From Past to Present: A Timeline of the 3 Stripes

Words with Neil Selvey, Author of ‘From Past to Present: A Timeline of the 3 Stripes’ – the Definitive Adidas Collectors’ Book


FROM PAST TO PRESENT: A TIMELINE OF THE 3 STRIPES is one of those books that has you clearing space in your bookshelves the moment that you become aware of its existence. And with that in mind, you’ll have to clear quite a large space, as this incredibly well-researched project goes deep into the soul of adidas and the brand’s illustrious history. Author Neil Selvey, designer Dean Jacobs and project manager Eddie Chang make up the team who brought sixty adidas collectors together to tell the story of adidas, just as the brand celebrates its 70th anniversary. Part history book, part picture book and part collector’s manual, this is an incredibly impressive piece of work. With the book now available online – and selling quickly – we took some time to speak with Neil and find out a bit more about the project…


TDD: Hi Neil – thank you for taking the time to tell us about the project. Let’s start with some background: what gave you the idea to put the book together in the first instance? It’s quite an undertaking, to say the least! Do you have a library of footwear-related books?

NS: My first pair of adidas were track spikes called Mexico that my parents brought me in 1982. While I’ve had various brands of sport shoes, adidas are my first love and are synonymous with quality, style and performance. However, I didn’t start collecting adidas until 2000. As I began to look into adidas’ back catalogue I was truly amazed by what they had made. Here was a company with a decades-long production history and thousands of different models. I thought that somebody must have produced a book detailing all the different adidas trainers, but sadly that product didn’t exist. So the idea for the book really came from own needs. Full respect to pioneers Neal Heard (Trainers), Jay Montessori (80s Casuals), John Brolly (Collective Disorder), Sneakers (Udox) and Dressers. They all demonstrated what could be achieved with the medium of print on the subject. I always buy new books about trainers. At the moment I’m reading Playing the Game: The History of adidas and The Sports Shoe by Thomas Turner. They’re both quite academic books, but well researched and put together.

TDD: It’s easy to see that this project was a labour of love, but did adidas get involved in any official capacity? If they did, to what extent was their input or assistance?

This is actually my third attempt to put an adidas book out! The first two, for various reasons, just didn’t happen. I’ve written articles and done some small projects before, but never anything on this scale. Eddie Chang approached me with regards to putting a book together in 2017. He’d got around 6 or 7 collectors together who wanted to showcase their collection in print form. The brief was very brief! Eddie said, “Can you add some writing about these shoes”? I said, “Rather than just showing the shoes, why don’t we write a book about how the brand has evolved, using the shoes to tell the story?”. I suggested Dean Jacobs as designer, because I had worked with him before and I knew what he could achieve and bring to project. The first thing to do was to draw up a list of what shoes needed to be in the book to tell the story adequately. There are certain shoes that had to be in the book. From that list, it was apparent that we needed more collectors to help out. So the process was quite organic, we kept adding more collectors and more shoes.

With regards to adidas, I did visit the adidas HQ in Herzogenaurach and pitched a book idea to them a few years before this. They were quite keen to help, but sadly it never came to anything in the end. The archive team are kept very busy, so I think it is hard for them to get involved in every request. It was an amazing day out though, seeing how adidas work on a day to day basis and to tour their archives – that’s something that will stay with me forever. In the end, I’m happy how it worked out as a self-published product.

TDD: Every aspect of the book is incredibly well executed. What were the most challenging aspects of the project to get completed?

Time is always the enemy! We had originally set a deadline of a year to complete the book. In the end, it took over well over two years to put together. Eddie (project manager), Dean (designer) and I all have full-time jobs, so this was very much a hobby project and was written on evenings and weekends. I have a huge archive of adidas product catalogues and all of the shoe descriptions and dates had to be researched for accuracy. We also had to communicate with 60 collectors from across the globe and coordinate getting the images photographed in the correct way. I can’t thank them enough for their hard work and patience, because without them, there would be no book. When the project dragged into 2019, it had become the 70th anniversary of the brand and we all thought well maybe that’s fate, maybe this is the right year to put it out. In the end, it was still an incredible rush to get it out for Christmas and me and Dean were putting 14-hour shifts in, so we could get to the printers on time. I’d like to thank my wife Lisa, not just for supporting me with the project and accepting the amount of time I had to dedicate to completing the book, but also for proofreading it. I’d never proofread anything of this size before and it was a huge task. She did an amazing job of untangling my thoughts.

TDD: How has the response to the finished book been so far? What’s next on your creative schedule? Will there be a follow-up project?

The response has been amazing. When you put a lot of effort into something, you really hope that people appreciate it, but you never really know until you put it out there. What people have said about the book makes us all truly proud and it makes all the hard work feel worth it. It’s also really nice that people connected to the brand have also enjoyed the book and given us feedback. I’ve had amazing compliments from Gary Aspden (Spezial), Jacques Chassaing (designer of the ZX, amongst many other projects), Jürg Stucki (former CEO of Intersport), Chris Law (global senior director of design for adidas Originals) and from Chris Severn (former distributor of adidas on the west coast of US, who had a major hand in the design of the Superstar). With regards to new projects, I certainly have ideas. I can see another two books on the subject. At present, I don’t want to give anything away on what they will be like, but they will be different from this book. I feel there is much more to tell about the adidas story.

TDD: Thanks for talking with us – we look forwards to seeing your next project…

FROM PAST TO PRESENT: A TIMELINE OF THE 3 STRIPES is AVAILABLE NOW via the banner below. Be sure to get your copy before they sell through completely: this book really is something special and deserves to be in everyone’s library.

Organising the Chaos

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