Why Adidas Sambas Are Everywhere (And Why We Love Them)

Last Updated: June 13, 2024By

Why Adidas Sambas Are Everywhere (And Why We Love Them)



Alright, so the other day I was on this train ride from Peckham in south London to Dalston in east London, and I couldn’t help but notice something super interesting. Everywhere I looked, people were rocking Adidas Sambas. There were white ones, black ones, those fancy Wales Bonner ones with the pony fur and leopard print, even little silver ones, and black leather ones with studs.


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The Adidas Samba used to be a favorite among football fans, Britpop kids, and some skaters. But now, they’re as common as those beat-up Converse All Stars were back in the 00s indie sleaze days. Even the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, was spotted wearing them recently! Some folks joked that this was the final blow to the sneaker’s popularity. Sunak even apologized to the “Samba community” for his fashion choice.


But let’s be real, even before Sunak styled his Sambas with navy trousers and an ironed shirt (yawn), these shoes were already everywhere. Early last year, a TikTok video showing a bunch of people wearing Sambas on a London train went viral. And it’s not just a London thing – searches for ‘Adidas Samba’ in the UK have more than doubled in the past two years. Celebrities like Hailey Bieber, A$AP Rocky, Rihanna, and Harry Styles have all been seen wearing them. Your mum and her friends might be rocking them too. They even make tiny Sambas with Velcro straps for babies now. Every summer, the Samba gets hyped up as the shoe of the season. But why? What makes this simple shoe so special?


The Classic Appeal

The Samba is a 74-year-old sneaker with a classic design. The three stripes, the gum sole, and the rounded toe make it look super cool and versatile. When I got my pair of black Sambas in 2022, I loved how sleek and smart they looked. Plus, they’re affordable for a trendy shoe, costing around £75. For a lot of young people, the brand’s 2020 collaboration with designer Grace Wales Bonner – whose versions now sell for up to £4,000 – really took the Samba to new heights. Tiarna Meehan, a 23-year-old fashion graduate from London, bought three pairs of these special Sambas in 2022. “The contrast between the typical streetwear shoe and the delicate details like lace and stitching makes them so appealing,” Meehan says.


TikTok and Trendsetters

Meehan believes that the hype on TikTok is a big reason for the trend. Bea Acworth, 24, who sells secondhand Sambas on Depop from her home in Edinburgh, agrees. The rise of TikTok’s “blokecore” aesthetic – vintage football shirts, baggy jeans, and Sambas – made the trainer a must-have among Gen Z. Bella Hadid was often photographed in Sambas, which only fueled the fire. A Depop representative mentioned that searches for Sambas are up 142% since the start of the year, and up 20% in just the past month.

But it’s not just about TikTok. There’s a broader trend towards nostalgia on the platform, with a resurgence of Adidas track tops, low-rise jeans, and Timberland boots. Adam Cheung, a 29-year-old streetwear expert and founder of Typed Hype, a digital zine about sneaker culture, noticed that retro trainers started becoming popular around 2022. “Sales for New Balance increased by 115% that year alone. So when retro trainers became trendy, the Samba was an obvious choice. Adidas started producing more colors to match everyone’s style.”

Everyone Loves a Samba

There’s a Samba for everyone (though we don’t have exact data on the number of colorways, ASOS now sells more than 100 styles). And there’s no typical Samba-wearer. You might see a 45-year-old dad dressed like Liam Gallagher in Sambas, or a 21-year-old fashion influencer on TikTok. Pat Frost, a 58-year-old who works as the England football team’s kit manager, has been collecting Adidas trainers since the early 2000s. He owns 504 pairs, 240 of which are Sambas. “I started buying them and just kept going,” he says. “If I keep this up, they’ll be worth more than my house. I even built a special room in my garden to store and display them.”

Frost isn’t bothered by the sudden increase in Samba wearers. “They’ve always been cool. They’ve never really gone out of fashion. [We had] the ‘terrace culture’ in the 70s and 80s; everyone wore them then.” This week, the head of British Vogue, Chioma Nnadi, echoed this sentiment. “I think Sambas are a classic,” she told BBC Woman’s Hour. “I don’t believe in trends living and dying.”

Frost also thinks the quality of Sambas has improved over the years. They haven’t become flimsier with increased demand. “They look really nice nowadays. Adidas has managed to improve them. They haven’t completely changed them, just improved the making, stitching, and colors.”

Are They Too Popular?

Not everyone is convinced. Some people think the Samba craze has gone too far, and that the shoe has become basic. When the Prime Minister is wearing a sneaker, you know it’s mainstream. Others have cashed in. Meehan sold their black and green Wales Bonner pair on Depop last year for a few hundred quid. “It paid my deposit to move to London,” they say.

Still, Sambas are a timeless classic. Even if they become less trendy, most people, like Nnadi, believe they won’t disappear. They’re too stylish for that. “The Adidas Samba has been around for seven decades,” says Cheung. “I don’t doubt for a second that they’ll be around for seven more.”

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