• Brooke Brennan

The Birth of German Sneaker Culture


Berlin, Germany: free minded, alternative, colorful, and filled with hardworking people. But in the middle, there was once a wall that divided it all. In 1989, the wall was torn down and cultures between the East and West of Berlin began to mix. And amongst the mix was the evolution of sneaker culture.


It was 1924 when Adolf “Ali” Dassler first founded Adidas in Germany. And around the same time, his brother Rudolf founded Puma. Going from brothers to company rivals, these men birthed sneaker culture and have an everlasting impact. Spread from sportswear to fashion to hip hop culture to sports, Puma and Adidas have left their mark growing into two empires around the world. Adidas sponsors many athletes across various sports: soccer, basketball, football, baseball, tennis, and so many more. Now and then, Adidas has broken numerous barriers in the sports fashion industry.

Ali and Rudolf Dossler

East Berlin was a lower income area. While there was less of an influence of sneakers, sneakers were a status symbol. Only high-quality German products were available and were worn to be seen. Sometimes, it meant more to have a new pair of shoes than to have dinner on the table. Adidas was prevalently popular in East Berlin. And a major part of German culture is fashion, art, and soccer.


West Berlin was a more privileged area. Most had sneaker collections with numerous pairs. And the diversification of brands included Adidas, Puma, and brands from other countries. West Berlin had access to more sneakers and sneaker brands than East Berlin.

These differences began the birth of sneaker resell shops, sneaker trading, and sneakers being a status symbol. When the wall was torn down, the sneaker game changed. Pioneer sneaker stores include Solebox and Overkill. Once both sides had access to a wide variety of shoes, the sneaker market exploded in Berlin.


With that, the global influence of Adidas spread while Adidas continued to grow. Some of the most popular shoes include Stan Smith’s, Superstars, and the EQT line. With hundreds of color ways, these shoes remain staples in every shoe collection to this day. World renowned sneaker collaborations have been birthed from Adidas: Kanye West’s Yeezy collection, Pharrell, Alexander Wang, Donald Glover, Beyonce, Kylie Jenner. And the spread of Adidas across all sports is worldwide.

The growing, evolving influence of the three stripes continues to grow. From shaping sneaker culture to supporting sports, Adidas does it all while uniting people all around the world. A company that started in Germany shaped the culture of fashion and shoes while standing the test of time. With many cultural and historical aspects, German sneaker culture is here to stay.

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