The Adidas three stripes, also referred to as the 'three parallel bars'
or the 'three parallel lines', is the primary brand design of Adidas.
Adidas was referred to as the "three stripes company" by it's
founder Adolf Dassler, therefore, it's brand design is usually referred
to as the three stripes, rather than the three lines or three bars. The
three stripes are sometimes designed with a straight line, but also with
a jagged edge.
Adidas did not invent the three stripes design: it was developed by a
Finnish sports brand named Karhu. Karhu were founded in 1916 by Ab Sportartiklar
Oy, and continue to trade to the present day (2015). Karhu developed running
spikes like Adidas would do, and used the three stripes design on their
running spikes. At the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games, athletes at these
games - including Emil Zatopek - won 15 gold medals using Karhu spikes.
Adolf Dassler was a keen supporter and sponsor of the Olympic Games and
took notice of Karhu's spikes at these games. Dassler purchased the three
stripes design from Karhu for a thousand pounds sterling and two bottles
of Scotch Whiskey. Adolf Dassler would state that purchasing this iconic
design for such a low price was a cornerstone for the success of his fledging
The cornerstone of promoting Adidas as a brand is sponsoring people competing
at sports tournaments. Some of the sports associations who organise events
have attempted to limit the three stripes being displayed - notable the
Wimbledon tennis tournament. Adidas also ran into issues with 'copycat'
products throughout the 1950's and 1960's - as the company expanded and
sales increased - due to it's products only being identifiable by it's
three stripes design. This became a problem because other manufacturers
could create products that closely resembled Adidas'.
Adidas released the trademarked Trefoil logo in 1971, and by combining
the Trefoil logo and three stripes design, Adidas were able to create
products that could not be copied. The three stripes design and Trefoil
logo have been incorporated into the majority of Adidas' apparel, footwear
and branding. However, not all of Adidas' products feature the three stripes;
new products, like the Adidas Neo fashion brand, do not exclusively use
the three stripes design.
In 2016, Adidas won a legal 'battle'
to protect the use of it's 'stripe' design in the European Union.