Shell-Toed Superstar

Nas, Missy Elliot, and the Beasties celebrate the redesign of the Run D.M.C. Adidas

 Me and my Adidas do the illest things / We like to stomp out pimps with diamond rings / We slay all suckers who perpetrate / And lay down law from state to state / We travel on gravel, dirt road or street / I wear my Adidas when I rock the beat / On stage front page every show I go / It's Adidas on my feet, high top or low
—"My Adidas," Run D.M.C.

It was the advertising you could never pay for. After Run D.M.C. rapped about the superior shell toe in 1986, the sneaker became so synonymous with the image of old-school hip-hop that few realize the Superstar's origins as a basketball shoe. Released in 1969, it was the first non-canvas shoe players wore widely from the playgrounds to the pro leagues, revolutionizing the basketball-sneaker industry. From the movement off the courts to the beginnings of hip-hop, then to a nationwide resurgence in popularity after its 1991 reissue, the Superstar has become a classic choice for the everydude.

Now Adidas is celebrating founder Adi Dassler's creation from 35 years ago with a stunning collection of 35 new limited-edition versions of the original. The monster project is divided into five series—Cities, Consortium, Expression, Music, and Anniversary. Most of these have been reinterpreted with the help of luminaries from the worlds of art, fashion, and music. On March 19, the Adidas Originals store on Wooster is set to sell the Music series, limited to a small run, and designed by a diverse group of musicians and producers. Missy Elliott's shoes are in her favorite colors, orange and purple; Ian Brown from the Stone Roses asked for his in a waxed leather to withstand the rainy British weather; the sole of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' sneaker features an image of Flea and Anthony Kiedis, who look like they are trapped inside the shoe. The Run D.M.C. pair is, of course, like the original—minus the laces.

Nas on the red carpet at the Jam Master Jay/Adidas party
photo: Beatrice Williams
Nas on the red carpet at the Jam Master Jay/Adidas party

A charity dinner and performance last Friday was thrown to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Adidas and to honor the life of Jam Master Jay, with all proceeds to benefit the Jam Master Jay Foundation for Music, a fund set up after the DJ's death to help support music-education programs in inner-city schools. Fat Joe, Nas, Missy Elliot, Lil' Kim, Naomi Campbell, MCA and Adrock from the Beastie Boys, and others turned out to pay tribute to the man and his sneaker. Time has shown the two can't be separated.


High top or low
photo: Courtesy of Adidas
Shoes from just-released series are selling fast. In January, the Cities series, which represents metropolises from London to Tokyo (New York's are a tribute to all five boroughs), was released with a large run and is still available. The Consortium series was a collaboration with notable sneaker shops around the world. With the smallest run, 300 to 600 per shoe, they were sold only through those selected stores and are now nearly impossible to find short of eBay, where New York store Union
's start at $340.

The third series, Expression, went on sale February 12. With a focus on the intermingling spheres of popular art, graffiti, and photography, everyone from the Andy Warhol Estate to renowned graffiti artist Lee Quinones to Rock Steady and Project Playground crew member Bobbito Garcia designed a pair. Even wearers can create their own design with the reissue of the 1984 Adicolor, a plain white Superstar that comes with a set of waterproof permanent markers. Interest in Expression was so intense that fans started lining up at 6 a.m. outside of the Adidas Originals store. The store sold out in one day, with the biggest seller, amusingly enough, being Disney's Goofy pair. One of the few places left to buy Expressions are on eBay; sneaker boutiques like Dave's Quality Meat , Nom de Guerre , and Alife Rivington have already sold out.

The last series, Anniversary, will be released in April. The final collection celebrates the Superstar's timelessness despite the remakes, reinterpretations, and reissues throughout its 35-year history. "That is the strong point of the Superstar," says Matt Hollis of Union. "It's been around and stood the test of time; we can try to reinvent it but ultimately it remains the same."

 
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