The Story as Told by Those Who Have Lived and are Living it

The first, most important impression about this book is the sheer size of it. Quite heavy (643 pages long), extra thick (five centimeters to be exact), and built to last, this is a true coffee table book, one which is substantial enough that it could quite very well be the coffee table too if happened to have legs. Jokes aside, the title itself says a lot, but within the first few delicately designed pages the reader can find a proper mission statement:

This book is dedicated to all those who have committed their energies and their talents, their passions and their aspirations, to pursuing the unique legacy of Adi Dassler and who continue to use the power of the adidas brand to prove that impossible is nothing.

After reading that it’s no wonder why the book is so big; what a concept to tackle! Immediately after the dedication and cover pages we’re confronted with a happy, healthy looking Adi fixing some cleats on a pair of football shoes, sitting cross legged on what looks like a balcony. An introduction by Herbert Hainer (current CEO of adidas, at the time of writing this) entitled “A Long Story” follows, delivering less fact and more furious inspiration and encouragement. Next the table of contents breaks the book up into ten sections: “Early Years”, “Adi’s Magic Formula”, “The Glory Years”, “In Adi’s Footsteps”, “The Roller Coaster”, “A Fresh Start”, “Visions of the Future”, “Footprints”, “Turning Points”, and a much needed appendix.

Having seen a few reviews of the book that don’t go in-depth at all, and considering the massive amount of quality content within its pages, we decided to take you through it, section by section, in case you weren’t lucky enough to grab yourself a copy. For those that haven’t heard of or even seen the book before, the idea was that it was an internal release only, made available for purchase to adidas employees for an incredibly low price (under three figures, something in the range of thirty to fifty euros, for example) considering its size and value and the immense work and effort that went into it.

It starts off with “The Early Years” section which chronicles the history of adidas from 1920 to 1949, most prominently outlining the driving force behind Adi’s inspiration, as well as the creation of the company, and the split of him and his brother, Rudolf, and their separate business ventures (adidas and PUMA, respectively, of course). It details the process of the name, three stripes, and even the earliest logo conception. In short, some really cool and juicy details that you likely can’t really read anywhere else. The entire book is filled with lovely black and white and color photographs, but this section is the first to surprise the reader with a small cache of pages that are uniquely sized, smaller than the span of the book, giving their contents (vintage photos from the Dassler family album) an authentic age-old sense. The section ends with trouble brewing as adidas begins to compete heavily with other brands (such as Nike in the US), especially after Adi passed away.

Following “The Early Years” we learn more about Adi Dassler himself in the “Adi’s Magic Formula” chapter. Photos, philosophies, and the family’s pursuit are outlined here. The text is followed again by varying sized photos and more interviews. There’s one especially funny bit where Stan Smith says “the kids think I’m a shoe!”

Continuing forward into “The Glory Years” – 1949 through 1989 – which really explains the sporting aspect and helps to illustrate the how and why of adidas’ success story. Explanations of the path from being only a shoe producer to developing clothing lines is explored within the pages. The legacy continues into more contemporary branding with the 1972 introduction of the Trefoil logo, which is stated as taking a full three years to design, develop, and approve. Even more interesting though is the true creation story, as Franz Martz (an adidas business partner) says: “When we first put the Trefoil on the heel of a shoe, it was just an experiment. We wanted to put something there so a runner could always see it on the runner in front of him!”

In all that competition more ups and downs are described and deliver us directly into a chapter about Horst Dassler, Adi’s son, who took over the company in his absence. “In Adi’s Footsteps” details the son’s history, and while he had a lot of aspects of his father he also strayed from the main path, accumulating other brands in his portfolio, such as the acquisition he made of Le Coq Sportif, as one example. Even when he passed he was still pushing hard for adidas though, as outlined in a letter he wrote only nine days before he died.

“The Roller Coaster” talks of the company’s ups and downs between 1989 and 2000. Talks of basketball in Germany, troubles in the US market, new people coming on board, older ones leaving, all the crises one might imagine of a company as crucial as adidas. This section has one of the most exciting tributes, showing off Muhammad Ali and quoting various folks (such as David Beckham) describing their thoughts on him.

Finally we make it to “A Fresh Start” bringing things more up to modern years with the 2000 to 2010 timeline. The main idea is that Adi lives on through the spirit of those in the company and while they believe he wouldn’t appreciate being glorified, it’s assumed that he’d be happy how they try their best to live up to his standard of passion and innovation in sportswear. As well, a more relevant acquisition (of Reebok) is explained too, which to this day appears to be going well for adidas. Y-3, SLVR label, Jeremy Scott, and other contemporary characters come into play, taking the brand past sports (its origin), past culture (its namesake), and into the realm of fashion (its future?). As well, in 2004, adidas adopted the slogan “Impossible is Nothing”, which clearly appears to be very tied to the concept of the book itself; imagine being the design team simply in charge of laying out each page of this beast!

And then, at last, we’re given a peek forward with “Visions of the Future”, leading us beyond 2010 and all the way into 2020. Exciting stuff though we won’t spoil the details for those that have a copy and haven’t got that far yet (as this book takes dedication to read through from cover to cover, just like the brand took dedication to build). The section ends with a lot of really cool quotes from real, current employees right now, accompanied by charming and funny (and sometimes even sexy) portraits of them in their workspaces or out in the world working their sports paths.

With all that history and hope behind us, we stumble into “Footprints”, the section that likely every trainer head goes nuts over. Pictures, dates, and descriptions of a mass of athletic shoes developed by the German giant from 1925 through 2010. A fold-out poster also illustrates the same shoes, in a large graphic grid, and it’s a truly special piece of the package. “Turning Points” takes it to another level by showing the three key themes of the three-striped brand – outstanding individuals, ground-breaking products, and key events – drawn on a visual timeline to take us through the vital moments in the brand’s history all the way back from 1900 to 2010.

And as if that wasn’t enough content, even in-between sections there are a variety of interviews with adidas employees (and former employees) as well as famous athletes and other icons from various adidas eras. The photos and stories told throughout such transitional sections are rich and thick with character and they add so much dynamicism and actual faces to the adidas story.

The book itself comes packaged in a thick cardboard case, is covered in a classic three-striped hard shell, and provides a small array of colored ribbons to keep your place as you read. Extras include a fold out poster of shoes as well as promotional advertisements from 1926 (such as the first Dassler-Gymnastikschuh ad) to their 2011 “adidas is All In” campaign. While that’s a huge amount of slogans and logos and marketing ploys to to pick from, we honestly haven’t found a favorite yet. We will say though that we agree whole-heartedly with their slogan “Every Trefoil has a Story”, another tidbit that is obviously tied to the concept of the book, and here at eatmoreshoes that is exactly how we feel about each individual release, as well as the never-ending family of models and makes.

Whether or not we can claim to ‘know’ what this book is truly meant to be about, we can safely state that it parallels the adidas brand in one vital way: there’s something in it for everyone and making it to your personal part of the larger picture is going to be a journey, no matter which way you look at it.

Got you excited to start living the story? We’re glad. But if you require the book itself to start doing so then you better get lucky or get out the big bucks, because the majority of folks who are out there reselling these employee-only puppies are not parting with them easily, and some are even asking ten times the book’s internally-sold, retail price. So good luck, godspeed, and above all, god bless our dear old Adi Dassler for leaving behind the legacy of such an inspiring story to be told.

written by Dylan Cromwell

photography by errol