Introducing the adidas Samba: The Start of a Long Success Story
Long before Nike, Puma and Umbro entered the soccer arena, there was the Samba. Not only is the adidas Samba one of the first shoe launches in the company's history, but it's also their second-highest selling design, ever.
The Samba has been there for nearly all of adidas's 70-plus years in the sportswear industry, and its popularity has never wavered. Adi Dassler launched adidas in 1949, and one year later, the Samba was released. The Samba was the first soccer shoe that allowed players to train on the slickest of surfaces—even frozen fields.
The Samba was built for performance, but its classic styling allowed it to be easily paired with any color sports uniform. The all-leather shoe originally came in black with the now-iconic three stripes—still one of its most popular colorways. As adidas grew its product catalog, the Samba remained a constant. It was a perfect companion to the streetwear tracksuits of the 1960s. By the 1980s and 1990s, the adidas Samba had taken over European streetwear culture, from Germany to England and anywhere else soccer was the king of sport.
The adidas Samba's Classic Features and Evolving Design
Soft, flexible kangaroo leather molds to the foot, making it the material of choice for soccer shoes back when the original Samba released. Other notable features include:
- Low-cut silhouette for high-level performance
- Suede overlays on the upper for abrasion resistance
- Longer, foldable padded tongue
- Iconic three-stripe design and Trefoil logo
- Lightweight EVA midsole for better response
- Non-marking gum rubber sole for superior grip
As the adidas Samba matured over 70 years, materials and designs have undergone a few modifications along the way. The kangaroo leather has given way to other types of leather, suede and synthetic materials. Performance features like extra cushioning in the collar and midfoot and additional reinforcement have been incorporated as technology has evolved.
In more recent times, adidas has added the Samba to its Advanced Division (ADV), a skate-specific version with enhanced flexibility, fit, grip and support. Breathable mesh in the tongue and other fine-tuning have made the Samba a favorite in the skateboarding world. The ADV line didn't stop with skate—the Samba has also hit the slopes with an ADV snowboarding boot.
adidas Samba Colorways and Collections
The adidas Samba represents classic styling. Think black, white, gum sole and those distinctive stripes. The Samba has spawned a range of bold colorways over the years, but it's the classics that collectors and sneakerheads gravitate toward the most, such as:
Adidas Samba White/Black/Gum
Adidas Samba Classic White
Adidas Samba Classic Black
Adidas Samba Cloud White
Adidas Samba Core Black
With decades of history, the Samba has seen variations on the classic silhouette such as:
- Samba 85. This version brings in a distinct use of color on the sole.
- Samba Super. A larger toe cap and extended tongue set this model apart.
- Samba JP. This sleeker silhouette features a more pointed toe.
Although adidas hasn't leaned as heavily on collaborations with the Samba, it's had its moments:
- Collegiate Collection—brings color variety to the upper
- Shepard Fairey collab—the founder of OBEY GIANT clothing brings his famous street art to the Samba
- Have a Good Time collab—brings back the original's kangaroo leather in a bright, reimagined design
- PLEASURES collab—the LA streetwear brand retros the classic with 3D embroidery
a one-piece knit upper adapts to the foot
streetwear giant BAPE brings unique design elements, including a cool camo
as part of the World Travelers' Cup pack, the Samba goes straight-out bold in a vibrant Equipment Yellow colorway
The adidas Samba's Impact on Pop Culture
Samba is synonymous with soccer culture, particularly in Europe. The simple, classic retro aesthetic of the shoe is simple and unassuming. The Samba knew no economic boundaries and was universally loved—from small rural shops to high-end retailers. Though athletes initially wore it for its performance and comfort, the Samba became a fashion staple as celebrities began incorporating the shoe into their casual outfits. It even made its way to the silver screen.
The Samba has made cameo appearances in a number of hit movies. Eddie Murphy wore them in Beverly Hills Cop, Shia LaBeouf battled the bots in Sambas in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Denzel Washington donned them during training scenes in Remember the Titans. Ashton Kutcher wore them in That '70s Show, and music superstars like Justin Timberlake and Rihanna have been spotted around town rocking their Sambas. It's clear that with its ever-growing popularity and strong roots, the adidas Samba is here to stay.
Collectability and Value of the adidas Samba
Unlike many classic sneakers of old that have seen dozens of retro releases in bold colors and revolutionary designs, the Samba, which represents the everyman, has stayed close to its roots over time. Since the Samba has been so defined by the classic black, white and gum, many of the most popular Samba releases stay faithful to this tried-and-true model.
When buying a collectable shoe, sneakerheads typically look for those that are in pristine condition. The Samba doesn't play by the same rules. In fact, they often come heavily worn—and collectors are drawn more to these scuffed-up versions than those in excellent shape.
If you're a collector looking to sell your finds for a profit, the Samba may be a difficult shoe for the job. You can usually find classic models well below their original retail prices, so don't expect a high resale value. But if you're looking for an excellent performance shoe that's stood the test of time, consider adding a few of the classics to your shoe collection—and maybe a couple of the lively collab styles.