The Interesting Histories of some of the Most Popular Sportswear Brands in ISM

Article by: Lucas dV.

Photograph by: Lucas T.



Although Adidas is probably one of the most popular sportswear brands, few know that Adidas has its origins in a family dispute. From 1920 to the beginning of World War 2, Adidas founder Adi Dassler and his brother Rudolf operated the Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe Company. Although the business was very successful, it was plagued by an intense power struggle between the two siblings. This conflict culminated in the company’s split into two separate entities: Adidas and Puma. The rivalry between the two siblings drove them to grow their brands into some of the biggest names in sportswear, with Adidas being the more successful of the two. In its infancy, Adidas produced shoes and sportswear solely for the soccer market, and then gradually diversified into general sportswear and lifestyle products. It even ventured into the cultural scene when it partnered with Run D.M.C, making history as the one of the first sportswear brands to partner with artists or creatives. The company’s commitment to quality and willingness to explore different markets is what made it the powerhouse it is today.



This popular sportswear brand had humble beginnings as a retail store called Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS). Founded in 1964 by University of Oregon track athlete Phil Knight and his coach, Bill Bowerman, the company was just a small distributor for Onitsuka Tiger. Business was slow to start, and to make ends meet, the two founders drove to track meets all across Oregon, making sales out of the trunk of their car. Over the next 7-8 years, they collected enough funds to cut ties with Onitsuka and launch their own shoe brand under the now-famous “Swoosh” logo. To accompany this transition from retail store to independent producer, the company changed its name to Nike, after the Greek goddess of victory. In the next decade, Nike rapidly grew until it achieved dominance in the American shoe industry, constituting nearly 50% of the market. From then on, they made huge efforts to expand into other sports, lifestyle, and fashion, and now their shoes are in almost every household on the planet.

Under Armour


Founded in 1996 by Kevin Plank, Under Armor is the youngest of the three companies, but it is also the fastest-growing one. In less than 20 years, the company developed to be the third largest sporting brand in the world. A lot of their success is due, in-part, to the “moisture-wicking” technologies that they pioneered. Few know that Under Armor was actually the first to create this advanced sportswear, and that Nike and Adidas drew inspiration from Under Armor to create the Dri-fit (Nike) and Climalite (Adidas) clothing lines. Aside from their innovative approach to sportswear, Under Armor’s belief in the little guys also makes it unique. Its willingness to sponsor teams and athletes regardless of their popularity or level has shown the world that the brand is truly devoted to the development of sport and sportsmanship. This attitude has definitely rewarded them. In 2013, they signed Stephen Curry who, at the time, really didn’t have much popularity or credibility to offer them. Under Armor simply had faith in Curry as an athlete and as a person, and now, Curry is one of the most famous athletes in existence. Under Armor’s outside-the-box-thinking and its extreme commitment to sport is probably what makes it one of the most widely used brands today.