Shoes of the era were purely for their purpose and, as a result, would shape shift and be altered in line with Nike Air Max 95 Womens new material technologies or discoveries. adidas was already experimenting with reinforced toes on tennis shoes because of the drag during play — spawned from the rubber-toed adidas Tennis, the Wilhelm Bungert signature shoe that arrived around the same time as the Superstar as a similar concept for a different kind of court, and the cult Tom Okker design would use a similar rubber wrap.
Those cautious early forays into basketball took a backseat to the groundbreaking running and soccer creations of the 1960s, but a French catalogue from 1968 includes an early sighting of a future classic — an illustration of a Supergrip with a familiar ridged rubber toe, in the handball and volleyball part of the publication (but with the same stitching as a regular 1967 Supergrip). That was nearly an early Superstar sighting, albeit under a Nike Cortez Femme different name. When the leather-tongued Superstar debuted (the name of the shoe’s original designer remains a mystery) and was tested by elite athletes in 1969, it brought the Supergrip’s SOFTPROTECT padding and soft leather, but the adjustable arch support, extra-large heel counter and shell-sole were pushed as selling points — the rugged rubber toe cap to take the abuse of stop and go movement looked unique, with ridges possibly added as a point–of-difference from other toecap creations.
Since basketball’s canvas and rubber early days, the toe was covered to prevent the shoe being wrecked almost instantly, but applying it to the already resistant leather was something new. The Supergrip was still in catalogues, but retired to high school and college use with a budget price and a newly vulcanised, rather than stitched sole (it Adidas Eqt Support Adv Dam was sold alongside the vulcanised Greenstar basketball shoe that would evolve into the stitch soled Jabbar-endorsed Tournament shoe that would become the Campus — not to be mistaken with the late 1970s training shoe of the same name — in the early 1980s). This new creation was considered so serious, that some stockists would only supply them to those who had the correct accreditation for high school or college play.
Sold more widely in late 1970, and far from cheap, the Superstar and Pro Model were worn by top players like George Irvine, George Gervin, Rick Barry and Bob Verga. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would become the face of that shoe (among others) when he signed a deal in 1976. Anyone wanting the colourways on some of those players’ feet was out of luck — some team colours on the 3-stripes were strictly for the professionals. Asics Gel Lyte 3 Donna With no wider releases and no auction websites to grab a pair from, collector culture was something of an anomaly at the start of the 1970s. The French made version — France being a significant base of operations for adidas under Adi Dassler’s son Horst — of the adidas Superstar became a new performance pinnacle.
adidas never took the time to sit still — from a performance perspective, the game was changing. More dynamic play, the dawn of the dunk and an evolving version of the sport that justified more flamboyant footwear suited this Superstar, but adidas’s sponsorship of a league meant that they kept the pinnacle performance pieces coming. An easily rubbed off trefoil branding on the heel would be replaced by something embossed for a little more resilience. The Americana’s release in 1971 almost superseded prior triumphs — a Nike Internationalist Mujer breathable, brilliant shoe that replaced the rubber toe with a suede panel, and used the league’s patriotic looking blue and red. By 1974, the Half Shell debuted — officially naming the toe cap the shell toe, but offering a little less restriction than the classic Superstar. Spotted Adidas ZX Flux Womens on feet in a handful of suede colourways, the Half Shell was frustratingly difficult to track down — as was its sibling, the Pro Model Half Shell. But the Superstar and Pro Model in more familiar forms, with gold branding on foam tongues, were visible in 1978 catalogues.