On October 1, 1948, Rudolf Dassler officially founded PUMA in the small town of Herzogenaurach, Germany. To celebrate the decades of iconic history, we’re highlighting some of the most memorable silhouettes, innovations and PUMA collaborations. Since its founding, PUMA has taken the footwear industry by storm with innovative sneaker silhouettes, continuing to grow their heritage and using elemental designs in all their footwear. Seventy-two years later, Puma continues to push the limits of sport and culture with the same speed, innovation and creativity in mind.
To give a background of how PUMA started, we’re going back to 1919 with the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory’s start. Rudolf and his brother Adolf (who would begin adidas) first started their shoe factory in their parents’ basement. The Dassler brothers became known among the German athletes when they created shoes with spikes to give them traction on the ground for football. However, after 28 years of founding their company, the Dassler brothers had a falling out, which led them in different directions. Rudolf would go on to found PUMA and Adolf would go on to found adidas. Both powerhouses in the sports and footwear industry.
Rudolf wanted his brand to represent characteristics of a puma - speed, strength, agility and endurance. The iconic formstrip that can be found on most of all their footwear resembles a pouncing Puma and the characteristics that all represent the brand. With the brand identity in place, the Puma brand was officially registered at the German Patent and Trademark Office on October 1, 1948, and became formally “PUMA.”
Oslo City - 1952
One of the first most iconic silhouettes in Puma history is the Olso City. The Olso City was first introduced during the 1952 Winter Olympic Games, named after Norway’s host city. The Olso City has been a timeless design and has been a fan of all sneakerheads since its creation. The silhouette offers a vintage aesthetic with a smooth white leather upper, plush suede overlays, Puma’s iconic big cat logo and completed with a gum rubber outsole. Since its inception, this classic design has been a fan-favorite with every generation and has been reworked in multiple iconic collaborations.
The Olso City made an appearance in their most recent collaboration with KidSuper Studios. Founded by Colm Dillane, their take on the classic features a hairy suede heel piece with a stitched dove and a fun and youthful color palette.
Puma Suede - 1968
Moving onto the ‘60s, the Puma Suede was launched in 1968 as a sneaker alternative to add to the emerging street culture. The silhouette broke new grounds for both the sneaker and streetwear industry as most sneakers were made from the traditional leather and canvas silhouettes. The Suede was designed to be made for the streets and offered a more comfortable yet strong foundation. Since its creation, the Puma Suede remains one of the most classic silhouettes in history and set the stage for future designs in the footwear industry. It merged different subculture groups with the street, hip-hop culture and the sports industry.
One of the most iconic collaborations with the Puma Suede is with world-renowned singer, songwriter, fashion designer and actress, Rihanna. Rihanna was a game-changer to the Puma brand when she became Puma Women’s Creative Director in December of 2014. Inspired by New York City punk-rock style, Rihana designed her first-ever shoe with Puma, a take on the classic suede called the Fenty Puma Creeper. The Fenty Puma Creeper adds a punk aesthetic with a unique take on the Suede with a platform “creeper” sole. The shoe would become the shoe of the year as it targeted an area of the market that wasn’t being reached. Rihanna’s collaboration with PUMA would end in 2018; however, Rihanna’s work with Puma will forever be one of Puma’s history’s most iconic periods.
Another iconic take on the Puma Suede is with MCM. Founded in 1976, MCM is a German luxury leather brand based in Munich, Germany. MCM is known for its signature ‘Cognac Visetos’ logo print, which is utilized on the Puma Suede collection. The collection adds an MCM heritage twist featuring its class logo print, lateral Puma formstrip and gold detailings with the brand’s iconic all-over logo print for a chic design.
Puma Clyde - 1970
The Suede also goes down in history as the first NBA sneaker endorsement deal. In 1973, Walt “Clyde” Frazier became one of the first NBA brand ambassadors for Puma. Walt “Clyde” Frazier played 13 NBA seasons with both the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers. With two Championship wins under his belt, Frazier was officially inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987 and went down in history as one of the greatest American basketball players.
With his success, Frazier went on to make his own rendition of the Suede called the ‘Clyde.’ He was the first-ever NBA player to have his own signature shoe. During his time in the NBA, players received all types of free shoes, mostly from companies such as Converse and Adidas. Frazier was known in the basketball world for his extravagant fashion style that Puma was drawn too. Puma reached out to him to become a brand ambassador in exchange for free Puma products - the ambassador-ship soon transitioned into the launch of his own signature shoe. With Frazier’s high interest in fashion, the sneaker would have to match. Frazier wanted a silhouette that was lightweight, flexible and had padding. The outcome was a spinoff of the Puma Suede.
Before Air Jordan’s, there was the Clyde. The Puma Clyde may not have taken off in the basketball world; however, the Clyde has been one of the most influential shoes in street culture. The Clyde is known for its timeless style and is one of the first shoes people think about when thinking about the legendary brand.
Just this past year, the Clyde has taken on a multitude of different collaborations, from The Hundreds to Def Jam. Def Jam celebrated its 30th anniversary of Public Enemy’s album “Fear of a Black Planet.” To honor such a legendary record and album, Puma and Def Jam paired up to offer a fresh take on the classic Clyde silhouette. The Clyde silhouette takes on the album’s colorways with high-risk red and black. “Fear of a Black Planet” and “Public Enemy” are both printed on the cream midsole’s lateral and medial sides.
This year, Puma paired up with The Hundreds on a “Cliques'' collection paying homage to traditional high school groups. The collaboration took on a ‘90s high school style on the signature Clyde called “Decades” that highlights Clyde’s different eras. Each shoe represents a separate chapter of the legendary shoe with a mix of bold colorways.
Mirage OG - 1970s
Also in the 70s, Puma introduced the Mirage OG silhouette which was released as a track and field shoe but then was reissued as a jogging shoe later in the 90s. The silhouette features a nylon, suede leather upper and a foam wedge insert. Two decades later in the 90s, the silhouette was updated to include suede cutouts and EVA technology.
In June of this year, Puma released a heritage pack highlighting its most iconic silhouettes from the pitch, track, court and streets. The Rudolf Dassler Legacy collection celebrated Puma’s legacy and re-released these silhouettes in Puma’s staple colors, red, green, and orange. The re-release of the Mirage OG features a white leather upper with pops of royal blue, a rubber outsole, and a metal trinket. The silhouette introduced a whole new outlook to the track and field industry, adding a new and fresh take on the classic runner.
Fast Rider - 1980s
Also one of Puma’s first running shoes, the Fast Rider, was created by the son of Rudolf Dassler, Armin A. Dassler. The silhouette was designed with the famous Federbein sole known for its extreme high-quality cushioning. In an interview with Highsnobiety, Helmut Fischer, a Puma archivist, stated that “The Fast Rider started a new era, this was the first jogging shoe in Germany, and it was one of the first times when designers considered the needs of someone who runs on pavement. The [Federbein] technology on the sole was important, this provided a lot of shock absorption and comfort. These colors were quite contemporary for the '70s. If you're running when the sky is already dark, maybe these shoes would catch your eyes."
With over 40 years of heritage with the Fast Rider, Puma created two new renditions of the Fast Rider called the Future Rider and the Style Rider. These two contemporary silhouettes add a modern-day twist to the classic ‘80s runner. The Future rider is a sleeker silhouette while the Style Rider adds a more husky feel.
The Fast Rider, Future Ride and Style Rider have all been staples in the footwear industry and have partnered with a handful of brands and designers from Helly Hansen to more, on iconic collaborations. Most recently, Puma partnered with Chinatown Market on a new rendition of the Future Rider. The collaboration came in two colorways, both featuring a translucent upper and signature Chinatown Market branding throughout.
Sky LX - 1980s
Moving into the ‘80s, the Sky LX was introduced and solidified in Puma history as one of the most iconic silhouettes ever, as it was popular with both basketball players and sneakerheads. The Sky LX silhouette comes in both a Lo and Mid-top silhouette endorsed by several NBA athletes. Being a go-to basketball sneaker in the ‘80s, the Sky LX now provides an updated lifestyle shoe for today’s modern culture, still blending in with Puma’s decades-long basketball history.
From the start of the ‘80s until today, Puma has signed some pretty recognized basketball athletes. After Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Alex English became one of the next big endorsements. English played in the NBA from 1976 to 1992, playing on eight NBA All-Star teams and four NBA teams with the Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks. During his time with the nuggets from ‘83 to ‘87, English became one of the Puma Sky silhouettes’ dominant faces. That same year that English became an ambassador for Puma, the Houston Rockets selected Ralph Sampson with the number 1 pick in the ‘83 draft, which would soon change Puma history’s story. Other world-renowned basketball players that have been spotted wearing Puma basketball shoes include Milwaukee Bucks, Terry Cummings, who wore the Sky silhouette in the 1985 and 1989 all-star games. Puma also signed George McGinnis, who played for the Indiana Pacers and was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
Announced earlier this year, Puma has signed Grammy-winning artist J. Cole on a sneaker and apparel deal. With his known passion for basketball, they two came out with a relaunch of the original Sky LX called the Sky Dreamer. The Sky Dreamer pairs Puma basketball technology with its signature ProFoam cushioning and grip. J. Cole has then gone on to release his own Dreamer apparel and sneaker line, all inspired by his rendition of the Sky LX.
Ralph Sampson Lo & Mid - 1985
As mentioned briefly earlier, what might be the most iconic and popular silhouette is the Puma Ralph Sampson. The Ralph Sampson was the signature shoe of the basketball Hall of Famer. Sampson was the first pick in the ‘83 draft, picked up by the Houston Rockets. He was a four-time NBA All-Star and NBA Rookie of the Year, playing with the Houston Rockets throughout the ‘80s. Before Jordan, Ralph Sampson signed the biggest endorsement deal and was the most iconic basketball sneakers in the industry. The silhouette was known in the basketball world for its stability and durability. Both icons on and off the court; these silhouettes have now become leaders in the sneaker industry and have transitioned over to signature street style silhouettes.
Signing Sampson took Puma to the next level in the basketball world. The silhouette features a mid-height construction for ankle support, stamped with his signature on the side. Featuring a lightweight design for speed and agility, the sneaker turned heads in the sport and started a new generation of basketball fans and street style.
Puma has signed some pretty big names in the basketball world from Vince Carter, Deandre Ayton, Zhaire Smith and Isiah Thomas. A big move for Puma was the signing of artist and rapper Jay-Z in 2018 as Puma’s Creative Director for the basketball division. The basketball division’s relaunch comes with re-energized silhouettes and signees of hot new rookies and established players. With only two years as creative director, Puma’s new basketball division sure has made head waves with Puma’s new face, Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma. Other current signees on the Puma roster are Danny Green, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Knox and more.
Aside from the basketball industry, the Ralph Simpson silhouette has collaborated with streetwear brands on a fresh lifestyle take of the sneaker. Puma and fashion label, Rhude, have just recently released their second season inspired by motorsport gear. The collection combines the athletic DNA from Puma and Rhude’s designer aesthetic. One silhouette was a re-energized version of Ralph Sampson. The silhouette features a hairy suede upper with smooth suede overlays for a fresh spin on the classic.
Carrying on into the world of sports, another major partnership for Puma has been with soccer superstar, Neymar Jr. Just this year, Neymar ended his 15-year relationship with Nike for a partnership with Puma. The Paris Saint-Germain forward will be lacing up with the Puma KING boot as he signed a long-term partnership with the German-based brand.
In contrast with these iconic moments in the sports world, Puma has also made significant head waves in the luxury fashion industry with high-end partnerships and targeting luxury customers. In 2017, Han Kjobenhavn released their first collaboration with Puma. The ongoing collaboration has released a handful of different seasons with Scandinavian inspired designs. Han Kjobenhavn was founded in 2008 on the streets of Copenhagen, Denmark. Rooted in Danish culture, the brand focuses on simplicity and functionality. The brand’s ethos has inspired their Puma collaboration bringing on different Scandinavian designs to classic Puma silhouettes.
A year later in 2018, Puma partnered with the late fashion icon Karl Lagerfield on an ongoing collaboration. Lagerfield is one of the most world-renowned luxury fashion designers, working with Chanel, Fendi and his eponymous label. The collections mix signature athletic looks from apparel and sneakers with haute couture. The classic puma silhouettes are mixed with a modern, luxurious edge delivering unconventional details, blocks of colors and bold graphics, the perfect mix of street and sophistication.
Puma has also made significant moves in the streetwear industry and culture. In the works before his passing, Nipsey Hussle has partnered with Puma on an on-going collaborative capsule that was released in September of 2019. Nipsey’s signature style and DNA can be found throughout each of his pieces and collaboration. The ongoing collaboration honors Nipsey and his life, with his team carrying out this project for people to receive a curated collection by Nipsey himself.
Another designer collaboration has been with the Korean-based label, Ader Error. The latest collaboration plays with the idea of imperfections and combining the voice of different subculture groups. Titled “Under Creativity,” the collaboration features new silhouettes with bright pops of color, deconstructed elements, caution sign tags and visible stitching. The capsule blends the line between past and future, with Ader Error’s avant-garde approach on the design.
From heritage lifestyle, high fashion to sports, Puma has made a significant impact on every industry. With innovative silhouettes and unique designs, Puma continues to push the boundaries of sport and culture even seventy-two years later. From the Puma Clyde to the Puma Sky LX, the footwear brand has made a significant impact in the industry staying true to their brand ethos of speed, strength, agility and endurance. Through iconic collaborations with Karl Lagerfield to hiring some of the top creative directors from Rihanna to Jay-Z, Puma stays true to their original form yet brings new innovations to the industry with every design. What once started as a small shoe factory in Germany - has shortly become one of the biggest footwear brands worldwide. Puma’s classics are for all time and their iconic silhouettes have sure made an impact on the future of the sneaker industry. Thank you, Puma, for seventy-two years of influential history, we are excited to see what’s to come.