CLIQUE WEAR: Adidas Challenger
For what is a man, what has he got? If not his tracksuit, then he has naught.
To wear the things he truly feels; and not the threads of one who kneels.
In the year of our Lord, 1984, at the peak of sportswear’s golden age, Adidas hit the bull’s-eye with the Challenger. The new piece exploded onto the streets, where it became a hit in the blink of an eye, even overshadowing the Italian brands for a time.
Other than its no-holds-barred design, flat collar, three stripes on the shoulder and the zipper on the calf, the originality of the Challenger was found in the fabric. Adidas briefly abandoned acrylic in favour of the “peach skin”, a fabric a bit like suede, a mix of polyester and cotton, as soft as a baby’s behind.
The jacket and trousers were available together in several colours. I fell in love with the sky blue model and made a scene so my grandma would buy me one at the BHV department store in Paris. The players for the French team, Platini’s boys, dressed in navy blue Challengers, with the FFF cockerel sewn onto the chest. This proved to be a true sponsoring coup that year, as the Blues and the “Magic Square” became European champions.
The Adidas Challenger got a huge boost it wasn’t even expecting. The shock-effect was most felt in the pro-footballing world, as many teams started wearing the Challenger adapted to their team’s colours. The players for the unfortunate Matra Racing team proudly wore a black, grey and blue model, like a huge football.
As for the gentlemen of the time, the Challenger was worn in two ways: full suit top and bottom, with a (frankly horrific) roll-neck, or an Ivan Lendl polo shirt, with a zip on the back of the trousers, seductively open and running down to a pair of Stan Smiths (the original model, not the awful 015 rereleases), or a pair of nylon Achilles sneakers. It was also worn with just the jacket, with a pair of 501s or a flared pair of Lois trousers, and accompanied with a pair of Ciak shoes (Clarks imitations sold at André in Paris).
At the end of 80s, the Challenger was everywhere, sported by those in the know. I think I’m right in saying you could often see several Challengers in the audience of the programme “Hip-Hop”.
At the time, no one paid attention to the swagg of this nascent movement. All you needed was a cap, not even matching the tracksuit, and there was a dude who knew.
And then the 80s finished, one thing led to another, and the Kappa tracksuit brought a swift end to the Challenger. It became worn out, full of holes, and reserved for alcoholic dog handlers. A poignant end to this rising star of style.
Let us never forget that the Challenger was an incredible champion.