While preparing our recent review of the adidas Sobakov it was necessary to wade through adidas’ marketing materials for the new model. There was a naïve hope that it would provide a few hard facts about the Sobakov’s origin; unsurprisingly, it contained precious few facts of any kind.
It’s a common issue with sneaker manufacturers: new models that pique the interest of inquisitive consumers will inevitably end up leaving them with a lot of unanswered questions about the shoe.
The most logical thing in such situations is to contact the manufacturer directly, and in this particular case to ask adidas for more information about the Sobakov. We tried – several times – but at the time this was written adidas’ communications departments (both the global and Canadian offices) have not bothered to reply to any of our numerous email requests.
Relying on popular sneakerhead websites or large retailers is an equally futile approach. Predictably, most are nothing more than echo chambers for the manufacturers’ marketing campaigns. And when it came to the Sobakov, none could explain the origin of its name let alone make an attempt at diving into the true ethos of the shoe.
This left us with adidas’ marketing and sales rhetoric that attempted to tap into the sentimentality of aging football fans. It read like a manufactured backstory, a forced narrative based less on discussions with those who had been responsible for the shoe’s design, and more on the imagination of an advertising department. And similar to how adidas promoted many of its other models, the Sobakov narrative dove into the seemingly bottomless well of English football culture stereotypes.
Simply stated, the Sobakov is meant to be another terrace tribute shoe. While it can be argued that football terraces are not unique to England, the global perspective associates terraces with English stadiums because of the violence (and deaths) in 1989 that lead to them being phased out during the early 1990s.
Given football’s international appeal, why does adidas keep pegging its products as something unique to England? For a sneaker buyer in Canada (and most other countries), it creates the impression that adidas is stuck in an English loop, and that seemingly endless romancing of English terrace culture is something that most people in the world wouldn’t be able to relate to.
This makes the promotional media for the Sobakov all the more questionable as it presses home the theme of bored, sullen young men, embodying the stereotypes of football hooligans. Is this really what the Sobakov is about? The entire concept seems implausible. Are the brooding boys in the hood portrayed by brooding fashion models really rushing to buy the Sobakov because it supposedly pays tribute to a cultural phenomenon that was before their time?
It would be nice to know the real story behind the Sobakov, because on its own it represents a superlative design. For starters, what’s the deal with its name? Is there some World Cup connection we’re unaware of given that the shoe was released during a World Cup year? Or does it have something to do with the town of the same name located in northern Czech Republic, population thirty?
We’ll continue to dig, but until we find the answers to our questions the Sobakov will remain yet another mass-produced sneaker with a dissociative identity. Getting to the bottom of the Sobakov story has so far been an experience much like trying to find Waldo. That might seem like a dated comparison to make, but it will make as much sense to the latest generation of sneaker buyers as adidas’ romancing of terrace culture will.