A simplistic design, legendary colour blocking, extreme versatility in its shape and style — the adidas Samba is one of the most collectible silhouettes on the market today. Football shoe turned skateboarding staple, the Samba has enjoyed a full-force revival this year. And despite over 70 years passing since its first appearance, one thing has remained the same: the Samba’s ability to unify fashion, music and popular culture. Here, we take a look back at the sneaker’s origins and how it became the must-have style of 2023. 

Introduced in the 1940s by adidas founder Adi Dassler, the original Samba was designed for football, helping players maintain their footing on the icy pitches. In the lead up to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil a year later, a marketing strategy was launched to incite players and fans to buy the model; adidas renamed it the Samba, after a traditional Brazilian dance and music genre. Adidas’ mission was clear: create functional footwear that’s sought after by the masses. The result? Front-running sneakers that transcend the pitch.

As the Samba continued to dominate football, it wasn’t long before it started attracting attention from outside the sporting sphere. In the ‘90s, adidas quickly found its place in the music scene, with representatives from the Britpop genre — including Oasis — regularly donning the Samba shoe. Years later, skateboarders wanted in on the trend, utilising the sneaker’s durable rubber sole and lightweight design on and off the ramps. 

It wasn’t until the early ‘00s that the shoe’s demand began to decline. The Samba lost its appeal in fashion circles, marking an abrupt end to a successful run. Shoppers looked instead to Vans or Converse, brands that were popularised by a revitalised skate scene and devoid of any timeworn trends.

Fast forward to present day, the adidas Samba is once again reigning supreme. The resurgence of retro silhouettes and laid-back essentials has confirmed the sneaker’s relentless staying power, with fans embracing the silhouette’s nostalgic history and enduring versatility. Resale platforms and marketplaces have reported a 600% increase in sales, cementing the Samba as one of the most wanted styles of 2023.

While it’s a stark rise for a sneaker that’s been around for decades, the Samba’s success story is unsurprising. Thanks to a number of high-profile partnerships, including Jonah Hill and skateboarder Jason Dill, the revamped style is now available in more desirable iterations that are drawing both men and women seeking the next ‘It’ shoe.

One of the pioneers behind the Samba’s long-awaited comeback, Grace Wales Bonner’s collaboration with adidas in 2020 saw the silhouette propelled back into the limelight. Bonner reworked the classic silhouette with contrast stitching, satin lining and patterned laces, echoing the brand’s athletic roots and bringing the Samba into the modern day. Within hours the collection had sold out — and so the Samba was reborn.

Since then, the sneaker has only grown in popularity. Tastemakers and big-name influencers like Bella Hadid, Emily Rajakowski and Frank Ocean have all been spotted in the shoe, while luxury and streetwear labels have introduced the Samba to a new fashion lexicon — Gucci, Ivy Park and Palace, to name a few. Following in the footsteps of the New Balance 550 and Nike Dunk, the Samba heralds a new era of timeless revivals.

Now confirmed as the German brand’s second bestselling shoe, just behind Stan Smiths, the adidas Samba is showing no signs of slowing down. With more partnerships and remodels in line for 2023, including JJJJound and Pharrell, the sneaker continues to break boundaries and secure its place within the industry. Widely acknowledged as an icon that changed the landscape of footwear, the Samba is no longer simply a style of the past, but a sneaker for the future.