How the adidas Samba became the sneaker of the year

 (ES Composite)
(ES Composite)

When it comes to cult fashion items there are those juggernauts that explode, thanks to marketing campaigns, TikTok trends and celebrity endorsements, into the style consciousness (hello cargo pants, Dior saddle bags and Miu Miu ballet pumps); and then there are others that creep their way into cool via the back door, transitioning from relative obscurity to sell-out must-have for reasons that can be difficult to pinpoint.

Adidas Samba sneakers are just such a stealth trend.

First launched as a men’s football shoe in 1972, the adidas Samba has been iterated over the years to be more fashion than footie, and now has an elegant slim-line silhouette that comes in various muted colours, all with the brand’s iconic three-stripe down the side. And anyone paying attention will have noticed the pared-back, preppy sneakers cropping up on many a fashion girl’s feed.

In fact, according to shopping platform Lyst, the shoes are number 5 in their index of the 10 most popular products in Q3, and searches for the sneaker have risen a whopping 350 per cent this year.

When I bought a pair in the summer, the adidas site – where they’re listed as men’s but really they’re unisex – had plenty of stock. A quick look just now and over half the sizes are gone, with all the smaller sizes sold out, confirming their popularity with female customers.

Sneaker scarcity always means there’s a resale value, and sneaker resale marketplace Stock X has noticed searches for Sambas are up 736 per cent this year – that’s 485 per cent growth year-on-year.

“Over the past two years, the classic adidas Sambas have been given a new lease of life,” says StockX GM EMEA Derek Morrison. “They’ve been seen on the feet of fashion front liners like A$AP Rocky, Rihanna and Bella Hadid, and have also been used as a blank canvas for many of adidas’s key collaborators including Jonah Hill, Jason Dill, and most prominently, Grace Wales Bonner.”

Certainly the incredibly successful, retro-inflected collaboration with British-Jamaican menswear designer Wales Bonner, now in its fourth season, has firmly established Sambas as a covetable sneaker. Wales Bonner returned to the football roots of the shoe, reworking it in seventies-inflected reds, browns, greens and yellows. Each collection has sold out within hours and some of the styles go for upwards of £1,000 on resale.

Whether you prefer yours in the classic white and grey or something more colourful, a sleek Samba is a perfect addition to your off-duty wardrobe. The £70 I spent on a pair of the classics (I went for the vegan ones) in the summer has given me outstanding cost per wear, as I rarely leave the house in anything else. They are, says Morrison, a “timeless classic. I think it’s safe to say the new age of adidas Sambas isn’t going away anytime soon.”

Shop Adidas Sambas online here — fingers crossed they still have your size.