A Brief History of Adidas

The company name comes from founder Adi Dassler's name


Max Huang

Although urban legend has it that the word "Adidas" is an anagram of the phrase "all day I dream about sports," the athletic wear company gets its name from its founder, Adolph "Adi" Dassler. He and his brother founded the company that would become a worldwide brand, but their history as members of the Nazi Party isn't as well known.

Beginnings of Adidas Shoes

In 1920, at the age of 20, avid soccer player Adolph (Adi) Dassler, son of a cobbler, invented spiked shoes for track and field. Four years later Adi and his brother Rudolph (Rudi) founded the German sports shoe company Gebrüder Dassler OHG—later known as Adidas. T

By 1925 the Dasslers were making leather shoes with nailed studs and track shoes with hand-forged spikes.

Beginning with the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, Adi's uniquely designed shoes began to gain a worldwide reputation. Jesse Owens was wearing a pair of Dassler's track shoes when he won four gold medals for the US at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

At the time of his death in 1959, Dassler held over 700 patents related to sports shoes and other athletic equipment. In 1978, he was inducted into the American Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame as one of the founders of the modern sporting goods industry.

The Dassler Brothers and World War II

During the war, both Dassler brothers were members of the NSDAP (The National Socialist German Workers' Party) and eventually even produced a weapon called "Panzerschreck" an anti-tank bazooka, made with the help of forced labor.

The Dasslers both joined the Nazi Party prior to the war, and Adi supplied shoes to the Hitler Youth movement, and to German athletes at the 1936 Olympics. It's also believed that Adi Dassler used Russian prisoners of war to help at his factory during the war since there was a labor shortage due to the war effort.

The Dasslers had a falling out during the war; Rudolf believed Adi had identified him as a traitor to American forces. In 1948, Rudi founded what would later become Puma, a rival shoe company to Adidas.

Adidas in the Modern Era

In the 1970s, Adidas was the top athletic shoe brand sold in the US. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were both wearing Adidas boxing shoes in their "Fight of the Century" in 1971. Adidas was named the official supplier for the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.

Although still a strong, well-known brand today, Adidas' share of the world sports shoe market dropped over the years, and what began as a German family business is now a corporation (Adidas-Salomon AG) combined with the French global concern Salomon.

In 2004 Adidas bought Valley Apparel Company, a U.S. company that held licenses for outfitting more than 140 U.S. college athletic teams. In 2005 Adidas announced that it was purchasing the American shoemaker Reebok, which allowed it to compete more directly with Nike in the U.S. But the Adidas world headquarters are still located in Adi Dassler's hometown of Herzogenaurach. They also have an ownership stake in German soccer club 1. FC Bayern München.

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Flippo, Hyde. "A Brief History of Adidas." ThoughtCo, Sep. 8, 2021, thoughtco.com/quick-history-of-adidas-1444319. Flippo, Hyde. (2021, September 8). A Brief History of Adidas. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/quick-history-of-adidas-1444319 Flippo, Hyde. "A Brief History of Adidas." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/quick-history-of-adidas-1444319 (accessed March 31, 2023).