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The Rise and Fall of the adidas Samba and Everything In-Between

Wales Bonner x adidas Samba

If you told us a decade ago that the adidas Samba was destined to be one of the most popular shoes on the market, we wouldn’t believe you. It was originally released in 1949, and for the past ten years was considered a shoe for the everyday person – minimal, sleek and easy to acquire. The Samba has just been there, sitting silently on shelves. Yet, here we are in 2024, and the soccer-geared silhouette is winding out one of the most dominant shoe dynasties of all time. At its peak, GRs sold quicker than some collaborations; however, the appeal has diminished slightly in 2024.

While the Samba had moments as part of the skate scene in the 90s, and UK football hooligan culture in the 70s and 80s, its recent ascent is one for the history books, but its newfound global sneaker stardom didn’t happen overnight. A gargantuan resurgence has been a slow burn over the past three years, cooked up by perfect collaborations, major celebrity sightings and social media virality. Here's a modern timeline of how the adidas Samba reached its peak.

It’s an open secret that collaborations define a sneaker’s social capital in the 2020s, and in the adidas Samba’s case, they allowed the silhouette to move up the ladder. In 2020, the fruitful partnership between UK-based designer Grace Wales Bonner and adidas began, elevating the Samba with crocheted detailing. Bonner’s take resonated with the fashion community, and they subsequently sold out, eventually landing on resale platforms like GOAT with four-figure markups. Once Team Trefoil got a whiff of the success, IRAK, Kith and Palace were the follow-ups.

By the end of 2021, the Samba was picking up steam, and it wasn’t long before Instagram moodboards and the fashionable fringes of TikTok caught on. The OG Wales Bonner x adidas Sambas were the main culprits featured on pages like @hidden.ny. This only bolstered their hype, and those who couldn't cop for RRP or acquire them at insane resale prices opted for the next best thing – GRs. The OG adidas Samba colourways reached must-have status among niche parts of the fashionsphere shortly after, becoming the uniform for tote-bag-donning, workwear-wearing fashionistas.

Over on TikTok, with its recommendation culture a main source of content, creators added the shoes into their ‘underrated shoes you need’ type videos. If you remember this time circa 2021, you know what we mean. #adidassamba now has over 147 million views on the platform.

What a celebrity wears can bolster trend cycles, turning ultra-niche internet moments into viral crazes that stick around for years to come. Bella Hadid, Emma Chamberlin, Frank Ocean, Jonah Hill and A$AP Rocky have all been snapped rocking the OG Samba colourways. And, it’s no secret that the mass market is heavily influenced by what stars and influencers are wearing. The SEO machine was going crazy, searches like ‘what shoes does Bella Hadid wear’ were trending. If people didn’t know what the Samba was yet, they did now.

Arguably, the adidas Samba has reached peak popularity in 2023 and 2024 has already seen a dip. Recently, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was infamously documented as a wearer of the shoe, and if that’s not a nail in the coffin, we don’t know what is! adidas aren't too worried though, because according to their recent financials, the Campus is actually selling better than the Samba in select regions.

Celebrity style and social media influence has made a big impact on the Samba’s popularity, but all-in-all it’s just a good shoe at an accessible price point. However, 2024 is definitely the year that marks the end of the Samba's reign of terror. The two OG colourways went from selling out with the quickness to sitting idly on shelves, but for a reliable every driver like the Samba, that's just how we like it.

Do you want to learn more about the adidas Samba? Find a sizing guide here and learn all the variations here.

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