Summer 2022 was, as many deemed it, a "Samba summer." No, it wasn't because speakers in every bar were blasting rhythmic Brazilian music, but because the particular Adidas sneakers were more prevalent than ever. They popped up on social media, sold out in Adidas stores and resurfaced on resale sites, where they went for over 500 percent above retail. (Sambas are only $100, but, at its peak, someone spent $513 for a pair, GQ reported.)
An Icon, Made New Again: the Adidas Samba Classic
The affordable everyman indoor soccer suddenly shoe suddenly switched up — it went high fashion, thanks in no small part to designer renditions by Grace Wales Bonner, Pharrell and Sporty and Rich founder Emily Oberg. But the hits keep coming, if you will, with more limited-edition Sambas on the horizon. So, how can a buzzy sneaker get even buzzier, you ask? Even though it seems like the fashion elite is slowly moving on, everyone else is catching up, meaning Sambas still have plenty of shoppers left to convert — including plenty of folks that wore Sambas some 10, 15 or even 20 years ago and are long overdue for a fresh pair.
Among those are my childhood best friends, and two true soccer fanatics, Chris and John. John wears a pair of black Samba OG sneakers, the version with the shorter tongue, all the time — to the gym, to pick up a quick dinner and to the occasional bar, especially if soccer is on. But they'd completely written me off, a non-soccer player, as someone who'd wear, let alone like, Sambas.
Selling Out Like Never Before
Then I got two pairs, and with ease, too, despite the shoe's newfound over-the-top popularity. (Hint: try sport-specific outlets, like soccer.com, not the official Adidas website.) I went with the Samba Classic, the iteration with the extended tongue — the pair truly meant for indoor soccer. It has higher arches, a longer tongue and is easier to slip in and out of. The OG, on the other hand, has almost no arch support, much like the Chuck Taylor-All Star, and a much shorter tongue. There are slight differences in the outsoles, too, but not in tread or traction control, just color.
Stunned by my sudden obsession, both were hesitant to hand out compliments. Weeks later, they turned around. "Not gonna lie," Chris texted me. "The white Sambas do go hard." As someone who had previously worn them without thought, to soccer practice and to pick-up soccer games, he suddenly saw them in a new light. Were they suddenly worth the $500 someone paid for them in 2022? No, but he was more willing than ever to try them again, despite their connotations to tryouts and line drills.
Reaching Tertiary Markets
Days later, I was filling him in on the sneaker's roller coaster calendar year, via text, as I scrolled through the limited-edition collabs. I glanced up from my phone at several pairs I could see from my corner of one of Pittsburgh's most popular coffee shops. This city, I thought, has its own unique style — see: sports jerseys and '90s-wash denim — but one that's far from being either on the forefront of fashion or a place where fashion folks draw influence. To see Sambas in such abundance implies the long-standing sneaker is already recirculating through tertiary markets, of which Pittsburgh is one.
My fiancée, who caught the rest of my mental recap when I returned home, nodded her head. "They're fine," she said. While you can't impress everyone, she's someone who rarely wears sneakers as is — just the most straightforward designs for her workout classes and nothing more. She isn't the target market, per se, but she's familiar with Sporty & Rich and liked the look of Oberg's exclusive version, which is tan, white and Kelly green.
"They’re cool," Chris says of the buzzy collabs, but he still likes the look of the original the most. "It’s a shoe our parents rocked, and shoes we always had as a kid... and you can play soccer in them. I've been meaning to cop another white pair."
Now, long-time Samba fans and recent converts are competing for the same stock. This results in a tense dynamic between those in the know and not, as evidenced by the above TikTok, but don't let anyone gate-keep Sambas, not even fútbol players. If you can find them, you should get (and wear) them.
Adidas Samba Classic