Before Robson and Jerome stopped covering songs and started wrangling fish and dragons respectively, adidas debuted the Equipment line, and a bold new logo to go with it.
1991 was the year adidas went for a no-frills approach to athletic performance: ‘Everything that is essential. Nothing that is not’ was the concept, creating the best performance, protection and comfort for the athlete was the goal.
Acceptable in the 80's
Why were adidas stripping back on superfluous features? Well:
Adidas micropacer (1984)
Silver leather, Velcro lace covers and on-board computers: the adi- designed future happened in 1984. If Big Brother were watching your run, though, he’d see suffocating feet, blistered heels and imprecise data. Iconic? Sure. Necessary? Absolutely not.
Adidas APS (1986)
The APS (which stands for anti-pronation and shock absorption) was customisable cushioning technology, which gave wearers the ability to adjust the feel of the sole. Inserting a key and turning rods let you tune the comfort of your shoe ‘til the cows come home. To clarify, the APS came with it’s own key. As if we don’t have enough stuff to lose.
Adidas Fire (1986)
Released in the same year as the APS, the brand with the three stripes were really pushing the customisation envelope in ’86. The Fire runner came with interchangeable midsole inserts with varying degrees of firmness. ‘Can’t wait to swap out my midsole inserts tomorrow’– said no one, ever. Cool idea though.
These designs were perhaps products of their environment – In an era of big hair and bigger shoulder pads can we blame sneaker designers for going big, too? But the design shift was more than a matter of taste - as a company, adidas fell on hard times in the late 80’s as the Dassler family exited the firm and questionable leadership caused huge losses and near bankruptcy in the early 90’s.
Everything that is essential
Step in, Peter Moore. The man who designed the Jordan 1 and sketched out the Air Jordan logo came into the company and shook things up.
As creative director of the equipment line, Moore came to adidas with a purpose; to take the company back to it’s roots - designing performance footwear for athletes.
The new logo was vital for ushering in a new era of technical design. Moore took the essence of the brand, the iconic 3 stripes, pivoted them by 30 degrees and stripped back the colour palette to black, white and green.
The colours weren’t chosen because of market research and popularity. They, too, were functional; Black for simplicity and strength, and a brand new sub-green as a symbol for sport, ecology and quality.
The equipment line was ‘no bullshit’, said Moore, ‘you don’t buy a piece of equipment to have fun with. You have a piece of equipment to do something with’.
The new creative direction saw adidas trust their standing as true pioneers in the athletic market – the equipment line was, at it’s core, brand-led. It served the brand’s vision of giving athletes the best possible performance, not perpetuating consumer trends. It was a smart move.
‘When something becomes a part of culture, it then becomes a part of fashion’. Peter Moore – creative director, EQT line.
The sneakers were built for a purpose, then popular culture found another use for them. A good design will always come back to the fore with fashion’s ebbs and flows, but the point is the EQT line served the athlete first. It played out adi’s vision across football and running to volleyball and beyond, with it’s cultural significance an added (and lucrative) bonus.
The best of adidas
The strength of design means the EQT’s welcome return isn’t obviously part of the 90’s revival of the past few years. Many of the design features from the original EQT range don’t look out of place in todays silhouettes – the Support Runners’ wrap around tongue debuted in 93, but is seen across a multitude of brands and models today, from performance to leisure wear.
The re-releases riffed on the intention of the original line, incorporating cutting-edge technologies to create EQT models that, 20+ years down the line, still represent the best of adidas, only this time as a leading lifestyle shoe. Boost technology and Primeknit are used across the Support 93/17, Support ultra and Support ADV RF, with contemporary uppers seen across the line with mesh, knit and premium leathers.
‘The EQT line breathed life back into adidas’ Jessie Villaneva - ex-creative director, alife
Recent collaborations range from NY heavyweights alife, to rappers and plastic wrappers (Pusha T and Parley for the Oceans) – cementing the EQT as an integral part of popular culture once again. It’s true that there’s no innovation without failure, but sometimes the key to success is taking a step back and playing to your strengths.
Check out the full range of EQT models at Footasylum stores, and online here.