STORIES FROM INSIDE THE PUMA ARCHIVE
The SUEDEʼs story has a lot of twists and turn, so lace up. With over 50 years of life in a shoe, the SUEDE became a classic while going through several names. Beginning as the PUMA CRACK, the shoe evolved into the CLYDE, then PUMA STATES and finally globally adopted the name PUMA SUEDE.
How did this happen? Please allow us to tell.
THIS STORY STARTS IN 1968
Prior to 1968, the world had yet to adopt wearing sneakers for leisure, or better yet, collecting for their own pleasure. That meant shoes were purpose built and PUMA shoes were training shoes only.
However, the world was changing, and PUMA's first “lifestyle” shoe was the “CRACK” which was launched in 1968 prior to the Olympics in Mexico.
WHERE DID THE NAME “CRACK” COME FROM?
The shoe was called “CRACK” after the term for a very skillful person. Like many other words, “CRACK” became fashionable during the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s and was used to describe the best of its kind, for example the best player of a sport. To be called the “CRACK” of oneʼs team was the highest possible award and, by transferring this connotation onto the shoe, one was perfectly able to highlight the actuality and superiority of the shoe.
The intention was that the athletes would wear the CRACK with their PUMA track suit (which was the first apparel that PUMA had ever launched) as podium and leisurewear in Mexico.
The CRACK was launched in a blue/white colorway. Athletes whose federation was not sponsored by PUMA were given a black/ white colorway (such as Tommie Smith).
A new shell sole was specially developed for the CRACK and, was also suitable for Basketball. The use of SUEDE leather enabled the easier integration of color elements.
1970 ALONG CAME CLYDE AND SUEDE
When CLYDE arrived, he made his presence known, on and off the court. In 1972, PUMA signed an endorsement agreement with Walt “CLYDE” Frazier. He wanted a low style to play in and wanted to wear a new colorway in every game (allegedly over 390 different colors were used). This was the reason why the shoe was made out of SUEDE leather, so that it was easier to dye. With his name emblazoned across the shoe, the “CRACK” was henceforth called “CLYDE.”
Frazier had a contract with a US distributor, which is why the “CLYDE” was only available in the US until the end of the ‘70s. After the contract with Frazier had ended, the shoe was included in the international collection, but had to be renamed because PUMA did not have any rights for the name “CLYDE.” The shoe was then called “SUEDE.”
1980s HERE COMES THE BREAK
When rap, breakdancing, graffiti, and turntablism came together to form the groundbreaking new genre that was hip-hop, the PUMA SUEDE appeared to have been subconsciously designed decades prior with the aesthetic requirements of its devotees in mind. Most significantly, internationally revered b-boy crews and hip-hop zeitgeists the New York City Breakers and Rocksteady Crew quickly adopted the PUMA SUEDE as their very own pro model, swearing by its perfectly malleable outsole and infinitely accommodating SUEDE upper.
With breakdancing's unofficial spokespeople selflessly promoting PUMA through channels considered unanimously unreachable by lesser footwear manufacturers and companies looking to capitalize on those 'funky fresh breakdance guys,ʼ the PUMA SUEDE's marriage with hip-hop became the final element in solidifying its status as a certified 'street' shoe.
THE STATES, IN THE UK
In the beginning of the ‘80s, PUMA UK renamed the SUEDE in their market to “STATES.” Initially the shoe was not sold in Britain – it was hard to find but its status amongst the NYC hip-hop community made it a hot commodity that people were shipping over to the UK. When it finally arrived for sale, they felt SUEDE was not an appropriate name for a shoe, and as they linked the origin of the shoe to the hip-hop scene in the US, the shoe was named “STATES.”
By the late '80s, another widely adored subculture was enjoying a historic teething stage of its own, the re-birth of skateboarding. Looking to separate itself from the bulky pads and sweat-drenched helmets bound to its surfing roots, skateboarding, with a newfound hip-hop influence, took to the streets. With the change in tide came the demand for a durable, versatile, and comfortable skate shoe and of course, waiting at the other end of skateboarding's identity splice was the PUMA SUEDE's compliant upper, sturdy midsole, and unrestricted color palette. Once a gain PUMA's soothsayer silhouette casually strode into an integral era and the SUEDE was soon contributing to bailed kickflips and casper slides all over the world.
THE PUMA SUEDEʼS 50th ANNIVERSARY
For the next 30 years, PUMA's most iconic model remained relatively unchanged. That is not to say its classic formstrip and spacious panels have not been tinkered with - the PUMA SUEDE has dipped its roomy toe-box in a multitude of materials, including leather, canvas, hemp, snakeskin, wool, and denim, all of which have complimented one of the most voluminous colorway libraries in footwear history.
In 2018, for the 50th anniversary of the SUEDE, PUMA issued over 37 exclusive SUEDEs to celebrate the iconic shoe. These included joint designs with different partners from the worlds of fashion, music, and culture as well as seasonal packs created by PUMAʼs designers.
CELEBRATING LEGACY WITH TOMMIE SMITH
In 2020, to celebrate the continued legacy and history of the shoe, PUMA issued a special limited-edition SUEDE; the pairs were created to celebrate the continued legacy of both Tommie Smith and the SUEDE. Only 307 numbered pairs were created – an homage to Tommieʼs Olympic number.
Crafted with premium Italian leather, this timeless pair is made to last a lifetime – because true classics are For All Time.