Right now might be the moment to address the subject behind one of the more perplexing trend cycles bestowed on us in recent memory: the Adidas Samba. We’re in the calm, pre-summer days before a string of coveted collaborations for the ever-versatile soccer sneaker are set to drop (including a sixth linkup with Wales Bonner, expected in early June). That the Samba will be the “It” shoe of this approaching summer—as it was last summer and the one before it—seems to be a given.
What’s perplexing about the Samba moment is its persistence. The Samba’s popularity is still surging with no signs of slowing down. One afternoon this past week, at the intersection of Prince Street and Broadway in Soho, I observed white vegan Sambas being worn, simultaneously, by young New Yorkers on all four corners.
The Samba closed out 2022 as one of the hottest items in fashion, leading to a shortage earlier this year. The $100-dollar black OG Sambas, and its vegan counterpart, were reportedly sold out, for a time, on the Adidas website. Hundreds of millions of TikTok views tallied under #adidassamba, and Shanghai played host to a Samba-only pop-up this spring. Adidas itself has signaled its plans to fan the flames on their 76-year-old design, a needed source of profit as the company looks to fill a $2 billion hole post Yeezy. CEO Bjørn Gulden declared on a March earnings call that the Samba was the “hottest shoe on the market,” and that the company intends to sell “millions and millions” of pairs by “heating up” the sneaker franchise quarter over quarter.
But as sales continue to heat and the hype gradually cools—specifically among influencers and trendsetters (a recent Strategist headline offered the verdict: “Sambas are played out.”)—it’s getting more difficult to parse the trend or say exactly what wearing Sambas even means these days. And that struggle to define the meaning of the product appears to be breaking out along generational lines.
New wearers joining the trend (such as the Gen Z masses hoping to imitate the styles of Kaia Gerber, Bella Hadid, Harry Styles, or Kendall Jenner) seem to be displacing the early adopters, blokecore nostalgists, savvy creatives, and generally older Samba fans. It’s gotten a bit complicated, in other words, to wear a simple sneaker. If last year gave us the “Summer of the Samba,” we could say that this summer officially marks the arrival of the Samba’s anxiety era.
On a recent episode of the Throwing Fits podcast, guest Susan Korn—the vegan Samba enthusiast behind the cult New York handbag brand Susan Alexandra—described her attendance at a recent Bret Easton Ellis reading in Manhattan, where she spotted “the Adidas shoe,” as she calls it, on many fellow attendees. For Korn, the encounter inspired a gut-level response along the lines of: “I have to make a c
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