Inside the Evolution of Some of PUMA’s Most Stylish Sneakers

  • Suede

    In 1968, pretty much every shoe on every street corner was made of one thing: leather. The problem, of course, is that not everybody wanted leather. PUMA heard the call for something better and responded with the Suede, a sneaker that to this very day has maintained its status as a complete non-conformer in an industry that thrives on playing it safe.

    From day one, the Suede made its name as the go-to collab shoe for anybody who worked with PUMA. In the 1970s, it was New York Knicks star Walt Frazier who got his very own version of the Suede known as the Clyde; today, stars such as Rihanna have their own version of this classic shoe. No matter what era or colorway you’re wearing, the Suede will always stay relevant on the streets thanks to its combination of function and ever-evolving style.

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  • Basket

    It’s easy to forget, but once upon a time PUMA was a giant on the basketball court. They had the endorsement of Knicks star Walt “Clyde” Frazier, and as a companion to his version of the Suede PUMA dropped the Basket. Replacing the Suedes’ suede upper for an all-over leather look, the Basket became a fixture on basketball courts around the country.

    As low-tops faded out of the hoops scene, the Baskets changed up too; they became a fixture in the hip-hop scene as the go-to sneaker for emerging young artists in the 1980s, quickly becoming the must-have shoe. The Basket’s massive hip-hop presence continues into today, as artists like Meek Mill and Rihanna boast their own version of this iconic sneaker, serving as a reminder that PUMA is a must-have for any street-wise sneakerhead.

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  • Roma

    Track and field is PUMA’s bread and butter. Over the years, if you looked down at the feet of athletes standing atop the gold medal stand, you’d see them sporting PUMAs. Starting in 1968, the shoe many of them had on was the Roma, a sneaker with a padded nylon-suede upper built to handle the hard turns and high stress inflicted on the track.

    While the Roma is no longer a fixture at the Olympics, it remains relevant; with additional support in the arch and padding in the tongue, the Roma has evolved with the times and become a style symbol unto itself. Having shed its roots on the track and embraced comfort, the Roma is available in enough colorways that even the most ardent collector may never get them all. But hey, we can’t fault you for trying.

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  • Whirlwind

    At one point, people thought this whole “jogging” thing was just a fad, the type of exercise trend that would go the way of aerobics classes and jazzercise. But by the 1980s, it was clear that running was going to stick. As such, the PUMA Whirlwind became one of the sport’s signature sneakers with its unique style and nylon upper, with suede overlays for comfort rarely seen in a trainer.

    While the Whirlwind eventually drifted away from its functional roots and developed a bigger presence on the streets, it never lost its heart as a shoe built for comfort. It also managed to maintain its relevance despite maintaining a similar design; how many running shoes designed in the 1980s would you wear for a night out? The Whirlwind’s design still looks fresh decades letter, and is one of PUMA’s most versatile sneakers.

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  • Mostro

    In Europe in the late ’90s, PUMA was faced with a difficult challenge: people were demanding a sneaker that had all the function and comfort they had come to expect from PUMA, but with high-fashion sense needed to compete with upscale brands. The result? The Mostro.

    Inspired by old track and field spikes from deep in PUMA’s archive – as well as more modern slip-ons favored by rock climbers – the Mostro became the anchor of PUMA’s “SPORTLIFESTYLE” campaign that celebrated a shoe that could be worn for work, play, or both.

    The Mostro is still everywhere today and is available in just about every colorway imaginable, so it’s safe to say they nailed it. Sometimes, daring to be different is a good thing, and the Mostro remains the standard for someone looking for a sneaker that can do it all and fit in with the modern urban lifestyle.

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  • GV Special

    One of PUMA’s original collabs, the GV Special was created as a partnership between PUMA and tennis star Guillermo Vilas in the late ’70s. Vilas was rattling off title after title, and he wanted a sneaker that matched his signature style and flair.

    While Vilas has long since retired, the GV Specials continue to stay relevant in the sneaker world. Incredibly durable and functional in design, their clean and comfortable look makes the GVs a popular choice on the streets to this very day. And with superb cushioning and colorways to match any gear in your closet, they are the perfect default choice for pretty much any situation.

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  • PUMA R698 x Ronnie Fieg Sakura

    The running boom was in full swing in 1980, and PUMA got in on the action by releasing the R698. A game-changing sneaker due in part to its ultra-comfortable Trinomic sole, the R698 quickly became a staple of the running world and one of PUMA’s most recognizable releases. It has certainly aged gracefully; even though you won’t see it on runners anymore, the R698 is still a perfect shoe for the streets thanks to a balance of function and style that you simply don’t see from other sneakers. That’s probably why it’s one of PUMA’s most popular collab choices with designers, stores, and celebrities.

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  • PUMA R698 x Ronnie Fieg Sakura

Despite the focus on its customers and seemingly easygoing nature, the sneaker industry is incredibly competitive. Brands constantly jockey with one another not just to stay relevant, but indeed to stay ahead of the competition by finding that right blend of innovation and trading on their previous successes.

In the sneaker game today, few brands straddle that line better than PUMA.

A company that has history both in sports and on the streets, PUMA has been able to adapt numerous classic designs and help them remain at the cutting edge of the sneaker game. They have been a game changer since the company’s inception in 1948, and PUMA has long been way ahead of the competition when it comes to innovative collaborations with athletes and celebrities, in addition to letting their staple designs speak for themselves.

There’s a reason, after all, that the company’s designs from the 1960s and 1970s are just as popular today, if not more popular, than when they were originally released. The function of the sneakers may change—nobody is rocking Suedes in the NBA these days, unfortunately— but their timeless style has allowed many of PUMA’s classic designs to transition seamlessly from the playing fields to the streets. The Champs Sports team will always show love to innovators, so we’re taking you Inside the Evolution of Some of PUMA’s Most Stylish Sneakers.

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