Mods and trainers? It is a thing and here are 10 of the best 1960s-style trainers for you to check out, with most available to buy right now.
The thing about mod is that history is continually rewritten. Hardly surprising when you are looking at a scene something that’s over 55 years old.
The stereotypical mod wears a parka, shrink-to-fit Levi’s, desert boots and a button-down or Fred Perry shirt. A tailored suit and loafers for a big night out too. But it wasn’t quite as formulaic as that.
Mods were all about standing out from the crowd, not fitting into a stereotype. So fashions were far broader than mod folk law might suggest. Trainers? Well, sports shoes were a thing across the board for casual wear.
Have a watch of the Gideon’s Way episode called The Rhyme and the Reason (I’ve sneaked it in above), where a sports shoe belonging to the mod played by Alan Rothwell is the focal point of the entire episode. Well worth a watch. That shoe was a Converse, which I haven’t mentioned here, but is a classic that seems to have long lost its association with mods.
But sports shoes and trainers, in particular, have continued to play a part for mods and the mod scene. From the cover of the original Quadrophenia album of 1973 through to the Britpop years and beyond. Trainers (or sneakers if you are outside the UK) remain a popular casual option.
There aren’t any ‘mod trainers’ but there are styles that appeal to mods and there are a number of styles that were born in the 1960s that remain popular today. So I have gone down that route. Picking out 10 styles that were available in the 1960s and (mostly) still available to buy today. They might not have been on the retail shelves back in the 1960s, but they all look the part.
So in no particular order…
1. Adidas Samba
A classic and one that would have been around to buy in the mid-1960s.
The Samba is an indoor football shoe, a constant presence in the Adidas range and a shoe that is said to have sold over 35 million pairs in its history. It actually dates from 1949, but the design we know is probably from around 1962.
The Samba OG is the one to go for, with a leather upper, contrasting heel and stripes, suede toe overlay and gum sole. Plenty of colours to pick from and all priced around the £70 mark.
2. Adidas Gazelle
Hard to mention the Samba without mentioning the Gazelle, another hugely popular shoe and continual presence in the Adidas range. But it is a shoe that has changed.
The Gazelle is based on a shoe I’ll feature further down the list, but it made its debut in the mid-1960s in suede, which is the most common finish for the shoe. With its contrasting details and T-toe overlay, the Gazelle was a template for many that followed.
The classic was always the Gazelle OG, which was based on the 1960s shoe. But that was followed by a slightly chunkier Gazelle II. However, Adidas has changed things since with just one shoe now, which tends to be based on the 1991 Gazelle. It looks good (especially when it got reissued with the white lace box detail), but it isn’t quite the OG.
If you want a pair you are looking at £70.
3. Handmade 1960s MaTes Carmel Classic trainers
This is a style that definitely wouldn’t have been on the shelves in the 1960s. It was a niche sports shoe then and only now making itself available.
Looking a touch like the original Gazelle, this is a shoe from a small maker that managed to get a big reputation for sports shoe from the 1940s through to the 1970s in Spain. But like many makers, sales suffered as the big labels moved in with big money.
The Carmel Classic is based on an original 1960s sports shoe and is still produced using the same meticulous handcrafted processes developed by Francesc Mates. A suede upper, gum sole and enough originality to stand out from the sea of Adidas. €109 is the price of a pair.
4. Puma Roma trainers
Another classic of its day, but it’s a shoe that suffers from inferior makeovers.
The original Puma dates back to 1968 and was produced in recognition of the Italian football team’s success at the European Championships of this year. It occasionally returns in OG form, but the inferior follow-ups tend to hog the shelves. Shame really as the original with its leather upper, low heel and the serrated sole is an eye-catcher.
£79 or so if you want a pair of the OG, although you can get some in the sale at End for £49 in selected sizes right now.
5. Adidas Rom
A recent high-profile reissue, but this one dates back to the early 1960s and was actually a precursor to the Gazelle I flagged up earlier.
But this is a more rugged shoe than the Gazelle, one that paid tribute to the city of Rome (hence the name) but has changed a little since its introduction. In fact, the shoe we have now id perhaps more in line with its 1970s incarnation.
Still a classic all-rounder with its leather upper and rugged sole and available in various colours, although the white leather with blue or green details are the ones to have for me.
Sadly, those are harder to find right now as most went in the sale a few months back. Expect to pay from £75 if you can find your size.
6. Onitsuka Tiger Nippon 60 trainers
I had to put this one in, although it will mean searching around eBay for a pair.
That’s because Onitsuka Tiger doesn’t seem keen on reissuing these. It was way back in 2007 when I mentioned these on Modculture and stock was snapped up quickly. And it never returned. I did a feature on these on His Knibs in the hope it would attract their attention. It hasn’t. This remains a hard shoe to find.
A very cool one though. The shoes were produced in 1960 for the Japanese delegation at the Olympics in Rome of that year, a low-profile shoe that looks like it belongs in the bowling alley. Minimal detailing, but what is there catches the eye.
Both colours appeal, but if you want a pair of either, do check eBay, as there some pairs there right now from around £35 upwards.
7. Adidas Athen
What happened to the Adidas Athen? It was everywhere in 2017 and then…nowhere.
Which is both annoying and a real shame as Adidas finally managed to find a gem in their archive that really needed to be back in the range. But it returned in limited numbers in a couple of colours, then promptly disappeared again. Yes, this is another eBay search.
The shoe was originally the Jaguar back in 1967 but got the name Athen in 1968 as Adidas went down the ‘city’ route for names. Just a dream too in whatever colour you go for, although the blue is the original and best-loved. Personally, I prefer the white leather one pictured here.
A suede upper, white detailing, gum sole and the minimum of fuss. Plenty on eBay in all the colours and from as little as £20. Although you are looking more at around £80.
8. Tretorn Nylite
More of a plimsoll, but a timeless shoe (or tennis shoe) that has been around since 1967, making plenty of waves along the way.
Of course, if we are talking plimsolls I should also mention the classic Spring Court (famously worn by John Lennon on the Abbey Road cover), but I prefer the Tretorn Nylite.
As I said, a shoe dating from 1967 and worn by Bjorn Borg in his early career on the court. But this has been a preppy/ivy league casual shoe of choice for decades too. The design has hardly changed since the 1960s, so a canvas upper, rubber outsole and the classic Tretorn branding. But the price has jumped a little.
These days you are looking at around £60.
9. Adidas Italia 1960
Another Adidas classic that’s becoming harder to find. But it is still out there.
The vintage-style Italia 1960 hasn’t been around since 2010 or so, hence the scarcity. Shame really, as the ‘bowling shoe’ look of this one is hard to find elsewhere and it has been popular on the mod scene for some years for that look. Always loved the heel and the cross design on the back. If this came back it would fly out.
But stock does appear regularly on eBay in the meantime, although you might have to sift through some of the ‘well worn’ pairs to get to the good stuff. The white with red, green or blue detailing is the one to have, but for a pair in used condition, you are looking at anything from £70.
10. Zeha 1960s East German trainers
I debated whether to not to feature these as they aren’t as good as they were a few years back due to a change in style. But in the end, I went for it.
Zen was founded in the 19th century by Carl Hassner, producing leather shoes in the early part of the 20th century. They moved onto hand-stitched sports shoes and after the Second World War, it becomes the main supplier of sportswear in East Germany. After the fall of the wall, the company faded but was picked up by a fan in 2003, which is where we still are.
A large range is out there and there was a 4010 shoe a few years back that looked impressive. That’s now gone but other retro styles remain, like the Olympics with its leather upper, suede toe, vintager branding and contrast details. €149 for a pair of those.
Update: Perhaps I should also have mentioned the Gola Harrier, a timeless shoe from 1968 and still in the Gola range. That sells for around £70 from the Gola website.