Stan Smith: A Sneaker Fit for a Shoe-Shaped Island
In 2018, tennis champion Stan Smith released a coffee table book called Stan Smith: Some People Think I’m a Shoe. The front cover features the iconic Adidas Stan Smith shoe, made of white leather with three perforated stripes on the side, a patch of green on the heel tab, and a drawing of Stan Smith’s portrait and his signature with a single ‘S’ used as the first letter of his first and last name.
“Most people around the world that wear the shoe have no idea who I am but they know the name,” says Stan Smith from the tennis court at The Sea Pines Resort named after him.
When the shoe first was released in the 1960s, it changed footwear in the sport. Even though new technology means the shoe is no longer worn by the professionals on tennis courts, the legacy of the Stan Smith shoe lives on. The best-seller is a staple of streetwear, worn by everyday people you pass on the street and high-end fashion designers alike.
It’s only fitting that the man who endorsed the groundbreaking shoe lives right here on Hilton Head Island, an island shaped like a shoe.
How Stan Smith Ended up on a Shoe
There was a lot on the go for Stan Smith in the early 1970s. The tennis player was top of the world after winning the Grand Slam singles title at the world’s oldest and most prestigious tournament, Wimbledon, in 1972. This came right on the heels of winning the U.S. Open Grand Slam singles in 1971. That’s also when Smith moved to Hilton Head Island, joining The Sea Pines Resort as its touring pro in 1971.
At that same time, German footwear company Adidas was looking for a stronger presence in the United States and a fresh way to market their leather shoe which was named after the top tennis player in France, Robert Haillet.
“They wanted an American that they could relate to. They ended up putting my picture on the shoe and Robert Haillet’s name still on the side of the shoe,” Smith reflects.
When the Adidas Robert Haillet came out in 1965 it was a big change in the tennis shoe game. Up until that point, combinations of canvas and rubber were the norm. This new shoe from Adidas brought leather to the court for the first time. In fact Smith wore the shoes when he won both of his Grand Slam singles titles. For a number of years, the shoe had Haillet’s name and Smith’s portrait on it. Haillet retired from the sport in 1971 and by 1978, it was exclusively named the Adidas Stan Smith.
“To have a leather shoe on the market was really neat. I actually wore the shoe before my name was on it,” Smith says.
Even after Stan Smith retired in 1985, the shoe was sold with his likeness and name attached to it. As the decades passed, the Adidas Stan Smith continued to be a best-seller, a timeless look worn by the biggest names in fashion including Céline's former creative director Phoebe Philo. That book that Stan Smith wrote? It features a forward by Pharrell Williams, the singer, rapper, and fashion designer who has also collaborated with Adidas for his own take on the Stan Smith shoe.
Despite remaining a hot seller, Adidas took the shoe off the market completely in 2012, taking the time to carefully plan the future of the Stan Smith.
“In January 2014, they relaunched it and it went crazy all around the world,” Smith says with a smile.
Adidas continues to sell millions of pairs of Stan Smiths every year. And it still has that same classic silhouette, because why change a good thing?
Where We 'Love' to Wear Our Stan Smiths
Stan Smith and Hilton Head Island are a perfect fit. And we’re not just saying that because it’s shoe-shaped! America’s Favorite Island® is a classic destination because people know they can always depend on relaxation, sport, and leisure. Here are a couple places we ‘love’ to wear our Stan Smiths in the Lowcountry.
For a true Stan Smith and Hilton Head Island experience, take to one of the 20 clay courts at The Sea Pines Resort. Afterall, this is the resort where Smith was a touring professional and to this day remains involved as one of The Sea Pines Resort ambassadors. While there are modern shoes that provide more support while playing, it’s hard to resist walking up the court with a crisp pair of white Stan Smiths.
While you’re at The Sea Pines Resort, you can purchase a new signed pair of Stan Smith shoes, a unique shopping experience you won’t find anywhere else but on Hilton Head Island. From boutique clothing stores, to culinary shops showcasing fresh and local products, to galleries with fine art from the Lowcountry, there’s something for every shopper here.
Discover more of the Lowcountry’s very own fashion with designer handbags from Spartina 449. The company started across the water from Hilton Head Island on Daufuskie Island in 2009. The upscale brand brings together inspiration from South Carolina with colorful patterns and fine materials. If you love sport and fashion, be sure to check out Spartina 449’s collection of tennis and golf bags including this vibrant golf tote.
Stan Smith and his accomplishments on the court and in the fashion world is just one fascinating chapter of history in the Lowcountry. If you’re interested in more of the history and the key people that have shaped this region, there’s plenty of stories to be told here. The Gullah are one of the most culturally distinctive African American populations in the country with a rich and deep history on the island. Stop by the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn to discover more Gullah heritage. While you’re there, be sure to check out Gullah Sweetgrass Basket Creations where you can purchase a sweetgrass basket, see a demonstration, and learn more about the tradition.
Pack Your Stan Smith Shoes and Plan Your Hilton Head Island Getaway
Now that you know the story behind Stan Smith, both the shoes and the person, come visit his home of Hilton Head Island. Pack your favorite pair of Stan Smiths and plan your stay in the Lowcountry today!
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