Why 2022 Brought Us the Summer of Samba

At press time, the Three Stripes was sold out of many sizes of its standard Samba models. Underlining the surge in demand, StockX has facilitated some truly staggering sales in recent weeks. In mid-August, StockX sold a pair of basic white Samba OGs, which retailed for $100, for $513—around what a rare Air Jordan collaboration might go for, rather than a mass-produced design that’s also available on Zappo’s. (Samba collaborations have been bullish on StockX, too, with a special LAFC edition going for a 200% price premium on average since January.)

The Samba has traveled an undulating road to the peak of our collective style consciousness. Introduced in the 1950s by Adidas founder Adi Dassler, the original Samba looked more like a hiking boot than the low-profile sneaker we know today. Dassler’s important innovation was the gum outsole, which was developed to help soccer players maintain their footing on icy pitches. Over time, the Samba slimmed down and became a favorite of indoor soccer players, and by the ’90s, its clean silhouette and signature brown sole was crossing over into the proto-streetwear scene. In the UK, it took off among football-adjacent Britpop fans (Oasis is often credited with embracing the Samba, though they generally favored the similar Gazelle model), and in the US, SoCal kids discovered that it was also a great shoe to skateboard in.

The new generation of Samba fans have been drawn to this deep well of nostalgia. Fashion stylist Ian Bradley initially recognized the sneaker’s roots in Jamaica’s football-obsessed reggae scene. “It’s Bob Marley-ish for me,” says Bradley, who has had a pair or two in his footwear rotation since 2004. Over the years, he realized that the understated Samba evoked a particularly strong—even emotional—response in other people. “The thing about wearing the shoe, especially when it’s not on trend, is people remember it. They’d be like, Oh, I forgot, I used to have a pair of those for soccer practice. It’s more of a rekindling than a reaction,” Bradley says.

One of those people was Jonah Hill, who designed his own pair of Sambas for Adidas in 2020. “I’ve worn [the Samba] since probably I was 11 or something—it’s always been my favorite shoe,” he told GQ at the time. “I would wear them from when I was super into soccer when I was nine or 10, and then through skateboarding.” Hill, who in the past few years has served as a style avatar for young men dipping their toes into menswear, found that the Samba fit neatly into his new tasteful sensibility. “I never lost affection for just how it looks,” Hill said. “They look great with shorts, they look great with pants. They’re just a beautiful shoe that isn’t too tech-y or futuristic.”

To 24-year-old Tanner Dean, the Samba represents something of a holy menswear grail. Dean is by no means a sneakerhead—when he moved to New York from Oregon several years ago, his footwear rotation consisted of boots, loafers, and derbies. Then, in 2020, Adidas Originals collaborated with one of the hottest rising stars in fashion, Grace Wales Bonner, on a line of Sambas with subtle crochet detailing. If the Samba had already begun to catch back on, now it was truly primed for takeoff. “I’ve been into smaller brands like Wales Bonner for a while, so I was reintroduced to the Samba on a fashion level and instead of on a purely functional level,” says Dean, who missed out on a coveted brown pair from the collab that now sell for many hundreds of dollars on the secondary market. When another round dropped earlier this summer, Dean jumped on a white and green suede pair. “It’s versatile, but it’s also a recognizable silhouette for a lot of people,” Dean says. “It’s literally the don’t-think-about-it shoe.”

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