How Grace Wales Bonner Cemented the Era of the Samba

When Bella Hadid stepped out in a pair of black leather Adidas Sambas sneakers in April of 2022, fashion publications everywhere raced to download images from Getty and write a punchy headline about the revival of the affordable sneaker. (We, of course, were one of them.) It was only a matter of time before millions of views tallied under #AdidasSambas on TikTok, the sneakers were added to “Blokecore” moodboards on Pinterest, and given the street style seal of approval by the likes of Rihanna, Emily Ratajowski, and Hailey Bieber. A soccer shoe designed by Adidas in 1949 to give athletes a better grip had sneakily become the “it” fashion sneaker of 2022. And then again in 2023. And it shows no signs of slowing down for 2024.

I spot them everywhere: On a fashion director making her way into an Uber outside of Brandon Maxwell’s F/W 24 runway show; On my 19-year-old brother, who exclusively gains intel from his TikTok feed and ChatGPT; On a stylish elderly woman walking past the Nyhavn houses in Copenhagen. As a fashion editor, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the trends that pop up faster than I can report on them. But despite living in a digital world of everchanging algorithms and viral aesthetics appearing out of thin air, the Sambas have managed to cut through all the noise. How exactly did the Sambas refuse to become a blip in the trend cycle? To those in the know, the answer is easy. Grace Wales Bonner supercharged the Sambas.

moving gif of different Adidas Samba sneakers

(Image credit: Adidas)

What I do is quite subtle, but it’s about attention to detail.

Grace Wales Bonner to Vogue