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Adolf "Adi" Dassler: the founder of Adidas

Adolf "Adi" Dassler was a cobbler and shoe designer that founded Adidas in 1949. Adolf Dassler was married to Katharina Mertz in 1934, and together they had five children: Horst, Brigitte, Inge, Sigrid and Karin. Dassler founded Adidas in the small Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach. Adidas still maintains it's headquarters in Herzogenaurach; however, the company is no longer owned or managed by the Dassler family.

A picture of a middle aged adolf dassler, the man who would create europe's most popular sports brand.

Adolf "Adi" Dassler was born on the 3rd of November, 1900, and is the son of Christoph Von Wilhelm Dassler and Pauline Dassler. Adolf Dassler had two brothers Zehlein and Rudolf; Rudolf was born on the 26th of March, 1898. Christoph Von Wilhelm Dassler was employed as a shoe maker, and Pauline Dassler worked in a laundry. The Dassler family could not afford to send Adolf to school, therefore, he trained to become a cobbler. In the early 1920's, Adolf began to manufacture his own shoes: initially in his mother's pantry/washroom.

To begin with, Adolf could not afford to buy expensive materials for the shoes he designed: instead, he used surplus canvas that was 'earmarked' for use in the first world war. Zehlein Dassler helped Adolf to manufacture his early shoes; Adolf would design and make the upper of the shoe, and Zehlein would design the sole of the shoe. Rudolf noticed the talent of his younger brother, and together they founded a shoe factory in 1924: named the Dassler Brothers shoe factory; in German, it was written as 'Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik'.

The Dassler Brothers shoe factory focused on making sports shoes, and, in particular, spikes for athletes. Adolf focused on designing the shoes, and Rudolf focused on administrating the business and promoting the brand. The Olympic Games proved essential for the success of the Dassler brothers shoes. The Dassler brothers persuaded athletes to use their spikes at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games. However, it was the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games and Jesse Owens that propelled the Dassler brothers to global renown; Adolf had managed to persuade Owens to wear his spikes.

Like many leading German industrialists, the Dassler brothers became members of the Nazi Party in the 1930's. This helped the factory to flourish: enabling them to pitch to the top athletes at the Berlin Olympics. During the second world war the two brothers had a bitter 'falling out': the story is that Rudolf and his family were hiding in Adolf's bomb shelter, when Adolf and his family entered, it is claimed that Adolf said "The dirty bastards are back again,". Adolf claimed he was referring to the Royal Air Force (RAF), but Rudolf believed he was referring to himself and his family.

The brother cut all business ties after the second world war and founded their own companies: Adolf founded Adidas and Rudolf founded Puma. Adolf proved more successful: Puma remained a provincial German company during Rudolf's lifetime, and Adidas became Europe's premier sports brand. Adolf Dassler was primarily a shoe designer, his wife Kathe Dassler and son Horst Dassler were essential in helping to administer and market the Adidas brand. Adolf Dassler is famous for saying “form follows function”: Adidas products were always developed to increase the performance of the person wearing them.

Adolf Dassler died in 1978, and his wife Kathe Dassler took control of Adidas. Adidas was owned by the Dassler family until Bernard Tapie purchased the company in 1989. The Adi-Dassler-Stadium exists in Herzogenaurach, and features a bronze stature of Adolf Dassler.