Sneaker culture has already gotten a black eye over the holidays with the Air Jordan XI “Concord” release prompting such random acts of ignorance such as this. Being a sneakerhead revolves around a world of kicks, different brands, textures, meanings, etc, not just coping the latest pair of sneaks because of the name attached.
For the better part of four decades now, Adidas has survived every onslaught from every on the rise brand (Nike, Reebok) and kept on ticking as more than just a basketball shoe but a lifestyle brand all together. Nobody knows that more than Dart Adams, one of hip-hop champions of anything not mainstream & one of the more outspoken members of the the culture’s media front. D&D’s resident sneaker aficionado Jonathan Scroggins chatted up with the Beantown native to discuss Adidas, their legacy in Boston & more.
Day & A Dream: First off, what is the history between Boston & Adidas?
Dart Adams: Boston has had a special relationship with Adidas going back to about 1978 or 1979. Several stores were well known for stocking them in and around the city. If you didn’t have Adidas in the front window then cats wouldn’t even contemplate entering the store back in the days. You had spots like Harry The Greek’s, Mickey Finn’s, Crystal’s, Jonesy’s, Alpha & Omega, etc. in the early days and later on we had Manhattan’s, Coquette’s and Hip Zepi. Boston’s Adidas culture was so strong that even stores like FootAction, Foot Locker & Champs were forced to put their Adidas in the front window (like local chain City Sports did) or risk being bypassed by locals because they clearly didn’t carry any Adidas.
D&D: What are some of your early memories of Adidas?
DA: I remember seeing the older kids rocking Adidas heavily around 1979 in the South End & Roxbury. When I went to school I discovered that going as far as Dorchester, South Boston & Charlestown kids were wearing Adidas heavy, too. The main kicks back then were the Superstar shell toes, Stan Smith’s, Rod Laver’s and the Power Phase mid/hi’s (which we called Yum Yums in Boston). White kids in South Boston & Charlestown were partial to Samoa’s, Gazelle’s & Sambas. Later on the Forum, Top Tens, Torsions, Ewings (Attitudes) and several other models became popular in Boston as well…
D&D: Was Adidas a big part of the basketball culture in Beantown?
DA: HELL YES. The B-Boy sneaker of choice and the basketball sneaker of choice were both Adidas. Way back in the days when Converse was hot, kids were STILL rocking Adidas on the court. The relationship with Boston area ballers and Adidas got really serious in the summer basketball world. We had the BNBL (Boston Neighborhood Basketball League) in the summer and Leo Papile had the best players in the area balling for his BABC squads. Eventually, others would try to take him down & recruit the best players. TJ Gassnola had close ties with Adidas and he used that to lure some of the Boston Metro’s best players from Papile. Over the past 30 or so years a high number have signed with Adidas schools. Moreover, several Celtics over the years have been Adidas wearers.
Image courtesy of SLAM.
D&D: What is Boston’s relationship in regards to NYC hip-hop at the time and the city’s basketball culture?
DA: Boston shares a distinction with New Jersey, Connecticut and Philadelphia as being the first 5 national hotbeds of Hip Hop on the East Coast due to their proximity to New York. Boston has always felt like it was in New York’s shadow (at one point it was the opposite) so it’s adopted a counter culture to New York’s. New York embraced the Air Force 1 and the Dunk Nike sneaker.
Boston embraced Adidas and made it a part of their culture & overall identity down to throwing threes and expounding on the meaning of the three stripes. Players in Boston throw threes to represent the city separate from the sneaker culture (i.e. when Paul Pierce did it or when the Celtics threw threes after hitting three pointers & the REST of the league followed suit not understanding it reps BOSTON). Antoine Walker & Paul Pierce used to do the three finger dap going back to 1998, They were never on TV until the 2002 season so only Bostonians knew it. Back when Cambridge, MA’s Patrick Ewing was a Knick he wore Adidas and for years the only acceptable New York ANYTHING you were allowed to wear without danger of harm being brought you was a Ewing jersey or Ewings. Ewing was also on the first Boston area prep squads to beat New York regularly in AAU games (BABC) in the late 70’s.
Streetballers in Boston have such an allegiance to Adidas that Adidas has ALWAYS given love back to Boston. In the early 90’s, they even made a streetball commercial in Boston with Dick Vitale doing the voiceover. New York will forever be Nike. Boston will forever be Adidas. That will NEVER CHANGE. When Adidas dropped the Skyjacker (it’s answer to the Air Force 1) it sold out in Boston due to Boston’s rivalry with New York. They need to bring those back like they did the Forum Crest’s.
D&D: Where do you see Boston’s future with Hip-Hop and Adidas?
DA: Since the gang culture and violence in Boston isn’t what it once was and now Boston is a frontrunner in sports and entertainment the culture in the inner city is way different. That being the case, there are no more sections of Boston where rocking Nike’s will cause you to be beaten up and have them removed from your feet forcibly and thrown into a tree (like the Dorchester Adidas Tree near Adidas Park or the smaller Adidas Tree in South End, Boston near Roxse Houses).
Boston’s three stripes and Adidas culture is ingrained into the identity of the city and inner city Bostonians even though Harry The Greek’s, Crystal’s, Mickey Finn’s, Hip Zepi, Manhattan & Coquette’s are all no longer standing. Even with the Adidas Trees no longer in existence. You will still see stores in Downtown Crossing place their Adidas in the storefront windows (we’re talking national chains here!) out of respect for the city’s culture and cats STILL throw threes to represent Boston…even when they’re rocking Jordans. Which I wince at but times are different.
As Frank The Butcher has exhibited with his re-release of the Forum Crest’s, Boston will FOREVER be an Adidas city. Word to the 25 Adidas boxes in my room & the row of Adidas in my hallway…
Dart Adams is a cynic and also one of the more knowlegable hip-hop heads around. Bostonian and writer, follow him on Twitter @Dart_Adams