Sneaker releases are a bigger deal than ever before: billions are fed into the hype machine to give every new release a shot at becoming a cult classic. But PUMA’s legacy sneaker, the PUMA Suede, came well before the the focus groups and A/B testing. The 50-year-old sneaker has found itself at the centre of seismic cultural shifts for the last half-century — often, by coincidence. To truly trace the lineage of the Suede, we have to first understand the tense circumstance it was created in.
The brand we now know as PUMA was founded in 1924 by brothers Rudolf and Adolf Dassler at the helm — but after almost two decades working collaboratively, the brothers’ relationship began to sour. They divided employees and assets equally, with Adolf creating adidas, and Rudolf continuing on with PUMA. By ‘68, the rivalry between adidas and PUMA (which, by then, had been boiling for 20-odd years) was reaching a fever pitch. Adidas had crept ahead in sport shoe market, but PUMA were on the precipice of a breakthrough.