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RS Recommends: The most sustainable Stan Smith ever

In an effort to keep the sneaker icon relevant as we move toward a more sustainable future, adidas has upped its green credentials – with a little help from a few green friends.

In an effort to keep the sneaker icon relevant as we move toward a more sustainable future, adidas has upped its green credentials – with a little help from a few green friends.

In the sneaker game, how do you stay relevant over the course of half a century? Is it about technological advancement or riding trend waves? Or perhaps completely changing how the sneaker is crafted? 

With the announcement of 2021’s Stan Smith, Forever collection, adidas is planning to do all that and more – by delivering a sustainable sneaker made with their unique, eco-friendly ‘Primegreen’ recycled poly upper. This fairly new material is the cornerstone of adidas’ drive to push the Stan Smith classic into the future – without all the greenwashing. 

This isn’t the first time that adidas has ventured into vegan footwear. Back in 2018, they partnered with designer Stella McCartney to deliver the first ever vegan Stan Smith, with new iterations returning in both 2019 and 2020. However, the development of Primegreen – a recycled polyester containing no virgin plastic – is part of a larger plan to achieve 100% recycled polyester use across all adidas products by 2024, and climate neutrality by 2050.

It’s an ambitious plan, but one that is sorely needed considering that the fashion industry is one of the world’s most polluting industries, contributing 10% of total global CO2 emissions.

Importantly, the new sneaker is accompanied by a raft of other green inclusions – ensuring that these kicks, made from their groundbreaking Primegreen upper, aren’t just a catchy headline. Along with a recycled rubber outsole, the classic adidas Originals are comprised of 15% recycled Ortholite sockliners, recycled polyester and rubber laces, and come in a box made of more than 90% recycled paper. 

It’s an important distinction that ensures adidas are committed to their journey toward sustainability and a closed-loop fashion cycle. Too often in the industry we see half-efforts and token initiatives that amount to nothing more than savvy PR.

But if adidas were planning on going ‘all green’, then of course they’re going to do it their way – with a fun collaboration delivering ‘green’ sneakers in every sense of the word, by pairing with Disney to feature eight of their iconic green characters across eight new Stan Smith sneaker designs.

Far from simply slapping a character on the body of each sneaker, adidas have carefully curated subtle nods to Kermit, Tinkerbell, Rex (Toy Story), Mike (Monsters Inc.), Hulk and Wall-E with cute details like trademark quotes and unique finishes. If you’re a Toy Story fan, the Rex sneaker features a kid-like ‘Stan’ scrawled across the undersole in a reference to Toy Story’s Andy lovingly writing his name on Woody’s boot.

The accompanying campaign, dubbed ‘Stan Smith, Forever’, taps into a new generation of green-conscious consumers, with skaters Na-Kel Smith and Nora Vasconcellos, digital architect Iddris Sandu, and actress Yara Shahidi joining the brand’s journey towards ending plastic waste. But the catchcall ‘Stan Smith, Forever’ is also an acknowledgement that although this iconic shoe (designed back in 1965 for French tennis great Robert Haillet, then renamed for American tennis pro Stan Smith in the 70s) has remained fundamentally unchanged for almost 50 years, this latest update will propel this icon into the green beyond.

Across almost all of the green character editions is a rear tab emblazoned with Kermit’s iconic phrase, “it’s not easy being green.” Sure, it’s another subtle nod at a Disney character for the sake of a cute collab, but it’s also a subtle manifesto for the fashion industry at large.

Although it isn’t easy for fashion to be ‘green’ – attempting to pursue sustainable outcomes and zero waste outputs whilst producing innovative new clothing for the masses – it doesn’t mean we should give up altogether. In fact, the challenge should act as a call to arms. If not now, when? If not adidas, then who?

Luckily, the enduring Stan Smith sneaker has risen to the task – and even brought a few familiar friends along the way.

Shop the full sustainable Stan Smith collection here