Any success story starts with a fateful decision. For Dassler brothers Adolf and Rudolf, the decision was to take over their father’s business and start their own shoe company in 1924.
From a small workshop in the family’s backyard, the Dassler Brothers Factory gradually expanded into a big production facility specialized in sports shoes. Over time, soccer cleats became the core product of the Dassler brand.
The ‘Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory’ near Herzogenaurach train station in 1928
The first spike-type cleats were designed and sewed by Adolf Dassler himself, who was fond of soccer back then. He stitched them up with metal spikes, forged by his fellow blacksmith.
The prototype came out to be known as one of the first professional cleats in modern history. Dassler is generally believed to have invented the concept of using spikes for better ground traction. In fact, spiked shoes appeared much earlier, yet those were, to put it mildly, far from perfect.
Sprint shoe, ‘Rennschuh’,
Just 4 years later, professional athletes first competed wearing Dassler cleats at the 1928 Olympics finding them very comfortable.
Sprint shoe, ‘Modell Waitzer’,
However, the true success and the first big Dassler shoe promotion was brought by the American track and field athlete Jesse Owens, who set 5 world records wearing Dassler cleats at the 1936 Olympics.
American track and field athlet Jesse Owens
Adi + Dassler = ADIDAS
World War II got in the way of the thriving business. The factory was nationalized and the brothers were forced to join the ranks of the German military.
Adolf managed to return early from the front, while Rudolf ended up in a prisoner-of-war camp. This episode is said to have led to a violent quarrel and, therefore, to a total rupture of the brothers’ relationship. The Dasslers decided to end the family business, but neither of them planned to quit it.
Thus comes one of the most well-known rivalries between sports firms: in 1948, Rudolf started Puma, and a year later, ADI (Adolph) DAS (Dassler) was born.
Shoe factories in Herzogenaurach
The three stripes origin
The signature three stripes on Adidas shoes originated from the two stripes stitched on the sides of the Dassler brothers’ cleats. The stripes secured the construction of a shoe while symbolizing the brothers’ tandem.
Adolf Dassler wanted to keep the stripes as a distinctive element in the Adidas emblem, yet he was not allowed to use the family brand logo. So the entrepreneur decided to add the third stripe. It was important to highlight the stripes with color, so they could be easily recognized from the stands.
Adi Dassler gathering feedback from athletes
It turned out that Dassler’s idea was already taken by the Finnish sports brand Karhu, which used the three stripes in the design of its shoes. That didn’t stop Adolf — he purchased the three stripes rights from Karhu, sealing the deal with just three, oh wait, two whisky bottles.
Karhu track running shoe
The Miracle of Bern
At the 1954 FIFA World Cup, Adidas equipped the German national team with innovational cleats fitted with replaceable spikes (applying different spikes for different weather conditions). During Germany’s final game against Hungary, it started pouring rain, significantly affecting the players.
“What a Dassler” newspaper article, 1954, Adi Dassler
Yet the German team was able to turn the situation to their advantage. At halftime, Adolf Dassler, who was present at the match, replaced the players’ shoes with different ones, spiked better to provide good adhesion to the wet turf. This suddenly gave the Germans an advantage over the championship favorites, who kept playing wearing old-style cleats. Germany won, while the cleats changing story, along with the national team’s victory, became known as the Miracle of Bern.