Bobby goes to Herzo.


Bobby goes to Herzo.

Legendary Adidas collector Bobby Mccarten kindly shares his memory of his visit to Adidas HQ in Herzogenaurach, Germany.


 21st OCTOBER 2016
It was friday morning, I had a 10am appointment at the adidas H.Q and my cab was due at 09:40, I stayed at the Hotel herzogsPark in Herzogenaurach on the recommendation of Gary Aspden, he told me that it was where Adi Dassler would entertain his guests back in the day, this became apparent as I was walking down the corridor to meet my cab, there was a reading room to my right with a very impressive oil painting of Adi and a beautifully carved book cabinet and antique glass display cases with newpaper cuttings and sports memorabilia relating to adidas history. As I left the lift and entered the main reception hall there were 2 gymnasium horses that had had an extra layer added to each one made from perspex displaying both vintage and modern football boots and footballs, i get the sense that this place was a little more than somewhere Adi entertained sports stars.

I stepped outside and my taxi was waiting, on the way to H.Q we passed a huge adidas football standing proudly on a roundabout which wasn’t much wider than the ball. We arrived at a very impressive modern building, this is it.. 
This was something i’d wanted to do for so long, i was trying to remember all the questions that i’d wanted to ask prior to me flying out but my mind was blank, my thoughts stolen by the enormity of what i was about to see.
I’m on time and i sign in and receive my visitors pass when i’m suddenly greeted by a smiling face, a familar one.. ‘Bobby, how are you, it’s great to see you again’ ‘Hey Martin, how are you doing?’ Martin runs the infamous archive, i ironically met him two years ago to the day at the Spezial exhibition in Manchester. As we walk away chatting we’re soon greeted by two of his colleagues, Tim is the design Manager on the Terrace/Heritage footwear range and Lars is the Senior Project Manager. These are men that i had been talking with for some time so it was great to put faces to the names.
We leave the main reception building  via the back entrance and walk through the grounds, i get a sense of calm, a very relaxed feeling unlike a place of work, it felt more like a campus or college. There are long paths leading to all the individual buildings with lots of trees and grass areas being cut by robotic lawnmowers.. how Star Wars! 

The land was aquired by adidas from the German military many years ago, as i turned around and looked back it was clear that the older buildings were positioned with military precision, they are now offices, we keep walking, it’s a busy place yet very chilled. We arrive at another building which resembles a huge black glass block, i couldn’t see a doorway until we got closer and part of the black shiny glass opened.  As we enter i was told that the purpose of this building was to show buyers the forthcoming ranges, stores like Size? Footlocker and J.D for example.
We walked down some steps which led to an opening, behind it was a ramp of approximately 20 metres it was the start of a museum tour that i had no idea i was going to see and i almost didn’t, i could see a cherry picker and a few guys in hi vis shirts at the top of the ramp but thankfully it was ok for us to go through. As we enter there is a sign printed onto the concrete wall:

 -opening 16 April 2012
Take a journey into the
 story of our brand, adidas.
 Experience, learn and enjoy.. 

I knew this was going to be special! The first thing that catches my eye was a 1970 blue and yellow spiked type running shoe, the information board has highlighted the outersole for a reason. It was made of blue rubber with many little suction cups similar to what you would see on windsurfing and sailing models. One of the adidas employees was competing in a race and he had fallen on the track during wet weather so Adi had an idea, he spread lots of Pril, a German sopa powder (hand mild no less) all over his tennis court to simulate a wet slippery surface so that he could test his suction cup outersoles.
Initially it was a great idea but for months later, each time it rained Adi’s tennis court resembled a snow storm! It was quite a basic and primitive testing process but simple and genius, the fact that he wanted to better the shoe after it had failed someone was true to form for Adi Dassler and an ethos which is still strongly practised within the brand today.
Next to catch my eye was a display of three shoes with their soles facing towards us, from left to right were Fencing, a moulded studded sole and a rowing sole. The tread on the Fencing sole was similar if not the same as that which you’d see on Gazelle and Keglerschuh models, the sole on the Rowing shoe had four screw holes where the block would be screwed onto and the texture or foxing was similar to what you would see on Discus and Kugelstosser type shoes. It was also explained that the Rowing shoes had velcro straps instead of laces so that if a boat capsized the wearer could quickly pull open the straps and swim to the top leaving their shoes screwed in. The middle sole was also interesting, at a glance it looked like a football or rugby sole but it was in fact a baseball shoe, i asked why the cleats were not metal, it was because the rules for college baseball are different so metal cleats are banned, more evidence of adidas finding an answer. Then i see a prototype football that was designed to be used in the Champions league, the designers tried really hard to create star shaped patches that would sit right with the regular hexagonal patches, this would have been the first cased football of its type with star shaped patches but it was not to be, and it was impossible to get the two different shaped patches to sit flush next to each other so sadly, the idea was shelved.. but it is the adidas way is to find the answer and i believe that the ball will be used in the European Cup one day. 
The next display has three football boots in it, old and new the one on the right has a verticle split at the heel tied with a small black lace, these were made to measure boots for the great Uwe Seeler in 1965 with the familiar name Achill. 
We arrive at the top of the ramp in the shadow of the construction machine and quite possibly the luckiest engineers in the world! As we turn to the right Martin says ‘arh good the door is open’ He has access to this as do Tim and Lars but they were unsure if the work that was taking place would deny us entry but luck was on our side and Martin walks in, then i do, as i enter i can’t help noticing the ten inch thick concrete door which led us to a dimly lit room no more tham ten by eight metres, there were three glass white stripes ushering us around the room which were illuminated and they appreared to be floating but were in fact hanging from very thin translucent wire, it was impressive but i couldn’t help staring at something in the centre of the room and it blew me away! Adi Dassler’s shoe makers work bench complete with stool, tools and wooden shoe lasts, i couldn’t help wondering what shoes were created at the table, with these tools and lasts.. in the top right corner was a small wooden rig with 4 ball shaped bottles and a candle at the centre, Martin told me that is was a traditional shoe makers lamp, a system found in every shoemaking museum around the world, the bottles would be filled to a certain level and the candle lit, the light from the candle would be magnified through the water making it brighter, i was told that traditional shoe making needed to be done in a certian light, this sytem worked perfectly.
The last display in this darkened room was showing an old hardback novel that had some sketches with writing on the otherwise blank page, apparently Adi and his Wife Kathe were lay in bed one night and Adi was thinking of a way to solve a footwear problem, the answer popped into his head, looking for something to write it all down on he grabbed his Wife’s book and scribbled his thoughts down, testiment to his problem solving.
Martin, Lars, Tim and myself left the room and were soon at the top of the downward ramp which would eventually conclude the museum tour, there were yet more very immpressive displays showing some of the most iconic classic footwear like the timeless Gazelle, Haillet, Mexicana, Superstars plus items from the various Olympics gone by. I saw a white with blue shoe box with the words ‘adidas mit den three Riemen der schuellste schuh der welt’ a bold statement but who else at that time was as commited, dedicated and as passionate as Adi? 
We stand in front of the next display, there are three items in there, a beautifully made fine knitted sea green jacket with orange and purple stripes, i have seen these colours in my catalogues, next to it in its original packaging is a sausage dog with the words ‘Olympia Waldi offizielles maskotten Munchen 1972’ in matching colours. To complete this display there was a single spiked running shoe in the same colourway, draped down either side of the toe box were short ears and a suede overlay on the front in the shape of a nose, two suede eyes and the shoe was positioned so that the front spikes looked like the dogs teeth. We came to the end of the tour at the bottom of the second ramp,  there was a square hole in the wall, Martin said ‘put your hand in’ which i did (the wrong way around) and as if by magic a lace jewel landed on the back of my hand it had adidas stamped on one side and ‘Calling all creators’ on the other. We walked up the stairs that led to the exit and then outside.. 

The next building we arrived at was a huge white place which looked like it had just landed, It’s called the Laces Building and i’m assured this would become more apparent as i enter, we leave the revolving door one by one, i see offices five or 6 floors high running down each side front to back with many bridges connecting each side in a criss cross pattern, just like laces. Adidas could have easily built a regular office block but that’s too easy, a lot of time and effort had gone into designing the building and it showed, it was brilliant. We stroll through towards the centre, there are a lot of open plan seating areas dotted about with smoothy bars, coffee counters and places to eat. Lars and Tim point out where their office’s are and to the office space underneath them, this is where the worlds top athletes and other sports people would be fitted with their bespoke footwear, for example if a footbller had a problem with his personally designed boots they would bring them here where the problem would be rectified then they would take them onto the pitch at the rear of the building and they would be tested until they were right.


We reach the centre of the laces building at the top of a set of steps that dip down below ground level, with yet more places to eat and drink.. at the bottom of the steps immediately right is Martins office, we walk in and to the left is a sub office where two of his collegues are sorting through a rail and boxes of first season Porsche Design items, if you like it or not this range is an important part of the whole story, the bigger picture.

As we turned right i was greeted by a bright green wall with a door like you’d see on a bank vault, the entrance to the Archive! Martin opens the door and we walk in i feet the cold of the temperature controlled room but it’s soon forgotten because standing in front of me are white metal shoe racks with some really interesting 1970’s and 1980’s footwear samples. A construction company had found them, two bin sacks full !

They called adidas and asked if they were of any use or should they be skipped! i thought this was a close shave so to speak but i couldn’t help thinking about what had been skipped, burned and binned over the years! So naturally the samples were picked up and brought back, cleaned, photographed and registered onto the archive system. Amongst them were what looked like a Bamba, black Kangaroo leather with red/orange stripes and a gum sole with a tread i’d never come across. There was a really cool Tennis shoe with an embroided trefoil underneath the front eyelet on the same sole unit as Galaxy and Columbia, I’d never seen anything quite like them. I turn around and on a table in front of me are 4 runners both vintage and modern, Boston Super, Micropacer, Rising Star and NMD, the Rising Star were a Protoype and they had hi vis orange stripes, some call it Mars red, a colour not used often enough in my opinion.

It hadn’t really crossed my mind before but when i saw these four models together it suddenly dawned on me that they were all closely related. On the same table there are a pair of 1983 Atlanta, they had belonged to Greta Waitz, the actual pair that she won the 1983 London Marathon in, the rear stripe was signed.

Back outside we’re walking to lunch and we pass what looks like a wall of soles, it is an art project called The Wave made completely from sole units used during 2016. Martin then leaves for a meeting, before he does he kindly gave me the chance to meet for dinner later which was good of him. Lars, Tim and I enter yet another impressive building, the aroma of good food has my mouth watering, i choose my lunch, pick up my tray, camera bag and my other bag plus the white box, oops.. no i didn’t, i put it down, selected a drink and walked away then realised what i’d done and i felt the colour drain from my face, Lars and Tim are looking at me thinking i’d seen a ghost! haha.. ‘what’s wrong?’ they say, i tell them i can’t find the box, Lars walks over to one of the Chefs and seconds later he takes hold of them, i exhale as he hands the box to me, He said that there was noting to worry about, when anything goes missing there it is handed in very time.

After 5 minutes of the Friday special – Currywurst and fries its clear that this thing is going to beat me, the Germans can eat! Lars has a meeting so he has to go leaving Tim and I, Tim works on the Terrace/Heritage range so i gave him a brief history lesson about LIverpool F.C, trusting European sports shops, untrustworthy LFC fans, Robert Wade Smith and Transalpino tickets written out in pencil, which was handy,  he said he had goosebumps and listened to every word, he hadn’t heard any of it before. We head back towards the rear of the main reception hall, it started to rain, Tim takes the white box and puts in in his jacket without question, a kind thing to do but not surprising as they are great people. We approach a life size bronze statue of Adi Dassler, sat on a sports bench with a shoe in his hand, I sit down next to him copying his pose, my photograph is taken then we head inside, i sign out, thank Tim and go outside for a taxi ride back to my hotel.

There isn’t much to do in Herzogenaurach unless you know the town well which i don’t. Martin lives in Nuremburg which is about 20 minutes away, he had sent me a message reminding me of the offer to have some food and talk adidas, that’s the first time i have eaten pizza in a control tower at a small private airport! there was even a red and white two seater fixed wing plane in the car park opposite us! It was after the pizza and coffee that i was taken on a second mini tour… 


We drove down some stereotypical Bavarian streets and pulled up outside a small steel workshop and walked across a small road into a tiny side street, we were standing outside the childhood home of the Dassler brothers, where once upon a time in a laundry in the back garden they started to make their first pairs of footwear. Up above us on the front wall was the Dassler family crest, there was a small front garden with a big single tree in the corner where a young Adi would have played as a kid.

As we walked back towards the car i could see the glow of the TV in the fornt lounge and then in the shadows at the side of the house were the words ‘DASSLER  LEDER HOSE’  dating back to when a young Rudolph was making motorcyle trousers for a while, it was amazing to see the pristine sign after all those years albeit partly through the branches of a bush. Martin explains that Adi’s school freinds Father was the local Blacksmith and when Adi first started to make running spikes he would ask him to make them for him. We drove about another one hundred metres down hill and entered the main street through the beautifully lit sleepy town centre, it was like something you’d see on a postcard. To the right of us there was a stunning wooden building which was once the Town hall, to the left and right of us at each end of the street were two towers as pictured on the first Dassler boxes. As we are driving back crossing the Aurach river to my hotel we pass a modern silver building with adidas and Reebok signs way up high, but behind it stood an older type buiding, white with adidas in blue letters, this was the site of the old factory, it was now offices.

We’re outside the hotel i say goodbye and i’m walking back to my room trying to take it all in, from my 10am appointment earlier that day until 11pm i had learned so much, met some great people and had a top day, it just wasn’t long enough.. I came away with the same unanswered questions that i had taken with me, just because my thoughts were occupied by what had been going on. I got to my room, opened the balcony and sat there staring out thinking it over.

The following morning I’m packed, i have grapes bread yoghurt bacon and nutella as they were the only things that looked familiar haha.. I sit in the reception thinking about who had been in this place when it was the adidas hotel, I have a great shot of the legendary Abdul Jabbar stood outside with the old adidas sign behind him, i was just about to go and ask if anyone famous had stayed in room 212 over the years but i hear ‘Booby taxi for Booby’ Yes that’s me i say, (I’ve been called worse!) ‘please, let me take your bags’ the driver says.. as he opens the boot i hear A boy named Sue on very loud, by the time we arrive at Nuremburg Airport we’d listened to that song three times! Paulo the cab driver was German but his parents came from Greece many years ago, he drives them home every August and he tells me that it starts on the road that we were driving on, ‘one road, one road all way home’ he says, apparently from Herzogenaurach he drives the 2300 km via Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia through northern Greece to the coast then on a boat to Zante, i joke that we should stop off for supplies and head to Greece seeing as we are on the road.
He is just another cool German and another piece of my memorable trip, It has been a really interesting few days and there is something that keeps popping into my mind, whilst having lunch the day before i asked Tim if the nice resturants, the smoothy bars, the care and respect for employees and the very relaxed feel about the place was the German way, he said ‘no Bobby, it’s the adidas way’ 
I fly to Frankfurt then onto the UK, i leave Manchester Airport at terminal One and drive home…