Rod Laver has as much tennis sneaker stash as anyone in the game, even Stan Smith, his contemporary. Both players, active in the 1960s and 1970s, gained support from Adidas and both performed in iconic models bearing their names and likeness. And both sneakers still live to this day.
“My only rivalry with Stan was on the court,” Laver says. “Off the pitch we were good friends and have shared a lot of fun with Adidas promos over the years. I like to joke with him that only one of our shoes has a stadium named after them.”
Laver, the only player to win the Grand Slam calendar twice, has been the namesake not only of an Adidas sneaker since 1970, but also of Australia’s largest tennis stadium, Rod Laver Arena, since 2000. After more than 50 years of existence as a signature Adidas shoe – longer than Smith, since Smith’s Adidas shoe was originally the Robert Haillet before changing its name in the 1970s – Laver still remembers the Adidas Horst Dassler wanting to push the brand further in sport, beyond what they were doing with Haillet.
“The Adidas team wanted to create a ‘General Motors
“I felt that the design of the common tennis shoe could be improved,” he says. “The canvas uppers suffered from the daily use of a clay court. The clay would stick to shoes and discolour quickly. I suggested that a non-stick material like nylon mesh would improve performance and durability. daily presentation of a sports shoe. This is the genesis of the Adidas Rod Laver model. ”
By adding extra width and nylon mesh, Laver says it was both more comfortable and vibrant. The lightweight mesh, especially compared to the harder leather of the time, added to the design. “The nylon mesh was the New Coke,” Laver says.
Then the team worked on the heel design, with Dassler making sure the styling emphasized structural improvements. With all of this in place, marketing has taken over. At this point, the shoes were still largely bearing the company name, but Adidas had started to take more interest in athlete sponsors, so the Rod Laver model was really born.
Over the next 50+ years, the Adidas Rod Laver expanded its color and material offering to become visible on and off the pitch. “The athletic shoe was becoming a statement,” Laver says. “It makes me proud that a retro tennis shoe is always chosen by young people. I guess all fashion is cyclical, but I’m pretty sure we won’t see wooden racquets enjoying the same revival.”
Laver says he owns around 25 pairs of his shoes, including golf varieties and clothing. He also keeps some to offer. “People always comment on my shoes and are sometimes surprised when they first notice my shoes and then find out I’m the one wearing them,” he says. “These days I get pulled over for selfies, especially at the Grand Slam, and players always comment when they notice it.”
Laver now has a third major namesake beyond shoes and stadium, with the Roger Federer-led Laver Cup, launched in 2017, a tribute to Laver’s historic place in the game. “It’s amazing how point it has already been a success, with over 300,000 fans enjoying three hard-fought editions to date, in Prague, Chicago and Geneva, “he said, noting that Tomas Berdych donned Laver shoes during the a promo. even with Federer in Prague.
FOLLOWING: Laver Cup brings unique tennis brand to Boston
The fourth edition of the Laver Cup begins September 24 in Boston and Laver believes the ‘innovative’ format and team design make it an exciting event, whether it’s Federer, Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal or of a generation of young talents, as is the case. is happening this year. “It was a privilege to see what this generation of players have accomplished – to have Roger, Rafa and Novak all in 20 Grand Slam tournaments – and,” Laver said, “it’s so exciting to see the next generation now. of players start to emerge as winners. ”
Through it all, the once state-of-the-art Adidas Rod Laver tennis sneaker has become a fashion icon in 50 years of creation, just another part of Laver tennis heritage.