Material Matters: Feeling the Breeze of adidas ClimaCool
The adjective ‘heat’ may be frequently thrown around in the sneaker world, but some of adidas’ hottest shoes have in fact been their coolest. Launched in the early 2000s as one of their flagship performance technologies, adidas ClimaCool underpinned a holistic design principle that eventually found its way into the lifestyle range, allowing sneakerheads and athletes alike to ‘Feel The Breeze’.
Keeping Feet Fresher
Major advancements in cushioning compounds and midsole materials may often be the focal point of sneaker technological innovation, but there have been some major developments concurrently happening on the material front. Leather uppers gave way to nylon in the 1970s, dramatically reducing weight and increasing breathability. At the same time, adidas explored knitting nylon – i.e. the net-like mesh panels that are ubiquitous today. To this day, companies are still developing upper materials that are lighter and more breathable.
However, sneaker soles were still a major area of footwear that remained literally stifled and lacking ventilation. After all, upper designs can only provide so much ventilation to the top and sides of the shoe. Enter adidas ClimaCool: a 360-degree solution to shoe breathability. The original ClimaCool cored out as much of the upper as possible, retaining minimal structural panels, and inserting multiple layered mesh panels and industrial-looking TPU vents as possible for maximum breathability. These vents also went through the arch of the midsole and lateral forefoot toe region, enabling airflow to enter the inside of the shoe from the underside. Additional features, including heavily perforated insoles, ensured ClimaCool was indeed as cool as possible.
Feel The Breeze
The new millennium was an exciting time to be a sneaker company, as brands continued the momentum of the 90s cushioning tech arms race, and adidas was ready for more. They launched ClimaCool in March of 2002 with the very enticing ‘Feel The Breeze’ TV spots that featured adi’s all-star roster of the time, including Australian freestyle swimming GOAT Ian ‘Thorpedo’ Thorpe, English footballer David Beckham, and tennis darling Anna Kournikova doing her best Marilyn Monroe impersonation.
Marketing campaigns were much longer back then too, with ads running into the 2002 FIFA World Cup, which proved to be a marketing boon for adidas and Coca-Cola, both major sponsors of the global sporting event. A limited edition ClimaCool collaboration between the corporations exposed millions of football fans to the new tech as they raised glistening bottles of ice-cold soft drink to their lips during the sweltering summer in Korea and Japan. The collaborators retroed the colab in 2016, and Diet Coke and Coke Zero variants followed.
ClimaCool was a particular focus for adidas as they continued upgrading the technology throughout the 2000s. A hilarious marketing campaign for the ClimaCool Cyclone in 2006 tapped into the nascent days of online viral videos – in fact, the above clip was uploaded barely a year into YouTube’s founding.
The technology was adapted for a wide variety of athletic disciplines, ranging from expected sports like tennis to less likely activities such as fencing. Early-2010s colabs like the – take a deep breath – David Beckham x adidas ObyO adiMEGA Torsion Flex CC transitioned ClimaCool from the sporting ground over to the streets, notwithstanding that the OG ClimaCool was already a popular summer shoe. Meanwhile, the technology branched into other adidas products that promoted airflow – this included anything from apparel to anti-perspirant deodorant. Spinoff lines in ClimaLite and ClimaChill extended cooling efficiency.
The Return of ClimaCool
2017 marked the 15th anniversary of adidas ClimaCool, and the Three Stripes celebrated the technology in a big way. Riding high on the success of the Team Cozy movement pioneered by adi newcomers like the UltraBOOST, NMD, and Yeezy BOOST 350, adi invested heavily in a retro edition now known as the ClimaCool 1. This OG reissue was highlighted by new and old colourways, plus Consortium tier collaborations. Also joining the party was a modern interpretation of the model called the ClimaCool 02/17, which reprised the popular bootie fit and sleek sock design of the era.
ClimaCool’s breathability ethos has been hardwired into incumbent adi tech like Primeknit, which lists ventilation as one of its major design advantages. The ClimaCool name and technology does live on today, but with interpreted formats. The UltraBOOST DNA CC_1 was an inevitable marriage between past and present, creating a UB with superior breathability, but without the idiosyncratic TPU vents, which would probably be more of a novelty than practicality today. The ClimaCool Vento is another contemporary model continuing adi’s futuristic footwear aesthetic. But more conventional athletic designs like the mid-tier ClimaCool Ventania prove the technology is still allowing many to ‘Feel The Breeze’.
For more textile and fabric nerdery, check out the Material Matters section here.