Music Remains At The Core of Adidas' SPEZIAL S/S 21 Collection

by Christina Donoghue on 15 July 2021

This season, Gary Aspden shines a light on the synergy between the German sportswear giant's unique SPEZIAL line, and its relationship with music.

This season, Gary Aspden shines a light on the synergy between the German sportswear giant's unique SPEZIAL line, and its relationship with music.

Die-hard adidas fanatics (and trust us, there's a fair few knocking about) will be pleased to know the much-anticipated adidas SPEZIAL S/S 21 collection has finally been revealed, and will be available to purchase from 22 July. Comprising a suite of SPEZIAL-style adidas trainers and a number of clothing pieces and accessories, the collection borrows references from 70s, 80s and 90s youth culture, informed by an 80s-inspired colour palette. Get ready for neons, because they're back and brighter than ever. 

Wherever there's a SPEZIAL collection, there's often a youth culture reference or two that follows closely behind, due to its roots on the football terraces in the 1980s. Always having played a key factor, sportswear (and in particular, adidas) has been adopted by many areas of music culture for over 50 years - from reggae music and hip hop, to rock n roll, indie and Britpop. In 2019, adidas SPEZIAL launched a limited-edition shoe with longtime aficionado of adidas, English singer/songwriter Liam Gallagher. Last year for A/W 20, adidas went a step further to explore their connection with British music, collaborating with the beloved electronic rock band New Order on a clothing range. The brand's affiliation with music has always always been a significant one. An unbreakable bond once again proven by the line's chief curator Gary Aspden choosing to feature English singer/songwriter John Power for the German Giant's SPEZIAL S/S 21 collection film.

adidas SPEZIAL S/S 21
Music has always been a key factor in the delivery of SPEZIAL and its storytelling - Gary Aspden

Music, its power, and the inspiration it provides youngsters all over the country form the backbone of the adidas SPEZIAL S/S 21 short film, running as an overarching theme throughout. Starting with live footage of John Power recording a new acoustic soundtrack in London's legendary Abbey Road music studios, the short fashion film begins with Power's narration; 'Making music is always thrilling, and the history of this room just adds to the magic, I guess. The greatest songs and greatest records ever cut were recorded here, exactly where we are.' Between showing clips of Power recording, the camera's lens focuses on his shoes wandering about the studio - none other than a pair of all-white adidas SPEZIALS. When we spoke to Aspden about the brand's connection to music and youth culture, the SPEZIAL curator commented, 'The foundation of the inspiration behind adidas SPEZIAL was always about exploring and celebrating those points of intersection where the energy of subcultures (often British) were connecting to what appeared to be a very conservative Germanic sportswear brand.'

Expanding on the synergy that exists between the adidas SPEZIAL line and music itself, Aspden said:

'Music is intrinsic to every area of youth culture - on a personal level my interest in clothes and fashion is born purely out of my interest in popular culture so I guess that plays out in some way in my work. Music has always been a key factor in the delivery of SPEZIAL and its storytelling. My old friend Atticus Ross has always been a supporter and scored the very first SPEZIAL film in Spring 2015 which was shot in Munich and Herzogenaurach and documented a young man on a journey to the house where Adi Dassler actually lived. It was about going back to roots, back to the source if you will (which was our mission with the range) and his brief was a score that referenced everything from Krautrock and Kraftwerk through Eno's instrumentals with Bowie to the 808 sounds of Acid House. He did a great job and has since won countless awards for his soundtracks. We have collaborated with a host of musical talent since then.'

adidas SPEZIAL S/S 21

In terms of the shoes themselves that form the collection, Aspden tells me, 'The name of the 'SPEZIAL' range was taken from adidas specialist sports shoes - particularly the Handball SPEZIAL.' Made up of five silhouettes unique to adidas, this season, the collection displays a range of new models sitting next to tweaked versions of lesser-known shoes from the brand's rich history. There's the Burnden SPZL (an all-white court trainer), the Hoylake SPZL which is based on a rare South African style and composed of a grey suede and textile upper, and the iconic Marathon 86, updated with additional suede overlays that were used on early prototypes of the original. There's also a revamped take on the Malmo silhouette resulting in the Malmo Net SPZL trainer which is directly inspired by a rare 1976 version of the Malmo (that used a nylon mesh upper) and finally, last but not least, a style that pays homage to Aspden's upbringing with the return of the Blackburn SPZL in the new 'Ewood' edition. The colour takes its lead from the unreleased first round sample of the original Blackburn SPZL and also draws on the signature aesthetics of the Lancashire rose. The foil print of the Rose below the shoe's collar is a modern take on the graphic foil prints used by adidas on training shoes in the mid-70s.

Asking Aspden about the unique identity of adidas' SPEZIAL line and its connections with youth, Aspden told of his personal fascination with his inspirations, saying:

'I personally love the idea of working-class youths in the Northwest of England taking a specialist sports shoe and making that intrinsic to their style and identity - especially as it was a shoe that was designed for a sport that none of them played. They were wearing them purely for the beauty of their aesthetics with a total disregard of their original function and technical features.'

The adidas SPEZIAL S/S 21 Hoylake SPZL design

With an ode to adidas' archive, the neon colours that feature in a couple of the collection's styles - instead of paying tribute to the 80s decade - are both reworkings of vintage adidas products. As for the film, a 60-second brief that adidas originally gave was disregarded as soon as Aspden realised the film could be more than just a promotion for the collection. Representing beauty in the everyday, beauty in adidas and the 'Grounded Truth' Power marks in his spoken lyrics, Aspden finishes off by acknowledging that, 'adidas SPEZIAL has built a loyal following and we felt that its core audience would appreciate something that went a bit deeper.'

A still from the adidas SPEZIAL S/S 21 fashion film
adidas SPEZIAL S/S 21 fashion film
Executive Production:
Gary Aspden, Heidi Fearon
John Power
Shun Louis Bellieni, Natalia Guarín
Connor Newall at Wilhelmina
Film Edit:
Peter Croker
Ian Murray
Devanté Daley
John Power
Additional Soundtrack Production:
Will Ward
Music Publishing:
Warner Chappell Music
Music Label:
It's Creation Baby
Sound Edit:
Will Ward
Sound Record:
Valerio Cerini
Studio Engineer:
Paul Pritchard
Nathan Bayliss
Stef Colosi
Javelin Block, Abbey Road Studios
Focus Pull:
Bernin Isaac
2nd Assistant:
Agne Denapaite, James Bendowski
Josh McLaren
Paul Prendergast


Image Gallery

Installation Gallery: Adidas Spezial

18 July 2013
As the final touches are added to the Spezial exhibition, SHOWstudio captured the sea of adidas shoes on display at the Hoxton Gallery.

Quotes: Adidas Spezial

18 July 2013
Famous fans – including Max Pearmain and Ian Brown – discuss their Adidas memories at the Spezial exhibition opening...

adidas SPEZIAL and Liam Gallagher Collaborate on Sneaker

26 August 2019
Liam Gallagher and adidas SPEZIAL are launching a limited edition shoe.
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