Trainer Focus – adidas Forest Hills

adidas Forest Hills, perhaps the most iconic of all footwear amongst football casuals. But why so? Well, before my time and at the height of what we now know as “casual culture” legions of scousers and Mancunians travelled Europe in the late 70s and early 80s following their football teams and scouring the continent for rare and beautiful sportswear. Coming back to their Thatcher destroyed heartlands with mysterious and beautiful training shoes became something of a status symbol and it led to Liverpool being the highest selling city of adidas in the world at one point.

Carty and Elvis (sporting Forest Hills) from the film Awaydays

Peter Hooton (of The Farm) discussed the training shoe phenomenon a recent article for Scott’s Menswear:

Much has been written about training shoes over the last couple of years, as the style magazines and the newspapers have tried to come to terms with the massive increase in the popularity of the trainer. Empires have been built and fortunes acquired during the Eighties, and most ‘lazy’ journalists have looked to the States to explain the phenomenon. Unfortunately, most of what has been written has been complete nonsense, so far from the truth that it’s not even funny. If the truth be known, the obsession with training shoes for the youth of this country began in the late Seventies and not in the late Eighties, as some would have us believe. It came from the football terraces and the council estates of the big cities, and who gives a George Best who started it – it happened and that’s a fact.

So why have Forest Hills stood out above all the rest as THE iconic trainer of that period? Well featuring in Kev Sampson’s (another of Liverpool’s literati) cult novel and now film Awaydays would certainly have helped. He talked about the film and those trainers in a recent interview with Trabs magazine. Interestingly although the book was published in 1998 and the film released ten years later in 2009 Sampson actually wrote the book in the 80s. So far from being nostalgia it was absolutely of the times and shows that Forest Hills haven’t somehow been misremembered.

Indeed Peter Hooton highlights the impact Forest Hills had at the time when the now famous Yorkshire entrepreneur and retailer Wade Smith opened his store in Liverpool:

After travelling to the Frankfurt Sports Fair he had wanted them to stock Adidas Forest Hills (white leather, gold stripes). Adidas insisted On 500 pairs going to the ‘flagship store’ in Oxford Circus. They didn’t sell a pair and most of the reps blamed the price tag (£29.99) in 1980/81. Wade Smith knew different. After laughing at the idea of launching Forest Hills in Liverpool, Adidas let him have 500 pairs. He put them on sale in the beginning of December 1980; by Christmas they had sold out. Wade Smith was given salesman of the year in January and promptly left to set up shop on his own.

So of all the iconic trainers from that period, Forest Hills have stood out as being the flagship shoe of that time, an embodiment of what was happening then and what is now meant by “casual culture.” Recently re-released they have been a must have your modern and original casuals alike. Available at both Stuarts of London and The Hip Store.

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