Did you know that the Adidas Stan Smith was originally called the Halliet, after tennis pro Robert Halliet? No, neither did we, however, after Halliet's career fell short, Adidas looked around for a new star and found Stan Smith, winner of both the US open in 1971 and Wimbledon in 1972. Since then the Stan Smith has become one of Adidas’ most successful trainers, especially in the UK. Check out this interview with Smith himself, courtesy of Hypebeast, and marvel at his moustache which he's had for his entire playing career except when the photo used for the Stan Smith branding was taken.
Stan, how did you get your start in tennis? Was it the first sport you picked up?
No, my first sport was actually basketball. I played baseball, football, and track & field. Essentially a lot of different sports.
You were pretty multi-dimensional in that aspect. As a youngster, did you ever figure you would turn tennis into a full-time career?
No not at all, because there wasn’t a PTA Tour like there is now. There were a few, maybe four to eight professional players playing head-to-head matches. What they did for a while was have two guys play head-to-head matches around the world, eventually developing into an eight guy thing. There wasn’t much opportunity at the time so I graduated from college and at that time was when tennis officially became open, in 1969. A natural evolution for me was to go from amateur tennis in the summertime into a full-fledged professional.
Its good to hear doors opened up at the right time. Regardless of sport, making the jump to professional sports is incredibly tough and having the opportunity to play a sport you love as a profession is unparalleled. Not that many people are ever going to have that opportunity.
You’re right, I was playing tennis and then all of a sudden the Tour was launched. It wasn’t as organized as it is now with purses perhaps totaling only $25,000 and the winner getting $5,000. Today, the winner might get $800,000 for their efforts.
The progression of the sport has come a long way since your original playing days. What are your thoughts on Tennis’ transformation over the years?
I think it has been great. It’s really a matter of supply and demand which is a pure economic thing. The more people have interest in Tennis, the more sponsors get involved. In turn, the more outlets like TV get involved, the bigger the sport becomes.
From a technical aspect, how has the sport changed? The approach to the game, has it changed significantly from your time in the early 70’s?
The racquets are totally different and the strings now allow players to hit the ball harder behind the baseline. When they’re in trouble they can hit winners. With older racquets you couldn’t do that.
So I assume you have to be less methodical these days, rather than planning your shots a bit more?
Yea, you had to plan the point a bit more in the past and couldn’t hit winners like you do now.
How did you originally get in touch with adidas?
My agent originally knew Horst Dassler, son of adidas founder, Adi Dassler. They were looking to get involved and increase their exposure in the United States as they weren’t very big in the States at the time. During that time, I was the number one player and they were looking for a particular player to represent them and my agent made the suggestion. They thought it was a great shoe and they had a shoe that Robert Hier had designed with Horst Dassler. I made a suggestion that the shoe they had designed was something I would like to put my name behind.
So, the shoe was mostly just your endorsement rather than you contributing any design elements to it?
Exactly, and this shoe when I first started wearing it, was a little different in the back but almost virtually unchanged from the original, 40 years ago.
How have contemporary designs changed since your original adidas Stan Smith model?
I’ve actually been wearing my shoe the whole time. What they’ve done is create some new updated tennis models along the way such as the Supreme with a little cushioning in the heel. In 2000, they made the Millenium, which has a thicker sole and a lot more cushioning.
Was the Stan Smith something you could wear over a variety of surfaces or better suited for a particular court?
The Stan Smith was something you could wear over clay and hard-courts. If you dragged your toe a lot, you could wear that out pretty quickly, goes without saying for many shoes. They made a special version for Wimbledon where they put three stripes on it (rather than the perforations) and put a herringbone bottom on it for the grass. All the players that were wearing adidas at the time got a few pairs and all the guys from adidas were wearing that shoe. There have been other evolutions of the shoe. They eventually brought back the original version in white with green highlights. Over the years they have created some more lifestyle versions with different materials and colors.
For the remainder of the interview go to Hypebeast.com