The brand with the three stripes is certainly on a roll.
We've taken notice of their rise to greater prominence over the past year, especially as the standard bearer of the fashion sneaker movement. We’ve seen the Stan Smiths, the Superstars, the Yeezys, the Tubulars, the NMDs, Ultra Boosts, and the Gazelles overtake other popular silhouettes to become some of the most widely coveted sneakers in the market today. Some say it’s because of Kanye. We think it’s a simple matter of consistently excellent design. adidas knows which of its classic shoes are worth revisiting and how to design new ones for the Instagram generation. On top of that, it doesn’t hurt that they listen to their customers.
Their latest hit is the perfect example of that keen ear for good input.
The new adidas UltraBOOST Uncaged is what it is: the UltraBOOST, without the plastic stripes and laceloops that form the “cage.”
But what’s even more interesting about this design direction is that adidas took it from the fans. Back when the first UltraBOOST came out in the first quarter of 2015, it was an instant hit with the streetwear set. They were performance running shoes, but they were also stylish, in the same way that Nike's Flyknit Trainers are. And as sneakerheads are wont to do, fans of the UltraBOOST started to customize their pairs by literally cutting out the cage:
It’s a simple customization, but it does a lot to make the shoe even more minimal—sleeker, simpler, more stylish. It also effectively removes the shoe’s most prominent branding and exposes the Primeknit upper. Cutting the cage became so popular that eventually, Hypebeast decided to collaborate with adidas on a special release: the first real UltraBOOST Uncaged, which came out in December 2015, commemorating Hypebeast’s 10th anniversary.
The Hypebeast UltraBOOST Uncaged is easily among the best adidas collaborations in recent memory, and it sold out immediately as it was a limited release. Today, the UltraBOOST Uncaged has returned, new and improved, purpose-built to eschew the plastic cage. Apart from the performance improvements that they made in the shoe’s BOOST sole and Primeknit upper, adidas also added a seamless multi-tier lacing system and an adaptive knit collar to better suit the absence of a cage. The result is an UltraBOOST with an evolved fit and a really clean look. Oh, and it looks a hell of a lot like a sock.
But this isn’t the first time this happened. One of the first instances of customs-turned-real is a beloved and iconic skate shoe: the Vans Half Cab.
Back in the '80s, Vans released a signature sneaker for Steve Caballero called (you guessed it) the Caballero. It was a high-top sneaker designed for vert skating, so the Caballero had superior padding and ankle protection. But at the time, street skating was taking over, and the thrashers needed a lower rise to free up their ankles for more foot dexterity. That’s why skaters started to literally cut the shoe down, using a pair of scissors or a kitchen knife, sealing the foam in with duct tape. It became a customization trend and spread out as more skaters took to the streets, so Vans got the memo and released the Half Cab in 1992. To this day, it’s one of Vans’ most iconic and most popular shoes, both for skating and for style.
Both the UltraBOOST Uncaged and the Half Cab are examples of effective listening in design. The customer may not always be right, but he might just have a brilliant idea every now and again.
Photo via Hypebeast.com (UltraBOOST Uncaged); Offthewallsite.net; Vans.com (Vans Half Cab)