Last December, the always-stylish A$AP Rocky was spotted in white Sambas (which he slightly freaked by adding slime green laces) on set for the music video shoot of A$AP Nast’s “Designer Boi.” And then again, in January, seemingly earning a spot in the hip-hop star’s constant rotation. Then, A$AP Nast jumped on the Samba wave, pairing white ones (sans neon laces) with a perfect-fitting overcoat and trousers and firing off an Instagram with the caption “I only want these Sambas.” Just last week, Frank Ocean was spotted in New York City donning a pair of Sambas, even in the dead of winter.
The Samba has been a favorite of many—mostly soccer players and skaters—for decades, but only recently made the jump into the world of fashion. The original design, which debuted in the 1950s, is barely recognizable as the Samba we see today. It was a bulkier silhouette, with stiff kangaroo leather and an unprecedented gum outsole designed to offer better traction and more uncompromising durability for cold-weather training. As five-a-side soccer became more popular in the 1970s and 1980s, so did the Samba. It quickly became the go-to sneaker of choice for its traction on hard surfaces, a perfect fit for a game played on hardwood or artificial turf—plus, it was stylish enough to wear off the pitch. (I texted my father, an avid soccer player back in his day, to confirm. “Yes, I wore the Samba,” he replied. “We all did.”) During the 1990s and 2000s, it found a new audience among skaters, who also embraced it for the rigid wearability and stylish look.
Take one quick look at the Samba, and it is pretty easy to see why the design has been embraced by the fashion-inclined today. There is an undeniable timelessness to the silhouette, and the sneaker is simple enough to wear with just about any look. That simplicity is also why so many designers are down to it: it’s a beautiful starting point to impart their own spin on. It’s not too often that a sneaker can appeal to an actor, designer, rapper, and skater in one swoop. Best of all: unlike limited-edition hyped sneakers, the Samba’s not going anywhere.