Sneaker Icon: Celebrating 30 Years Of Adidas EQT
The Adidas EQT Runner, 1991. Photograph courtesy of Studio Waldeck/Adidas Archive
The architectural axiom “form follows function” may have been coined by American architect Mr Louis Henry Sullivan (aka the father of skyscrapers and functionalism), but its genesis lies within an ancient text, De Architectura. Written by Roman multihyphenate Mr Marcus Vitruvius Pollio circa 27BC, the ultimate takeaway from the 10-book treatise is the three-part rubric, “firmitas, utilitas et venustas”. Translated, the rule propounds a building should possess a trio of attributes: solidity, usefulness and beauty. With those qualities in mind, it’s not a stretch to say both Sullivan and Vitruvius would count themselves fans of adidas’ EQT line: a function-first sportswear collection that encapsulates, perhaps better than any other, what the brand stands for.
Launched 30 years ago, adidas EQT is the legendary subline that provides athletes, adventurers and the generally active with functional equipment (get the abbreviation yet?) that they can depend on. “adidas EQT puts performance above everything else, hence the ‘Everything that’s essential. Nothing that is not’ motto,” says Mr Fabian Gorsler, sneaker and sportswear editor of Highsnobiety and co-host of The Kickback Sneaker Podcast. “Essentially, it gives athletes everything they need to succeed.”
The form-follows-function project was spearheaded by two former Nike employees, Mr Peter Moore, a sneaker designer who was responsible for the Air Jordan 1, and Mr Rob Strasser. The pair had a gargantuan task on their hands. A major player in the middle of the 20th century, by the early 1990s, adidas was losing market share to its American rivals. It needed a Hollywood-scale reboot. “The line served to propel adidas back to the forefront of the sportswear industry,” says Gorsler.
Strasser and Moore headed to adidas’ headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany, where they learnt about founder Mr Adolf Dassler’s humble intentions. The cobbler turned entrepreneur aimed quite simply to provide sporting equipment to the athletically inclined. Inspired by the past, the pair reconfigured adidas and reinvigorated the brand by taking it back to basics.
The EQT line debuted in March 1991. Initially, four function-first sneakers dropped – the EQT Running Guidance, Running Support, Running Cushion and Racing. While developing this quartet, Moore enlisted the help of Mr Jacques Chassaing, designer of the adidas ZX and Forum. Chassaing swiftly introduced Moore to three of adidas’ most advanced technologies – Soft Cell, Riemen and Torsion – all of which went on to inform his EQT sneaker designs.
“The logo has become a mission statement for what Strasser and Moore aimed to represent: unparalleled performance pieces”
The brand reboot was a raging success and before long there was an adidas EQT shoe for every athletic pursuit. “The shoes were actual equipment for different sports,” says Mr Matthew Welty, associate editor of Complex and co-host of weekly sneaker and style talk show Full Size Run. “I know we’re more familiar with the running variations, but there were Adidas EQT sneakers for every track and field sport – even race walking.”
It helped that adidas EQT was given its own distinctive look from the outset. The new logo and colour palette provided the reboot with a much-needed visual identity.
Recognised today as the adidas Badge of Sport, Moore and co rotated the brand’s signature three stripes at a 30-degree angle to evoke an athlete’s upward journey towards peak performance. Needless to say, the motif implies EQT pieces are a prerequisite for sportspeople to reach their full potential. “The logo has become a mission statement for what Strasser and Moore aimed to represent: unparalleled performance pieces,” says Mr Joss Long, Sneaker Buyer at MR PORTER.
“EQT was all about a new branding scope for the company. It was the future”
As for the colour palette, it’s well documented that Moore settled on a combination he considered strong, athletic and new. “They are not ‘fashion’ colours, but colours that are bold and modern,” says an adidas representative. “Black, white and sub-green dominate this straightforward collection.” By eschewing the trademark blue and opting instead for a trio of industrial hues, Moore made a statement that heralded a new age for the sportswear label, one that urged consumers to leave their hedonistic tastes in the 1980s. “EQT was all about a new branding scope for the company,” says Welty. “It was the future.”
Fast forward to the present and adidas is in the midst of celebrating the EQT line’s 30th anniversary. Conveniently, the milestone comes at a time when functional clothing is considered the epitome of style. Inspired by the original sneaker drop of 1991, adidas released four EQT sneakers on 3 November 2021 – two reissues and two never-before-seen silhouettes. Below, we acquaint – and reacquaint – you with the adidas EQT Running Support 93, CSG 91, Prototype and Race Walk.
adidas EQT Running Support 93
To sneakerheads, the adidas EQT Running Support 93 is adidas EQT’s magnum opus. As the name suggests, this shoe was introduced in 1993 and its purpose was to support a runner’s feet, no matter what terrain they were running on.
“I was first introduced to the adidas EQT Running Support 93 when Solebox collaborated with adidas in 2014,” says Welty. “I wrote a story about the shoes and interviewed Solebox founder Hikmet Sugoer about them. Ever since, I’ve been a fan of the silhouette.”
To the delight of fervent collectors, the 2021 reissue is a near replica of the original. “Nothing is added on to increase the price or create a new look,” says a spokesperson for the brand. “adidas EQT concentrates on what is really essential.” Any minor tweaks to the shape, colour, material and details only improve the comfort, durability, efficiency and appearance of the shoe.
“Glad they’re back in their true form,” says Welty. “Glad I have a pair. Will be wearing them quite often. They’re the perfect blend of retro and modern design.”
adidas EQT CSG 91
“It’s not an archival model, but rather a combination of three models released in 1991: the EQT Cushion, Guidance and Support,” says Gorsler of the adidas EQT CSG 91. “The best parts of each sneaker have been Frankensteined together to create a contemporary take on early EQT sneakers. To be specific, the shoe espouses the Guidance’s forefront and heel, the Support’s middle and quarter panel and the Cushion’s sole unit.”
Does it work? To the untrained eye, the sneaker resembles several sought-after silhouettes – the kind hypebeasts would sell their souls for if pairs were super scarce – but the shoe is an easy cop. “All three sneakers were uber-popular back in the day, so it stands to reason that their amalgamation will put a smile on the faces of OG adidas collectors,” says Gorsler.
adidas EQT Prototype
A prototype EQT Racing sneaker – first imagined in 1993 – has been brought to life as part of adidas EQT’s 30th-anniversary celebrations. Aptly named the adidas EQT Prototype, the suede and mesh silhouette features Torsion System technology, which allows the forefoot and rearfoot to move independently, and quirky wave-shaped components designed to support the three key areas of the foot.
To push, nudge and shove the new silhouette into the limelight, adidas tapped acclaimed Japanese streetwear boutique Atmos to collaborate on the EQT Prototype, Speed. “I was very happy to be given the chance to test out a new adidas EQT model,” says Mr Koji Hirofumi, creative director of Atmos. “With the theme of this collaboration being racing, we wanted to illustrate the experience of running through the city of Tokyo, give the impression of speed through the use of different lines and patterns.”
adidas EQT Race Walk
The 2021 release of the EQT Race Walkmarks the first time adidas has reissued the 1991 silhouette. As expected, it has been catnip for sneakerheads. “The adidas EQT line is about simple, well-executed, no-fuss products and this shoe pays respect to the 30-year-old silhouette in the purest way, allowing for a lot of nostalgia,” says Long.
Although the frill-free model was made especially for racewalkers, it’s ideal for anyone looking for a pair of everyday beaters. “There are no unnecessary fashion features or technical gimmicks,” says the brand. “Each detail has its functional significance and provides a real benefit to the consumer.”
In other words, it does what it needs to do and it looks magnificent. Our favourite architectural luminaries would be proud.