Germany’s own Romulus and Remus
Adidas and Puma are two of the biggest sportswear brands in the world – both brands have produced some iconic pieces, collaborated with some incredibly influential people and most importantly, both brands were the subject of a classic Kanye Twitter rant.
Most people view Adidas and Puma as standalone corporate giants; however it’s a little-known fact that both brands were born out of a bitter feud between two brothers – Adolf (Adi) and Rudolf (Rudi) Dassler. When my brother and I used to fight, it was generally about who got the first go on FIFA 08 back in the good old days of Saturday morning PS2, different strokes I guess.
Like any good start-up, the Dasslers operated out of their Mum’s laundry, making some of the most lit shoes the sleepy German town of Herzogenaurach had ever seen. Adi was the quiet craftsman, spending hours upon hours toiling away at his craft while Rudi was the extroverted salesman, which is code for “Outgoing Dickhead”. The Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe Company was doing well (despite having a lengthier name than the town it was based in), the brothers even managed to convince legendary Olympian Jesse Owens to wear their shoes, despite the fact that both brothers were members of the somewhat unsavoury Nazi party.
Despite their success, the Dassler brother’s relationship was as tense and bitter as an episode of Coronation Street. There is much speculation about what caused the brothers to fall out, some say that Rudi had an affair with Adi’s wife, others think it’s because Rudi believed that Adi and his wife conspired to get Rudi called up to the army. See what I mean? Proper soap opera shit. What’s generally considered the straw that broke the Camel’s back was during an Allied bomb attack. Adi and his wife had entered a bomb shelter that Rudi and his family were already in, it’s said that when Adi walked in, he piped up with “the dirty bastards are back again”, referring to the planes but obviously Rudi thought the comment was aimed at him.
After that moment, the two brother’s relationship was as bitter and tense as a family Christmas dinner. As soon as the war ended, the two brothers split the company and set up shop on opposite sides of the Aurach River. Adi combined his first and last name to create Adidas, while Rudi opted with Ruda, and then settling on Puma.
After the split, both men wanted to be sure that everybody knew the difference between Adidas and Puma. Adi decided to sew vertical stripes onto his shoes, a technique that was already being used at the time to provide shoes with support and strength. Adi decided to paint three leather stripes to make them stand out against the shoe, and the iconic Adidas stripes were born. Rudi toyed with a few designs, such as a puma jumping through the letter D, before eventually settling on the brands iconic formstripe. Herzogenaurach became a battleground for the two companies. Puma and Adidas dominated the local industry and many of the townspeople ended up working for one of the corporations. If you worked for Adidas, then you didn’t speak to Puma employees. Dating or even marrying between the two companies was considered a sin and local business would deny service to those affiliated to the brand they didn’t like. Things got so bad that Herzogenaurach became known as the “Town of Bent Necks”. Referencing the fact that the locals would look at a person’s shoes before deciding if they wanted to talk to them, which I’m sure many sneakerheads can emphasise with. The Dassler brothers never reconciled, they were even buried at opposite ends of the Herzogenaurach.
Adidas and Puma have managed to put the 60-year-old feud behind them. In 2009, both companies played a friendly football match in an attempt to heal old wounds. Thankfully the bitterness has been laid to rest and both brands can concentrate on churning out some banging designs. As time passes, the relationship between the two juggernauts might even improve, collab anyone?
Written by Ethan Gould.