How Run DMC Helped Make Adidas a Fashion Icon

The collaboration between Adidas and music legends is no secret. In the last decade the likes of Harry Styles, Beyonce, and Kanye West have all collab’d with Adidas. In the 90s, the Britpop lads like Blur and Oasis were big supporters of the brand. But where did Adidas and music’s love affair start?

To find out, we have to go back to the 1980s clothing culture when streetwear and hip-hop were making waves. The two cultural phenomena with the help of Adidas shaped style and identity of generations to come. One of the most influential in the world of hip hop and urban streetwear was Run DMC. For the group, vintage Adidas sweatshirts, jackets, tracksuits, and jumpers, became a part of their icon status. This led to the first ever sportswear and music collaboration in history, paving the path for sportswear as everyday wear.

Who are Run-DMC?

Photograph of 3 black men leaning up against a graffit'd wall. All wearing black fedora hats, two with adidas jackets and all wearing adidas trainers.

Run DMC, 1986, photography: Ebet Roberts

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Hip-hop was a cultural movement that emerged in the 1980s from the African American and Latino communities in New York. At this time, it was a relatively underground movement that gave voice to the marginalised and oppressed youth of the inner city. Hip-hop was more than just music; it was a way of life that encompassed fashion, dance, art, and language. The movement quickly spread across the United States and beyond. 

Run DMC, a group from Queens, New York, was one of the most influential and iconic hip-hop acts of the 1980s. Their music was raw, powerful, and socially conscious, speaking to the struggles and aspirations of their audience. They addressed issues like police brutality, racism, poverty, and the challenges of growing up in the inner city. Run DMC's music resonated with a generation of young people who felt unheard and unseen, and it gave them a sense of identity and belonging.

It wasn’t just their music that made Run DMC so important. Their choice of clothing & individual style was just as influential. Run DMC's look embraced the styles from the streets of Queens with baggy jeans, lace-less Adidas trainers, Adidas track jackets, and black fedoras or bucket hats. Their look made them globally recognisable.

When did Adidas become so popular?

Collage of 3 images. Left image is a photograph of a white man with black hair engineering a football shoe with machinery. Central image is a magazine advert for 80s Adidas of group of 6 white men and women posing for a photograph, some standing up a couple perched and lying down, all wearing full adidas tracksuits. Right image is a tour poster for Run DMC which shows 3 black men, two standing up right and one posing with outstretched arms. It says adidas on the left side vertical to the image.

Left: Adolf Dassler, founder of Adidas, 1954 Centre: Magazine ad for Adidas, 1979 RightRun DMC My Adidas Tour poster, 1988

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Since its inception, Adidas has been centred on making practical sportswear. At the brand's beginning, they specialised in athletic gear, with football boots being their speciality. In the 70s, there were youth movements that championed casual clothing and towards wearing trainers outside of sports. Adidas was at the heart of this.

But it was in the 1980s that things began to shift globally. Run DMC played a massive part in turning Adidas into a household name. In 1986, following the release of ‘My Adidas’, the group signed  a $1.6m endorsement deal with Adidas. This was the first time a rap group had signed with a sportswear brand, beginning Adidas’ long-term association with hip-hop and streetwear style.

The group's endorsement of Adidas turned the sportswear brand into a symbol of urban streetwear and helped it reach new audiences outside of the sports world. The legacy of the 1980s clothing from Adidas gave rise to some of the most iconic pieces of clothing now so intwined in the idea of modern style, including vintage Adidas sweatshirts, jackets, and tracksuits.

Vintage Adidas Clothing

Photograph of Vintage Adidas products with the backdrop of a sky. Includes vintage adidas track jackets, vintage adidas tracksuits, vintage adidas trainers and vintage adidas t-shirt.

Rokit's Vintage Adidas Collection

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The 1980s was a pivotal era for streetwear, hip-hop, and fashion. Run DMC's socio-political importance and fashion influence cannot be overstated, and their legacy lives on today. The group's endorsement of Adidas turned the brand into a symbol of urban streetwear, paving the way for other brands to follow.

Vintage Adidas clothing from the 1980s continues to be highly coveted by collectors and enthusiasts of vintage streetwear. Pieces from this era like the Adidas vintage sweatshirt, vintage Adidas jacket, and vintage Adidas tracksuit serves as a reminder of an era when hip-hop and streetwear culture were still in their infancy. It also marks a moment when fashion was about more than just looking good, but about expressing one's identity and beliefs.

Grab a piece of history and explore Rokit's large collection of Vintage Adidas, from shoes to trackies.

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