WIMBLEDON, England— Not that he’s judging, but Stan Smith is checking out your shoes.

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Force of habit.

“When I’m walking, I generally look at people’s feet more than I look at their faces just lớn see what they’re wearing,” said Smith, 75, sitting under a canopy in the back yard of the stately three-story house he rents every Wimbledon fortnight, one of the houses closest lớn the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club.

Hard khổng lồ blame him for his foot fixation. Over the last 50 years, Adidas has sold more than 100 million Stan Smith tennis shoes, now a fashion statement & not something competitive players would wear on the court.

Smith, the onetime standout at Pasadena High và USC, made the Guinness Book of World Records in 1988 for the most pairs sold — approximately 22 million — and that number climbed in the 1990s when Adidas released the Stan Smith II và retro Stan Smith 80s.


The most common ones are uncomplicated, with clean trắng leather and a touch of green on the back.

Smith, who figures he owns about 150 pairs, wears his everywhere — except in the Royal Box at Centre Court, where they’re still considered a little too casual.


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“I’ve lobbied for quite a while but they won’t let me vị it,” he said. “I’ve got some black ones. They have some with a pointed toe, which is a patent leather, but I haven’t tried that.”

This year in particular, Smith has gotten a lot of upscale invitations. It’s the 50th anniversary of his Wimbledon men’s singles title, và he & his wife, Marjory, will be sitting with the royals Sunday for the men’s singles final.

In fact, there will be more Smiths in Centre Court on Sunday than in an old London phone book. That includes the four children & their spouses, và 10 of the 16 grandchildren. They will be there to lớn celebrate Stan’s anniversary & then visit Adidas headquarters in Germany, the company that gave him a lifetime contract.


Stan Smith of the United States returns the ball to lớn Ilie Nastase of Romania during Wimbledon kích hoạt in 1972. Smith won that men’s singles title 50 years ago.
(Associated Press)
To commemorate the anniversary of Smith’s singles title, Adidas gave all its sponsored players a pair of shoes with SW19 on the tongue — Wimbledon’s postcode — the date of his win over Ilie Nastase inside the right shoe, July 9, 1972, & the score of the match inside the left shoe.

The first generations of the shoe that became the Stan Smith brand actually were named for French player Robert Haillet. That was in the early 1960s, and those Adidas had the same look — leather uppers with three dotted lines of perforations và a flexible rubber sole. At the time, most athletic shoes were canvas. The Haillets also had the reinforced back khổng lồ help protect the Achilles tendon.

In 1971, with Haillet nearing retirement, Adidas wanted a stronger presence in the United States and to build a shoe chiến dịch around an American player. They targeted Smith, who was atop the rankings at the time.

What followed were several iterations of the shoe, including Haillet’s name on the side & Smith’s face on the tongue, and Smith’s name on the side & Haillet’s on the back.

“Gradually, it became more well known for my name,” Smith said. “About four or five years later, they took his name off the shoe entirely.”

It wasn’t unheard of to lớn create shoes around sports stars. Converse named canvas high tops after Chuck Taylor, và badminton shoes after Jack Purcell. Adidas would go on to lớn name tennis shoes after Rod Laver, Nastase & Boris Becker.



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But the Stan Smiths really stuck. For decades, they were the staple, until sales started khổng lồ tail off in the early 2000s, prompting Adidas to take them off the market in 2011. The company bought back all the inventory it could so that people couldn’t find the shoe. Adidas told Smith the plan was khổng lồ bring the shoe back after two years, but he didn’t have a lot of faith in that ploy.

“They didn’t have a real concrete plan from our point of view,” he said. “We walked out of that meeting thinking, `Well, it’s been 40 years. It’s been a good run.’ ”

Sure enough, the company was true lớn its word và relaunched the shoe on Jan. 15, 2014. As part of the sale strategy, it gave a pair of shoes to each of 100 influencers, with a twist — their picture on the tongue in place of Smith’s. That helped spread the word.

Stan Smith’s shoes in 2022 in the classic style.
(Sam Farmer / Los Angeles Times)
The company had fashion designer Stella McCartney and singer Pharrell Williams come up with designs for the shoe. There were all sorts of Stan Smiths — graffiti-covered, leopard-spotted, Kermit the Frog shoes, & ones with shiny silver tongues và gold-lame toe caps.

“The most unusual one I’ve seen look lượt thích high tops with a zipper around the bottom,” Smith said. “You can zip off the high đứng top part and it’s a regular low-top shoe.”

Among his favorites in his collection, a cardinal-and-gold version — he has the USC fight song as his ring tone — and ones in cracked đen leather with tennis-ball material on the back.

In 2019, while sitting in the royal box, Smith handed a tiny pair of his shoes to Kate Middleton for Prince Louis, who was a year old at the time. The tabloids got a photo of that & the image went viral.

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Since 1965, Smith has been to lớn every Wimbledon but one, either as a player or an honored guest. For the last 25 years, he and business partner Gary Niebur have entertained clients at the house, which is right next to the practice courts.