The three stripes company

by Tiger

This story begins in 1924 in Herzogenaurach, a small town of about 20,000 inhabitants in Bavaria, Germany, when, in their mother's kitchen, the two Dassler brothers, Adolf ("Adi" for his friends) and Rudolf, start making running shoes.

They are very good, the shoes are well made and their products are successful, in few months the mother's kitchen becomes too small for their business and the two brothers decide to found the “Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik”. 

So far so good, it seems a normal story, but it is in 1936 that Adolf has an idea that will change their life. One day he pays a visit to the USA track team that is in Berlin for the Olympics, he asks to speak to their star, the afroamerican Jesse Owens and somehow, incredibly, he convinces him to use their shoes for the competitions. It is a win-win situation, since Owens will end up winning 4 gold medals and the small Bavarian company, thanks to his successes, is literally overwhelmed with requests.

The shoe factory survived the Second World War but in 1947, due to internal problems and most likely due to the mutual hatred of their respective sisters-in-law, the brothers dissolved the company, but they did not give up on that business.

They both opens their own factory. Rudolf takes the first two letters of his name and the first two letters of the surname and creates the RuDa, which he will later call Puma, while Adolf decides to combine his nickname with the first three letters of the surname, creating the Adidas.

While remaining in the small town, the two brothers will never speak to each other again and throughout their lives they will always be in competition.

While Puma's image has always been linked to sport and has in fact experienced a constant positive trend with some peaks due to extraordinary athlete-testimonials (Diego Armando Maradona and Usain Bolt, for example), Adidas had a big crisis at the death of Horst, Adolf’s son, at the end of the '80s.

Fortunately, while waiting for the new ownership to come out with a new industrial plan (which actually took place a few years later), the “sex appeal” of the brand was kept alive. Not by the many sportsmen who even then wore Adidas, but by a series of bands and musical artists that kept the three stripes “cool”, thanks also to their videos in “heavy rotation” on MTV.

The RUN-DMC for example, in association with the Aereosmith (and produced by Rick Rubin) invade the ether with “Walk this way”, wearing wonderful SuperStars (strictly without laces) framed continuously. And what about Jason Kay, the Jamiroquai frontman, who between a three-stripe shirt and a tracksuit gives the status of super cult shoe to the Gazelle, which he wears in every video.

Definitively saving Adidas at the end of the '90s were the forward-looking strategic choices made by the new ownership, helped by athletes with a very high media profile (does David Beckham tell you something?), and of course by a series of products that conquered the public.

However, without the thrust of those videos that invaded the TVs of teenagers all over the world between the late '80s and early '90s, most likely “the three stripes company”, as its founder used to call it, would not be the same today.

Three stripes… or two?

In 1974, at the World Cup played in West Germany, the Netherlands met West Germany in the finals. To the delight of Adolf “Adi” Dassler, all the players of both teams wear Adidas shoes, the three stripes are also found in the suits of the Germans and in the uniforms of the Netherlands.

We have written “all the players” but it is not like that, because among the Dutch national team there is a man who has linked his image to the company of the enemy-brother Rudolf, Puma.

The problem is that that man is Johan Cruijff, and he's a guy who, when he gets an idea into his head, there's no way he changes it. So he says that if he can't wear the Puma logo, he certainly won't play wearing an Adidas jersey.

A solution is not found until the Dutch federation orders the removal of one of the three stripes from the socks, shorts and shirt number 14, the one worn by Cruijff. Thanks to this compromise, the Dutch national team can have its champion. Perhaps Rudolf's greatest victory over his rival brother Adolf.

Now Adidas is the second sports brand in the world, and its products still have a rare coolness, hardly found in other clothing, but we guess that the most wanted Adidas t-shirt only has two stripes.

It's like everything in football - and life. You need to look, you need to think, you need to move, you need to find space, you need to help others. It's very simple in the end.