb for adding just a bit of athletic edge to your daily garb. I see my fair share of Sambas gracing the feet of New Yorkers all over town; just last week, I spotted them at a hotel cocktail bar on a woman dressed to the nines wearing them with a silk slip dress while sipping an old fashioned. That’s fashion inspiration at its finest.
TikTok users are also worshiping the shoes, declaring them “a huge fucking slay” and showcasing their versatility by pairing them with a variety of outfits.
When it comes to classic sneakers, Sambas are top-tier. Some people don’t like to indulge in trends, or think they’re “too cool” to wear something because it’s popular among the masses. Well, I’m telling you to get off your high horse, because these three-striped kicks have an eternal appeal that are both street-approved and haute couture-worthy. I bet Anna Wintour approves—but so does Rancid’s Lars Frederiksen. That’s when you know you’ve got a damn good sneaker.
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