Adolf Dassler

Adolf Dassler (1900 – 1978), known as ‘Adi,’ was the founder of the German sportswear company Adidas. Trained as a cobbler, Dassler started to produce his own sports shoes in his mother’s laundry after his return from World War I. His father, Christoph, who worked in a shoe factory, and the Zehlein brothers, who produced the handmade spikes for track shoes in their blacksmith’s shop, supported Dassler in starting his own business. In 1924, his older brother Rudolf joined the business, which became the Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory). At the 1928 Olympics, Dassler equipped several athletes, laying the foundation for the international expansion of the company. During the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Dassler equipped Jesse Owens of the USA with his shoes. Owens went on to win four gold medals in that Olympics.

With the rise of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, both Dassler brothers joined the Nazi Party, with Rudolf reputed as being the more ardent National Socialist. Rudolf was drafted, and later captured, while Adi stayed behind to produce boots for the Wehrmacht (Nazi military). The war exacerbated the differences between the brothers and their wives. Rudolf, upon his capture by American troops, was suspected of being a member of the SS, information supposedly supplied by none other than his brother Adi. By 1948, the rift between the brothers widened. Rudolf left the company to found Puma on the other side of town (across the Aurach River), and Adolf Dassler renamed the company Adidas after his own nickname (Adi Dassler).

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