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adidas ZX: A Legend Finds Its Way Into 90s Culture

February 18, 2021 8:00 PM
adidas ZX: A Legend Finds Its Way Into 90s Culture

The 90s. A time of rebellion, a time of revolution and a time of innovation. In short: a time that shaped us and our lives, just like the sneaker culture we know today. You can look at the eventful 90s from many angles, but these impressions always dominate.

In the 90s Week at Sneakerjagers, we give this formative period a stage and of course deal primarily with topics such as culture, youth movement, fashion, sports, music - and of course all of this in the context of sneaker culture. One series that combines culture, sport, fashion and innovation is the adidas ZX series. We want to show you how these kicks, which are still legendary today, shaped the 90s - and vice versa!

adidas ZX Familie

Your #TheCrew Background Check

It all began in 1984, when the ZX 500 saw the light of day and set a milestone in the history of adidas, which no one suspected at the time. The design behind the model initially had a sporty background. Thus, the ZX concept came into being at adidas because they wanted to cover the wishes and needs of athletes. No matter what running type, no matter what training and no matter what surface - the adidas ZX should offer optimal support to every runner.

The ZX series was originally designed by Jacques Chassaing, but Markus Thaler also had a hand in it. We have just described the goal: Running shoes - optimal for every occasion, for every runner and for both training and competition! The first sneakers that were designed were the ZX 500 and 800 models.

adidas ZX 500
Sneakers advert

The ZX 600 and 700 were also designed in the 80s. With their innovative technologies, adidas tried to compete with Nike's Air System, which received a lot of attention at the time.

In 1988, the so-called Torsion technology was used for the first time by the Three Stripes Brand in the ZX 8000:

Torsion technology: Like so many things in the 90s, ahead of its time?

The Torsion System was used quite early in the ZX history and was an absolute innovation at the beginning of the 90s. According to adidas, the so-called Torsion Bar ensures optimised freedom of movement from the rear to the forefoot. Torsion means something like rotation. As the name suggests, this technology offers extra support when running in a twisting motion.

The system brought a completely new and unprecedented technical development to the work of adidas. At the beginning of the 90s, however, no one was aware that this was one of the foundations for an absolute legend. The launch of the ZX Torsion series took the ZX family to a whole new level.

To this day, the Torsion System has become synonymous with the adidas ZX range and its advanced technology has also strengthened other models on the adidas shelves. On some styles today, we also find the Torsion Bar. Here, the sole of the shoe is split in two, which ensures that the forefoot and rearfoot receive independent support.

Torsion System
Torsion Bar

What started in the 90s was then celebrated in 2019 with strong retro looks for the 30th anniversary of some ZX models! The ZX 5000, 6000, 7000 and 9000 were launched in iconic colourways and with special materials!

A special feature of this retro series was a logo on the Insole and Tongue: "30 years of Torsion". A dream for all ZX fans, collectors and of course the 'children of the 90s', who have experienced the beginnings themselves!

adidas ZX 5000
adidas ZX 5000
ZX 6000
ZX 6000
adidas ZX 7000
ZX 7000
adidas ZX 9000
Quelle: 43einhalb - ZX 9000

The ZX Thousand Models

But let's come back to our history! Because in 1988/1989, these so-called thousand-model ZX series were released: the ZX 4000, 5000, 6000, 8000 and 9000 were also adapted to running and the different conditions and requirements of different runners. Every athlete should get a ZX that suits him or her.

The thousand models of the ZX family usually had an upper made of mesh, synthetic and suede. It all started with the ZX 4000 and the rest, as we know today, is history! Besides the classic materials, the various ZX models also featured special lacing systems and supporting TPU elements on the upper. Designed for a perfect running experience, the styles are now an absolute great in street style!

We'll get to the path from sport to street style and onto the shelves of many enthusiasts and collectors in a moment, but first: the culture of the 90s and the role of ZX:

die ZX Geschichte von adidas

Culture, rebellion, innovation - the ZX in the 90s

The ZX models became a kind of playground for the brand with the three stripes, for experimental design and innovation!

In a partly gloomy, industrial and also politically very turbulent time, the ZX was released in Germany. At the end of the 80s, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification, there were many young people in Berlin and all over Germany who demonstrated in their ZX sneakers for a better future for Germany.

adidas sneakers were also part of a subcultural fashion in parts of England at the time, including the ZX. The ZX were popular in the raver and disco scene. The special technologies and features that made the kicks so optimal for sports were of course not impractical on the dancefloor and the ZX also had a lot to offer in terms of style.

So we can say that the ZX silhouette in its great diversity was also part of many movements in the 90s and the sneaker quickly made it into the fashion world, not least thanks to the special styles and the thoughtful design. There, it became suitable for everyday wear and super popular, but has never forgotten its beginnings in sports.

adidas ZX - the roots of running

From sport, to culture, to street style and back again - ZX stands for legend.

At the beginning of our story, we mentioned that the shoes in the original ZX range were developed for different runners' needs. That's why there have been so many different versions and models with specific focuses in the ZX history until today. In the vibrant 90s, the ZX series boomed with its variety of models and colours, and today the running concept of the 80s/90s is still embodied and celebrated in style, but also in functionality.

The adidas ZX sneaker designs that we know and love today all have their beginnings in the 80s and 90s. Fittingly, running retro sneakers are currently more popular than ever. However, the ZX still has its very own status: many ZX fans and collectors have developed over the years and the absolutely historic sneakers still conquer the streets all over the world in their classic designs.

In the meantime, there are of course many popular models and dailies, but the ZX has always remained true to its roots. Over the years, adidas has managed to combine the best of old and new in a sneaker design - without forgetting the beginnings.

Before we take a quick look at the current adidas ZX innovations, a brief digression: In 2018, there was an adidas ZX exhibition in London that ran under the motto: 'ZX - Roots of Running', like the book of the same name. The theme was the history of the adidas ZX, because as already mentioned above, the 30th anniversary of the 1000 series was celebrated in 2019.

London Ausstellung adidas ZX
ZX - The roots of Running London

And today?

The ZX has already become a legend in the 90s and still plays a big role today. The ZX family has held on to its roots from the 80s and 90s for a long time and is thus, like so many things, a special legacy of that time that still shapes us today.

The relaunched A-ZX series from adidas is also not to be ignored! Since last year, the brand has been bringing back a series from 2008, in which they inspire us with 26 unique ZX releases of the thousand models. Each letter of the alphabet gets a ZX sneaker, all with special themes, collaborations and colourways.

Today, in addition to the still popular retro models of the hundred or thousand ZX, there are also many new, modern technologies and ZX versions. The adidas ZX 1K and 2K Boost combine the special technologies and designs of the ZX with the modern Boost technology from adidas. Meanwhile, there is also the ZX 2K Pure, which has an even more modern design with its features.

Maybe you're not a happy owner of a ZX model yet, or you'd like to add a few more to your collection? Then you're sure to find the right pair for you in our sneaker collection: