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The Town of Bent Necks
PUMA’s story begins in the town of Herzogenaurach, the footwear capital of Germany. The company’s founder, Rudolf Dassler, established PUMA in 1948 after he and his brother Adi dissolved their prior footwear endeavor, Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory. Continuing with his passion, Rudolph kept producing soccer cleats under the PUMA name and creating some of the most popular boots in Germany. After a decade of success, PUMA introduced their first two logos, the leaping cat, and the Formstrip. Originally an inner piece of the shoe meant to stabilize the foot, the addition of the stiff stripe to the outside of the shoe created a now-iconic look for the brand. In 1968, the sleek stripe appeared on PUMA Suede, one of the most important sneakers in PUMA’s 70-year history.
The Footwear of Culture
In 1968, the PUMA Suede began an unprecedented run of prominence in the worlds of hip-hop, sneakers, and culture. This trajectory began in October of that year, during the Summer Olympic Games. During a medal ceremony for a track event, two American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, walked to the podium to receive their gold and silver medals, both raising their fists in a show of solidarity with the Civil Rights Movement. It was an electrifying moment in American sports and culture, one that would change the social landscape of the country forever. For PUMA, it was the start of something else entirely, all thanks to a single PUMA Suede held by Tommie Smith on his way to the podium. Soon, the silhouette took off, quickly becoming one of the brand’s most popular models. Just a few years later, in 1973, NBA legend Walt Frazier approached PUMA asking for a wider version of the shoe, making him the first-ever basketball player with a signature shoe, referred to as the PUMA Clyde by hardcore sneakerheads. Over the next few decades, the Suede would continue to help define PUMA. Quickly adopted by B-boys and others in the dancing field, as well as hip-hop artists, the iconic silhouette has been famously endorsed by names like Jay-Z, Jack Black, and Kylie Jenner. While many celebrities have endorsed PUMA sneakers over the years, few have been lucky enough to work hand-in-hand with the brand, and the short list includes Rihanna, Big Sean, and Selena Gomez.
Despite PUMA’s prominent history in the footwear scene, the brand’s innovation and technologies have not always been their selling point. However, that should change soon. In 2017, PUMA introduced evoKnit, a durable and flexible upper material woven together for a breathable, sock-like fit. The new technology gave them an edge in competing with other brands, but they weren’t quite finished. In 2017, PUMA introduced NRGY, a cushioning technology that uses soft foam beads to provide a high-energy return. The combination of these innovative new advancements will help bring PUMA sneakers into the modern age, while allowing them to retain the classic styles of their roots.