The History of PUMA’s Secret Weapon: The Blaze of Glory

Let’s talk about PUMA. Let’s talk about the history behind one of the greatest shoe brands ever. Let’s talk about the split between German brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler, and how that created a rivalry between adidas and PUMA that spanned generations. Let’s talk about PelĂ© lighting the world on fire in his PUMAs and Clyde Frazier doing 2015 things way back in the 1970s. Let’s talk about Usain Bolt and even Rihanna of the modern game, and how PUMA has come correct in 2015 with a number of intriguing contributions to their 2015 Summer Collection.

And while most sneakerheads–at least the ones who consider themselves “real” sneakerheads–will know all of that, what many of you don’t know about is PUMA’s secret weapon: the Blaze of Glory. It’s fitting that we let you all in on a little secret considering the PUMA Blaze of Glory and R698 are available at Champs Sports in new New York Knicks and New York Yankees-themed colorways.

While the Blaze of Glory doesn’t have nearly the same historical implications as other classics like the Roma, it’s still a worthy candidate to eventually create them. The Roma was a running and performance product when PUMA first released it in 1948, complete with revolutionary padded nylon-suede styling. Nowadays, it’s a lifestyle shoe with new colorways, an upgraded padded tongue, arch support, and a new leather upper, making the same tough transition that direct competitors like the adidas Stan Smith have done.

The Blaze of Glory, on the other hand, actually came out of the womb without much of a plan to it. When it first started appearing on the markets in 1993, PUMA didn’t seem like they knew what to do with it. Was it a runner? Eh…probably? It featured a first taste, aesthetically, of an upper style that would eventually become the no-lace system that made the Disc Blaze so successful and unique, a sequence of wires that could naturally conform to your foot or slacken. The Blaze of Glory also had that dope Trinomic sole, excellent ventilation, a mush upper with structural overlays, and a heel pull tab. And yet, it wasn’t really a runner, didn’t look like PUMA’s long history of impressive training shoes.

It’s most impressive aspect, and probably the design area that makes it stand above the rest of the pretenders, is its plastic strap that is used for the lacing system.

The other thing that stands out about the shoe that, in turn, makes it popular among shoe lovers? The lack of branding. In the same way that Nike and Tinker Hatfield first introduced the Huarache with limited branding in order to focus on the new, revolutionary sneaker tech, PUMA brought the Blaze of Glory out as a way to counter many of its more famous brothers and sisters. On the Blaze of Glory, there’s almost nothing significant revolving around PUMA on the upper, outside of a small silver foil cat on the heel.

After its initial run in the 1990s, the shoe resurfaced around 2007 and 2008 through some impressive collaborations, such as the “Great White” and “Shark Bait” colorways from Sneaker Freaker. It instantly connected the shoe with a new generation of collectors, and helped make it unique to PUMA amid all of the love and fascination over longtime classics like the Suede, Roma, and Clyde.

The latest offering from PUMA for the Blaze of Glory will feature a themed colorway revolving around two of New York City’s most iconic teams: the Knicks and the Yankees. It only makes sense to do these with the Blaze of Glory silhouette, too, considering this shoe has become a mainstay for special editions and collaborations over the past few years. They have all been fire, too.

At the end of the day, the PUMA Blaze of Glory is, literally, blazing its own trail. With a super unique lacing system, a stripped-down upper that is hitting at the perfect time, considering our cultural tastes in 2015, and that legendary sole, this shoe should have cats in hysterics this summer.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney