If the Shoe Fits



In the tennis world, Stan Smith is a household name because of his accomplishments as a former world champion.

In the Lowcountry, he is known for his charitable work with various organizations, most notably the Heritage Classic Foundation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry.

But around the globe, Smith’s name is known for another reason: The shoe.

The classic trainer that Smith and Adidas introduced to the masses during his run as one of the world’s greatest tennis players remains a worldwide phenomenon that has been embraced by fashion impresarios, rock stars, rap moguls, and hipsters in just about every culture around the globe.

How this Hilton Head Island resident became an international fashion sensation is documented in the new book “Stan Smith: Some People Think I’m a Shoe.”

Chapters include recollections from Smith along with anecdotes from style influencers, designers, sports legends and fervent sneaker fans. The book features original imagery, historical photos, an exclusive portrait series by artist Juergen Teller, and contributions from style arbiters like Raf Simons, plus interviews and anecdotes from the man behind the sneaker.

The 336-page coffee-table tome released in September outlines Smith’s tennis career and the history of the shoe, followed by an appendix of photos and anecdotes that rehash a variety of ways in which the two have intertwined over “nearly five decades.”

The title is a playful nod to a conversation the tennis titan once had with his son Trevor. When Trevor was about 8, he asked if his father was named after the shoe, or the shoe after him. 

“I wanted to document the shoe and kind of its history before everybody who’s been involved is no longer around,” Smith said.

But the project is so much more. A collaboration with New York City-based advertising agency Johannes Leonardo and publisher Rizzoli, the book is billed as “an absolute collector’s item for readers interested in sneaker culture, sports, street style, design, and pop culture.” It has been reviewed by The New York Times, Vogue and many other global publications.

There was plenty of material to work with at Smith’s Spanish Wells home, which is a veritable treasure trove of photos, clippings, and memorabilia from his tennis career — not to mention several dozen pairs of the shoe.

In the book, there is a shot of Yoko Ono and John Lennon perched on a love seat, the latter wearing black Smiths with cuffed jeans. Smith has been told he is name-checked in somewhere between 200 and 300 songs— he’s most proud of hearing it roll off Jay-Z’s tongue — and variations of his iconic shoe’s clean, minimal lines have served as the footwear for everyone from The Beastie Boys to David Bowie and Harrison Ford.

The book’s foreword is written by music and fashion icon Pharrell Williams, a fellow Adidas representative with whom the 72-year-old Smith has come to share a friendship.

“We’ve gotten together three or four times,” Smith said. “He calls me ‘Big Bro.’ He is a terrific young guy. I have a tremendous respect for him and how he’s gone about his career. I think he wants to have a positive impact on people and not just do things to drive his own world.”

The same can be said for Smith and his wife, Margie. Margie is a tutor at the Boys & Girls Club, which helps her stay busy while her husband travels the globe providing corporate hospitality services through Stan Smith Events, doing promotional appearances for Adidas, or promoting the book.

Last fall, Smith and Stella McCartney held a shoe signing at McCartney’s shop in London to celebrate the launch of McCartney’s twist on Smith’s eponymous shoe. On her version, her photo appears on the right foot and Smith’s appears on the left.

“Madonna came in and wanted me to sign her shoe, and she was very nimble in getting her right foot up to this desk that we were on,” Smith recalled. “I said, ‘Well, that’s a good effort, but it’s the wrong shoe.’”

It was moments like that, Smith said, that really made him realize he needed to share his shoe story with the world. In a handwritten letter on the book’s final page, he encourages fans to share their own stories about how — and where — they’ve worn the Stan Smith shoe using the hashtag #StanSmithForever.