I’m Neil and I am 41 years old and come from sunny Wolverhampton. My day job is working with children with learning difficulties and disabilities; my night job is obsessing about adidas.
I started wearing adidas in 1983 when I was old enough and wise enough to get out of the generic gym trainers and two striped tracksuits that my mum had put me in throughout much of the seventies. My first pair of Adidas were neither trainers nor new, they were a pair of second hand Apollo track spikes my running coach gave me at the local athletic club.
The mid 80s was all about labels and sportswear. I remember owning Gazelle, ZX 500, Grand Slam and Serve while at school. I wasn’t exclusively adidas back then and wore Nike, Puma, Hi-Tech and even a pair of Pony NFL Line Backer in Miami Dolphins colours. My parents weren’t rich (I know genuine sob story) so having a new pair of trainers was a big event for me.
I went to a school in which you had kids coming off council estates rubbing shoulders with lads who had swimming pools and tennis courts in their gardens. I was somewhere in the middle but closer to the lower end of the scale, so it was three paper rounds a day to raise enough cash to compete. I fell out of love with Adidas in the 90s as fashions and my own interests changed, but always came back to the odd pair now and then.
I remember owning several Gazelle and Campus in the mid 90s and LA Trainer and Superstar around 2000. I always owned only a few pairs at a time, tending to wear them into the ground before buying a fresh pair. That all changed in about 2005. I stumbled upon a forum called Crooked Tongues. It was an open forum back in the early days of social media.
I thought I knew a thing or two about trainers but seeing the collections some of the guys owned on there, I was quite frankly blown away. Shoes I had never seen or heard of, in all manners of styles and colours. I was also impressed with the knowledge of these guys, and in particular a guy called 10ari. What 10ari did not know about adidas wasn’t worth knowing as the expression goes. He was a massive inspiration on me. I decided to start my own personal quest of collecting shoes and knowledge about adidas. I now have a collection of around 150 pairs from 1959 to recent re-issues.
I also have around 300 scanned Adidas catalogues and an archive of tens of thousands of pictures I have collected off the internet. This kind of crazy obsession has earned me the nickname “The Oracle” by some, for my knowledge of adidas shoes. When I look at it, it is a bit crazy. I remember the first time my girlfriends dad saw my collection. He took a look at it, looked at me and said “you’re tapped in the ‘ead son”.
Despite that or even because of it, I love my hobby and I love all the lads I have met who share the same passion. I’ve met lads who have sent me free stuff, sold me shoes well below their value, offered me stuff you can’t get anywhere else and given me some heads up on good deals. I’ve also seen some amazing charitable donations to people less fortunate than me (us) which to me shows the spirit of the three FB groups I am most involved in.
1) Gazelle made in Austria in 1986.
If someone asked me, name the shoe which most defines the style of Adidas I would chose the Gazelle. The shoe has changed little since it was first released in the mid-60s. It’s a simplistic design but doesn’t need to be anything else, its shape and elegance are just perfect. It’s hard to choose the definitive model of the Gazelle as it has been in continuous production for nearly 50s years, but this Austrian interpretation is amongst the best.
2) Jeans made in Australia in 1977.
One of the things I most love about Adidas is that you are always stumbling across shoes which you have never seen before. Every month I seem to find something new. Sometimes it’s just the case that a design was only made for a short period of time and in relatively small amounts hence its rarity. Other times it is because the shoe was never intended to be released in the UK.
The popularity of adidas began to grow from the mid-50s onwards and demand soon began to outstrip supply. Adidas opened new factories across Europe which helped, but to distribute to the far corners of the world adidas came up with a solution, they signed licence agreements with a number of companies to produce the shoes in their own territories. Sometimes the shoes looked pretty much like their European equivalents, on other occasions the companies experimented with new colours, styles, materials and designs. The Jeans made by Pacific Dunlop in Australia are a good example. The original Austrian model was made from light blue suede. Here the suede has been replaced by light blue leather and the end product in my opinion is stunning.
3) Perfekt made in Austria in 1980.
I have a deep affection for leather Adidas training shoes. There is something about the old leather designs which fascinates me. Choosing my favourite pair was difficult, as i have a few, but I went for these Perfekt as the colour combination is spot on and the silhouette is timeless. Leather training shoes were largely unfashionable by the 1980s, being replaced by suede and then nylon models, but adidas continued to produce a small range, I guess for people like me.
4) Saphir made in Western Germany in 1970.
It’s nice to have something that most people don’t have in their collection. Trainer collecting/wearing/buying certainly has an element of peacocking about it, even more so in the internet age where you can make many more times people envious of your shoes. The Saphir tend to divide opinions, but to me they tick all the boxes. They were made in a patent blue leather finish (which was not heard of at the time) and in small numbers for one year only, so whatever you think about them you can’t say they aren’t unusual or rare.
5) Mexicana made in Austria in 1974.
I’m finishing off with a relatively new acquisition to the collection; you know who you are who gave me the chance to own these! Supposedly they’ve been around the block a bit but they won’t be going anywhere else in the near future. I’ve been after a pair for ages and had almost given up hope, so sweeter the catch and that’s what I love about grail hunting, you never should give up. Apart from being in my team colours, they are Austrian made and in my opinion the shoes that came out of the Klagenfurt-Viktring factory are amongst the finest examples of adidas ever produced. The build, the quality of the suede, the shape of the shoes, the Austrians certainly knew how to make a good shoe. Check your grail lists, I would be surprised if there aren’t a few Austrian models in your top ten.