Trendy or Timeless? Assessing Adidas Sambas
Why the increasingly popular sneaker is here to stay
Trends are exhausting. Adidas Sambas are yet another unearthed gem that have grown immensely popular over the past year, but the question remains: are they here to stay?
Figuring out what products are trending is nearly impossible; trends fluctuate and blur together, especially in the world of fashion, where something’s in one minute and out the next. Trends promote mass-consumerism and facilitate fast fashion. They are often advertising ploys, designed to make the consumer feel left-out, unfashionable and behind-the-times.
Above all other types of clothing, sneakers fortify an undisputed post on the fashion trend hierarchy. In the past decade, shoes such as Fila Disruptors, Vans and Adidas Superstars have dominated the sneaker scene. These examples carry their own brands of infamy. Many are still embarrassed over being trend-followers in the dark ages of 2010s fashion.
However, Sambas arguably have a stroke of classicism, equivalent to the timeless Converse. First launched in the 1950s, these Adidas shoes have been steadily in stock and subtly popular since. Moreover, they’re fairly affordable in comparison to other beloved brands, like Nike Jordans.
Sambas were particularly popular for soccer in the 1970s, similar to Converse’s original use as a basketball shoe. Like Vans, they were also commonly worn for skateboarding in the 1990s.
While Vans have declined in popularity after a brief revival in 2016, Sambas seem to be breaking the skater shoe curse. They are small and nondescript, coming in a variety of colorways. While Vans tend to be more colorful and adolescent, Sambas speak to an elevated taste with more neutral tones.
This characterization could be attributed to the shoes’ recent appearances in street style, seen on celebrities such as A$AP Rocky, Pharrell Williams, Bella Hadid and Hailey Beiber. Appearances like these have brought Sambas into the mainstream, even though they’ve been one of Adidas’ most steady products for decades.
Much of the shoe’s popularity can also be attributed to its versatility. They can be seamlessly styled with anything from laid-back jorts to business-casual slacks, and can be either masculine or feminine. They’re more mature than the consistently worn, simple Nike Air Force 1, and thus maintain more of a shelf presence.
Sambas are also a staple of the freshly popular “clean girl aesthetic”: one of those tiring, ever-changing trends that turn feminine bodies into commodities. This style calls to mind “no-makeup-makeup,” slicked-back hair and neutral-toned basic clothing. Critics call out its indirect and occasional promotion of eurocentric beauty standards and the regressive notion that women need to seem “effortless” to be beautiful, when those standards actually require quite a lot of effort.
Nonetheless, Sambas’ illustrious existence outside of this merely trendy aesthetic – as well as their established versatility in a world of ultra-fast fashion – proves that they are timeless. Like Converse, their popularity may wane and ebb, possibly edging on outdated, yet never truly bygone. From soccer pitches to college campuses, these sneakers are here to stay.
This article was edited by Maria Tedesco, Patricia McGee and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Olivia Citarella.