No sneaker looked cooler or had more flash than the super-styling kickers called Clydes from Puma. The suede-topped shoe with the streaming swirl gave competitors adidas and Nike a run for their money when the New York Knicks’ Walt Frazier, nicknamed Clyde, endorsed the newest shoe on the market, Puma.
Running shoes ran in the Dassler family, and brothers Rudi and Adolf created adidas shoes back at the beginning of the century. But thanks to a family feud, Rudi Dassler broke off from adidas to start his own shoe company, Puma, in 1948. Originating in Herzogenaurach, Germany, the Puma was being exported to the U.S. by 1950, finding great success. Puma became the major rival of adidas, much to the family’s distress. The two companies fought to outdo each other, trying to get their shoes on the feet of all the top sports stars, at any price.
But Pumas were simply not as technologically advanced as were adidas. They became known more for their style than performance, because the cross-grid sole offered inferior traction and minimal tread. But that didn’t stop the sports stars from pushing Pumas to the top. With the Clyde’s suede upper on a textured rubber sole, kids wore Pumas because of their street cred (that’s ‘credibility,’ for the highbrow folks). Like Nike’s ‘swoosh,’ Pumas had an airstream-like swirl that wrapped from front side to heel across the middle of the shoe. A running puma was the company’s official logo, but the swirl added much-desired coolness.
But not even the coolest kicker around could fight the big boys of 80’s high-tech wizardry like Nike, Reebok, Fila, and yes, adidas. In 1989, Rudi Dassler's sons sold the company, and in 1993, the German plant was closed. But you can’t keep a strong, sleek powerful animal down, and like the speed demon cat the shoes were named after, Pumas came running back.
The “old-school” styles that revitalized street cred fashions of the early 80’s rekindled the fire for the suede-topped Clyde. Collectors and fashion scenesters sought out the old-style shoes for the hippest in underground fashion, which propelled Puma to reissue Clydes in the late 90’s. Puma’s resurrection breathed life into the defunct shoe company, and new celebrity endorsers like tennis diva Serena Williams proved that Pumas were once again fashionable footwear for kids in the know.
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