SUEDE & ANTELOPES

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I wrote some Euro-centric stuff about Gazelles that Complex kindly published. You can read it RIGHT HERE. Naturally, I rambled on and some stuff had to be cut, so I stuck it here. Deleted paragraphs in a deleted scenes style. I’ve never actually liked the Gazelle much beyond that 1991-1997 era, but I can understand the appeal and its popularity is significant. This is my last shoe history thing for a while because I’m starting to bore myself.

“For legions of young Brits in the early 1980s, adidas shoes were something of a rite of passage. In the north of England, a version of the original Gazelle was fairly easily attainable and affordable. A frequently updated, narrow, black multi-purpose soccer shoe called the Samba — originally introduced in 1950 — and a nondescript soccer shoe called Kick were the original moment in adidas for many, so the colored suede was still considered something exotic, despite its 14 year existence. For a more advanced crowd, there were Jeans, Trimm-Trab and the elusive Forest Hill tennis shoe, but the Gazelle was a safe choice.”

“Throughout the decade, versions were made in a variety of factories, and as footwear design became a blitz of big bubbles, cut-out bars and gimmickry, the UK’s rare groove scene and its offspring, acid jazz — a culture built on musical rarities, funk and dancing, with a fair amount of peripheral posing around the dance floor, sparked an interest in “old school” footwear, that, when applied to the Gazelle, was a literal term for many.

At the start of the 1990s, the Beastie Boys’ experimental return to popularity saw them wearing some of the shoes they’d been wearing back in their earliest Def Jam days. Mike D invested in the Los Angeles based X-Large store that opened in late 1991, which stocked old suede adidas and PUMA pieces around its launch. The Gazelle was part of that dusty inventory. An underground-again skate world was becoming a world of intricate flip-tricks, 40mm wheels and vast pants, and the Gazelle was a popular shoe for skating in for a short while (razored off stripes optional) alongside Superstars and PUMA Clydes. Check out World Industries’ seminal Love Child video from 1992 for a snapshot of that era, with Jed Walters wearing a pair particularly well.”

“Between 1995 and 1997, the popular JD Sports chain, now something of a British institution, put out plenty of Gazelle and Samba special makeups, as did other territories. Japan had its own independent license up to 1998 and Argentina and South Korea’s license holders held theirs until the very early 2000s, meaning coveted rarities from around that time like rare made in Japan variations. After that heyday of just three editions on the market, a Gazelle collector could get a whole new range of colourways — black and golds, blue and greens or palettes reminiscent of West Ham United’s claret and blue, or the Los Angeles Lakers’ purple and gold.

Then there was the Gazelle 2. The bulking of the shoe for this sequel was most likely a response to an American audience’s demands, as was the case with Stan Smith and Campus follow-ups. That version — a big box retailer bestseller for years — had inflated the nuances and lines enough to diminish appeal.

From that point, it’s hard to fathom a time when the Gazelle wasn’t on a shelf somewhere. As older variations returned as Originals in the 2000s after its inception in 2001, adidas’ skate line debuted a skate version of the shoe in 2007. Nodding back to the model’s skateboard legacy, this version used tougher suede, increased the padding a little and altered the eyelets for team riders like Dennis Busenitz. Ahead of this summer’s 1990s Gazelle renaissance, an unexpected appetite for the silhouette became apparent in 2014 when Richard Nicoll sent his menswear models down the catwalk in the shoe and Giles Deacon put specially commissioned makeups of the shoe in his show.”

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