Why does the Adidas Gazelle matter? The Nike Air Max 720 Femme brand is now pushing the classic low-top—thanks to a heavy PR campaign and a ton of new iterations of the shoe—as the next retro phenomenon to follow up the Stan Smith. The Gazelle is a shoe that started off in the sports world, has been worn by a handful of influential subcultures, and was favored by celebrities such as Oasis, Kate Moss, and a young Michael Jackson. And if you were perplexed as to how something that never seemed to go away could become the new thing to be excited about, the answer is convoluted. To really understand, we need to examine its history Adidas ZX Flux Dames and legacy, but charting the history of specific Adidas shoes is never easy.
Adidas is a brand rooted in Adi and son Horst Dassler’s absolute obsession with performance, and shoes were frequently updated. Due to licensing deals across the world, there’s no single “true” Nike Air Max 720 Heren incarnation of the Gazelle.
Adidas had training designs that paved the way for the Gazelle. 1960’s Rom was a leather shoe with a ripple sole and suede toe overlay that was timed for the Rome Olympics that year and 1964’s Olympiade was a German team favorite, with then cutting-edge performance details like a pull tab on the back of the shoe. In 1966, that design DNA was upgraded to form the first Gazelle shoe. At the time, the use of a suede material was unique, and it was present on two iterations of the Gazelle.
For Gary Aspden, UK-based consultant for Adidas Adidas ZX Flux Donna and the man behind the brand’s Spezial line, it's a shoe that changed the direction of the brand's training business. "The profile, the 'T' toe overlay, and the contrast of the white stripes against brightly colored suede laid the foundations for so many shoes in the Adidas ZX Flux Mujer years that followed,” he says. “At their time of release, they pushed the envelope on color when it came to training shoes. The dyed suede was far more vibrant than colored leather.”
The color of the shoes actually denoted their performance purpose. The Gazelle Blue was made for training, with a kangaroo upper, padded ankle, arch support, foot-form tongue, and micro-grip sole. The Gazelle Red was created with handball in mind, incorporating a completely different transparent, non-slip outsole tread. The former is the inspiration for an iteration of the Gazelle Adidas NMD Damen sold by Adidas Originals as the Gazelle Vintage in 2006. By 1968, the Gazelle had lost that shoehorn heeltab, gained a new lined micro-cell sole, and developed a white heel tab to become the source material for the version of the Gazelle reissued by Adidas Originals as the Nike Air Max 720 Womens Gazelle O.G.
Around 1971, that micro-cell sole was shared by both colorways and seemed to be switched to the cell pattern that’s echoed on subsequent versions to the present day. The Gazelle had a brush with controversy during the summer of 1972, when swimming legend Mark Spitz took a staggering seven Olympic gold medals in Munich. Encouraged not to let his loose track pants swallow his shoes by endorsee Horst Dassler, Spitz held his blue Gazelles aloft in triumph to celebrate a 200-meter freestyle win, both before and after the National Anthem. As well as Nike Air Force 1 Dame invoking the wrath of the International Olympic Committee for product placement, it would, according to Barbara Smit’s book Pitch Invasion, cause some issues between Horst and Adi, who was about the shoes rather than any dips into swimwear.
The Gazelle then drifted in and out the Adidas catalog between 1972 and 1979. It seemed to be superseded by the Athens training shoe at one point and was replaced in 1973 by a lookalike shoe in red or blue called the Jaguar — named after the apex predator nemesis of the Gazelle — that didn’t seem to hang around for long. By now, the Gazelle seemed to have had its day as a pure performance shoe. Foreshadowing its fashion status, the inaugural edition of Japanese style bible Popeye from summer 1976 incorporated them in an early catalog-style sneaker feature.