Kicking It Back with adidas

The Resurgence and History of the UK's Terrace Culture






Terrace Culture is on the come up.

Within the last two years, classic low-cut, rubber-soled sneakers, originally worn by UK football “casuals” have entered the cultural zeitgeist in a big way. The trend's resurgence has led to collabs including the Juventus x Palace x adidas Football Collection, been written up by publications such as highsnobiety, and documented by a recent museum exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery Styles including the adidas Samba and Gazelle have become some of the most sought-after silhouettes in streetwear today and fan favourite among celebrities and influencers.

Let's walk through the rise of terrace sneakers, from their humble beginnings in the rain-battered soccer stadiums of the UK, to today's global fashion trend.

In the 70s, Brits were just as energetic and enthusiastic about football as they are today. Naturally, young people would congregate at games in the less expensive upper sections of stadiums. A subculture began to form out of the concrete terraces - youth began to dress differently from other football fans by skipping out on their team's jersey and wearing expensive designer clothing, straight-leg jeans and Adidas trainers instead. These standing spectator areas became an unlikely influence on the fashion of the time and a way of supporting a team while expressing individual style.

These standing spectator areas became an unlikely influence on the fashion of the time.

In the 70s and 80s, travel became more affordable for the working class allowing young football fans to follow their clubs to away games across Europe. Frequenting department stores and sports retailers during trips abroad allowed for a wider option of apparel and footwear from brands like Fila, Sergio Tacchini, Diadora, and adidas. Foreign sneakers and apparel steadily made their way to England and into the hands of “Casuals.”

When it came to terrace footwear, adidas was on top, with styles like the Samba, Munchen, and Gazelle taking center stage. These sneakers were available in exclusive colourways across Europe, setting them apart from the monotony of brown trainers and leather shoes prevalent in England. Returning fans proudly wore their newly acquired adidas kicks, turning them into sought-after collectibles and cementing the foundation of the UK's first sneakerheads.

Let's explore some of the adidas styles that influenced terrace culture and continue to influence fashion today.

adidas Samba (1950)

Originally designed for icy and frozen-over pitches, the Samba’s initial construction was overbuilt with hard wearing kangaroo leather, featuring the Suction Cup design along the outsole to provide grip on slippery surfaces that remains today. Making its debut at the Fifa World Cup in Brazil, the Samba was redesigned and renamed for the hot climate, getting its name from the Brazilian indigenous dance and music style.Their dense history within the sport of Football, alongside their unique appearance in comparison to other adidas trainers at the time, made the Samba a favourite among the young and style conscious fans lining terraces across England.

adidas Gazelle (1966)

The Gazelle went through many iterations early in its lifetime, being tweaked and redesigned according to sport. The first Gazelle was developed as an all-around training shoe, while a second iteration added a transparent non-slip outsole, pivoting its design towards use in Handball. By the mid-70s, the Gazelle had been phased out of adidas’ performance lines, but found new life as a lifestyle trainer. U.K. based adidas consultant Gary Aspden notes on the Gazelle, “At their time of release, they pushed the envelope on color when it came to training shoes”.

adidas Munchen (1972)

Named and released to coincide with the 1972 Munich Olympics, the Munchen is of particular note in the history of Terrace Culture. Quickly transitioning into the lifestyle category following its release, the Munchen is argued to be one of if not the first adidas shoe to become popular among the movement. Liverpool based Vintage collector and founder of the legendary Transalpino, Jockey Wyatt was quoted as saying “The first City Series shoe worn by terrace lads would have been the München with the Trimm Trab sole unit, which were originally brought back to these shores when football fans headed into Europe following their teams”.

adidas Handball Spezial (1979)

Developed for the indoor sport of Handball, the Spezial was immediately popular as an athletic shoe, particularly in Germany, where the sport was most prominent. Releasing in 1979, the silhouette came at a time when Terrace Culture and the ‘Casual’ look was at its peak, leading the shoe to instantly solidify its place in the pantheon of sneakers seen in stadiums across England. The Spezial was reintroduced to the modern audience in 2014 through Designer and Brand Consultant Gary Aspden’s collaborative collection with adidas of the same name. Noteworthy for its unchanging appearance since its release, the Spezial remains one of the most steadfast designs in adidas’ entire collection to this day.