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Sunak’s Samba with the fashion industry

In Rishi Sunak’s recent Downing Street Interview, his words and promises were certainly not the star of the show. Showing off his Adidas Sambas, the Prime Minister took British media by storm. News outlets broadcasted a sudden decline in sales of the once popular shoe and young members of the public expressed outrage at the wealthy leader’s attempt to be a ‘regular every man’. The fashion community was genuinely disgusted by Sunak’s choice of footwear, suggesting that he had simply ruined the trend for everyone. However, the Samba has a much longer track record than Rishi’s short time in office, which illustrates the deeper connection between the PM’s choice to wear them and the social connotations this gave. Was he successful in his stylistic decision, or cause a crash faster than Truss did?

The fashion origin of the famous 3-stripe Sambas lies in the football stands of the 1970s. Although it was created in 1949, intended to be a football shoe equipped to survive icy conditions, it became a statement of class culture only 2 decades later. Famously a working class shoe, alongside the Reebok classics, the Samba has strong roots in the British community as a durable and affordable option for playing sports that could also be worn more casually. 20 years later, their functions expanded and they became a staple of the skater community. This was a strong marker of their transition from sportswear to streetwear as they were a clear indicator of this aesthetic. Meanwhile they were famously shown off by artists like Oasis, which gave them a strong platform in English culture throughout the 1990s and maintained their roots in the working man’s style. They maintained some popularity by the 2010s, but were overtaken by Converse in sales due to their pedestal in the fashion community. Nowadays, however, the Samba has returned in an american resurgence. Supermodel Bella Hadid and pop icon Rihanna have both expressed a devotion to the trainers, often papped sporting them in their casual looks. By early 2024, Sambas were selling out at every release in a rapid comeback instigated by the ‘it-girls’ of the 21st century.

By April, even the Prime Minister was swept up by the trend, flaunting a pale pair with navy chinos and a white shirt. Immediately, fans of the Samba took to social media to express their outrage at Sunak’s fashion statement. Footwear stores quickly expressed their concern that the politician’s love for the retro trainers had massacred their resurgence. Defending himself, Rishi claimed to have always loved the look of the Adidas Samba, reminiscing on receiving them as a gift from his brother one Christmas. Although he issued an apology for his fashion choices that day, the PM’s decision to wear Sambas may have been more complex than a Christmas present. In a desperate attempt to be perceived as a regular civilian, he may have switched out his Oxfords for Adidas. Rishi is well aware of how his image has been damaged by Tory sleaze and elitism, so his Sambas may have been a political move to appear less isolated from the general public. However, all he did was tarnish the image of the Adidas Samba.

Since the interview, Adidas have released a statement expressing their huge profits in the first quarter of 2024, which has put young minds at ease about the sudden death of a trend they may have just bought into. Despite this, Sunak has certainly left a mark on the iconic appearance of the Samba. Whether that is for better or for worse is not completely clear, but it is evident that the Sunak-Samba controversy is an unforgettable moment where politics and fashion aligned.

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