Sneakers
From the ground up

Since it was re-introduced under Kanye West and adidas’ collaborative Calabasas-themed line, the Powerphase sneaker has been the subject (for good reason) of Reebok comparisons coming from wannabe sneaker experts, and people who have seen Reebok shoes before. The whole situation is muddied further by the fact that adidas has owned Reebok since 2005.

But it seems like those comparisons were pretty much on the money.

When we reached out to adidas for clarification, we were told the YEEZY team is not actively working on features for the Powerphase at the moment. But here is what we were able to surmise.

In the 1980s, Reebok was on top of the sneaker game, and even passed Nike as the best selling sportswear brand in the United States. When Nike eventually rebounded back past Reebok, The New York Times wrote about it. Wearing Reebok Freestyles, Jane Fonda was the face of the aerobic movement, and naturally other brands wanted to cash in on this new wellness trend.

In a report on Reebok Classics written by Gary Warnett for SSENSE, Warnett notes that Reebok introduced the Workout in 1984, and slightly later the Newport Classic (now the NPC) in 1985. Slightly earlier in 1982, the Freestyle sneaker was one of the first, if not the first, to feature a branded window with the Reebok logo next to a union jack flag.  Tracing these Reebok sneakers for their own designs, adidas then came out with the Jet, which as far as we can tell was part of the adidas Magic line of leisure shoes.

Described by adidas, the 1986 ad spot (above) shows a handful of Power Phase (spelled as two words) colorways; “A man crashes into a futuristic room, the gate closes behind him. Out of nowhere appears a laser-like beam, at the end of which are adidas shoes, which he puts on. They are displayed in black, yellow and white.” The video shows a pair of adidas sneakers that have undeniable similarities to Reebok’s popular styles at the time, right down to the small window with adidas branding in place of Reebok.

Shortly after, another 1986 adidas advertisement (below) bills the silhouette as the Power Phase, accompanied by the adidas Rascal.

adidas

In 1988, adidas debuted the Power Phase in a high-top cut. According to the adidas archive page, “The “Power Phase” is a high-cut fitness shoe. This particular shoe has the article number AI 1366. The model was also available in an all black colourway and in children’s versions. The model features a high cut upper for support and stability and features a terry cloth lining for additional comfort. The shock absorbing EVA midsole sits atop a rubber outsole which has a multi-surface profile with a pivot disc at the ball of the foot area.”

In 2014, the Power Phase was treated to a re-issue, which was shortly available at retailers like END. Clothing for $79, however it was later marked down to a sales price $49.

Kanye’s version of the Powerphase first released on March 28, 2017, followed by Grey and Black colorways.

Spanish blog SZ9 also compiled a short post showing vintage adidas advertisements that include the Power Phase and the Magic collection.

adidas

Reebok Classic GM Todd Krinsky noted to Highsnobiety “Silhouettes like the Calabasas coming on to the scene is not at all surprising to us. We know shoes like this and the Reebok Workout are right on trend.”

So there you have it. From what we can tell, the Powerphase was indeed inspired by Reebok designs. In another post on his own blog GWARIZM, Gary Warnett affirms this conjecture by stating, “incidentally Reebok did that design aesthetic first).”

The YEEZY Powerphase in black drops this Saturday, March 17.

For more, here’s how the sneaker industry is fueled by copied designs.

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  • Main & Featured Image: Daniel Regan/adidas

Vancouver-born, Berlin-based writer with a steady hand on the keyboard.

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