Adolf Dassler

Also known as Adi Dassler was born in Herzogenaurach, Bavaria, Germany on November 3, 1900. The son of Christoph Dassler, a shoe factory worker made his foray into the shoe making business when he was 20 years old. Adi was an avid sportsman and had a passion to create a shoe specifically for athletes.

He started in his mother’s laundry room using canvas and spare materials. With the assistance of his brother Zehlein (who made the metal spikes) and later his older brother Rudolf (who joined in 1924), the brothers formed the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory. Adi made it a point to attend every major sporting event in an effort to convince athletes to wear his shoes. By the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, several athletes were wearing special shoes from the Dassler workshop.

Early on, Adi concentrated his efforts on the shoes of track and field and was experimenting with spikes. By the early 1930s, the company was making 30 different shoe brands for 11 different sports and had a workforce of nearly 100. At this same time, the rise of Hitler in Germany was occurring, consequently, the brothers joined the Nazi party and signed their party papers with a ‘Heil Hitler’.

The 1936 Olympics in Berlin offered a great opportunity for Adi as he equipped Jesse Owens with spiked shoes that reportedly helped him to win 4 gold medals. Adi is purported to have driven to Berlin to meet with Owens just before the games were to begin. He visited Jesse Owens in the Olympic village and handed him a suitcase full of spikes. After persuading Owens to wear the shoes, Owens, over the next week won an unprecedented 4 gold medals (a feat unmatched until 48 years later).

Although this had propelled sales of the Dassler brand shoes, the impending war ravaged the company the Dassler brothers had started as Rudolf was drafted, and Adi was left to manufacture boots for the Nazi Soldiers. At the end of World War II, Adi and Rudolf had tried to re-organize their company, however, disagreements by the two had essentially put an end to the former partnership. By 1948, Rudolf and Adi separated ways as Adi reformed the shoe company using his nickname and first three letters of his last name to form Adidas, while Rudolf went on to locate his factory across the river and calling it Puma.

In 1949 Adi produced the first shoes with molded rubber studs. A breakthrough in 1954 occurred for Adi when the Germans won the World Cup Soccer against Hungary, the Germans all wore Adidas shoes. This event helped Adi recapture his pre-war sales of over 200,000 pairs of shoes per year. His company was beginning to again become a dominant supplier of athletic shoes in the world market.

In 1960 Adi introduced a sports clothing line to complement sales of their now famous three-stripe shoes. That same year in the Olympic Games at Rome, 75% of all athletes wore Adidas brand shoes.  Adi courted many sports celebrities throughout his career as Owner of Adidas to promote the brand name. Notables such as Muhammad Ali, Max Schmeling, Sepp Herberger and Franz Beckenbauer.

In 1963 Adidas started Ball production, and ever since 1970 the official match ball at all major soccer events has been an Adidas product.

On September 6, 1978 Adolf ‘Adi’ Dassler passed away, leaving his widow and son to carry on the tradition he started nearly sixty years earlier.

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