In 1986 Darryl “DMC” McDaniels sat down to write his verse for the Run DMC track “My Adidas”. On the face of it, you wouldn’t be a fool for assuming the track was nothing more than a paid endorsement for the Three Stripes. However, I am here to debunk this claim. The record actually had no input from the brand other than to serve as inspiration. Run DMC actually decided to release the track as a response to community activist Dr Deas. Who wrote a pamphlet which he posted around their neighbourhood entitled ‘Fellon Shoes’. That claimed kids that wore certain items of clothing, namely Adidas trainers with no laces were, in fact, the thugs, the drug dealers and the low lives of the community.
Naturally, Run DMC wanted to combat this viewpoint. As for them within their hip-hop culture, a fresh pair of trainers made a powerful statement. Definitely not one with the type of negative connotations Dr Deas was suggesting. New kicks were empowering to those in their neighbourhood;
“I am somebody! I am kool, I am all that and then some, and the world had better take notice!”Darryl “DMC” McDaniels
It’s a hip-hop thang!!!
Trainers were a status symbol. In their minds, fresh kicks were better than the finest jewellery and the finest cars. Arguably for them, rightly so as well. As securing new kicks growing up was difficult. Specifically when it comes to leather or suede trainers. Traditionally the more affordable canvas trainers of the 1980s were Pro-Keds or Converse. Every kid from that era has fond memories of these, but when Hip-Hop became the dominant force in life within their community. The bar was raised on style and the Pumas and Adidas became the objects of everyone’s desire. The older generations didn’t understand why you would pay upwards of $50 for some perceived basketball shoes but they didn’t understand “It’s a hip-hop thang!”
“Drug Dealers set fashion trends”
In 1990 Rick Telander wrote an article for Sports Illustrated as part of a brewing controversy around the rise of trainer culture and its influence both culturally and racially. In it, he wrote;
“There are stores doing $5,000 to $10,000 a week in drug money, all over. Drug money is part of the economic landscape these days. Even if the companies don’t consciously go after the money, they’re still getting it. Hey, all inner-city kids aren’t drug dealers. Most of them are good, honest kids. Drug dealers are a very small per cent. But the drug dealers, man, they set the trends.Rick Telander
What this illustrated rather brilliantly was how criminal figures in urban communities were positioned as both heroes and villains within each individual eco-system. Able to live larger in the face of crippling inequality in the urban wasteland, and was successfully living a version of the American dream complete with conspicuous consumption and unrestrained luxury.
As concerns surrounding a perceived inability of young black men to control their desires for trainers. Coupled with their increased criminality in relation to trainer culture were escalated. Run DMC released ” My Adidas” to counter these views. In the video for which, they repped the same shoe laceless look to their Adidas Superstars. That was supposedly a fashion promoted that was reported to have started in prison. To challenge the preconceptions that were fragrantly dangled during the 1980s and 1990s.
Declaring that “My Adidas only bring good news and are not used as felon shoes.” Also stating that although they wore their Adidas with “no shoe-strings in ’em.” They purchased their trainers, had gone to university and wore their Superstars to promote goodwill. With the song gaining popularity, the group decided to make a bold business move off the back of it. Their astute manager, Russell Simmons, Run’s brother, suggest that they send a tape to Adidas and ask for a million dollars. Adidas responded by sending executives to Run DMC’s Madison Square Garden performance in 1986. When the group started to perform “My Adidas” DMC Stopped and asked everyone in the audience to take off their Adidas and wave them in the air. Enlightened by the market share represented by hip-hop. Adidas inked a deal with Run DMC for the amount they had asked for. Making the band the first in a long line of performers to have a trainer endorsement.
Adidas x Run DMC
This collaboration as a result of the “My Adidas” track did everything Run DMC wanted it to do, and so much more. Not only did it challenge the negative views surrounding specifically black males living in urban communities. It also opened the door to countless musicians that followed. Helping to bring urban music, fashion, and trainer culture to a much wider audience, especially with the introduction of online trainers platforms. In terms of product, the collaboration launched the Superstar 1 Music ‘Run Dmc’ that the group featured heavily. While since then to commemorate the legendary track, in 2011 marking the 25th anniversary of the trio’s legendary track. Adidas dropped the Run DMC x Superstar 80s ‘My Adidas’.