Oi Polloi

Nigel's Musings: the adidas Riviera

Published: Wed Apr 06 2016

I’d never seen a pair of adidas Riviera until about 2004 — I’d never heard of them. Maybe some people had... maybe people from a different age group who were rich, living in America and wearing safari suits and Yves San Laurent glasses. But yeah, I first saw them in a book about Japanese collectors. They were easily the best shoes on the page.

I grew up in Manchester in the late 70s and these sort of leisure shoes were big with the Perry boy thing. It sort of died off with acid house and Miami Vice, but by 2002 or 2003 there seemed to be this lost knowledge of trainers coming back. Mike Chetcuti, who works with Gary on Spezial did a thing called Dead Shoe Scrolls, and it sort of reinvigorated the wearer of those sort of shoes. And then with the Japanese obsession with collecting and the knowledge of all these sportswear brands, I was hooked back in.

I knew the obvious trainers like Grand Slam, Forest Hills, TRX, Hawaii, LA Trainer, but then I see this shoe in that book and I’m like, “Wow, that is beautiful.” It’s easier to wear than a Hawaii because it’s got a slimmer sole. It was exactly the shoe people would have wanted back then if we knew it existed. The stripes were near the front so you could wear them with flares and still show them off. I know this sounds a bit strange to most people today, but people who remember it will remember it with love.

The funny thing about this version is that it was worn by Spielberg in the making in Jaws. There’s a picture of him being eaten by the shark... his legs are hanging out and you can see he’s got Riviera’s on.

So yeah, when I saw them I knew I wanted them. And then along comes eBay and you can suddenly look in some guys loft at shoes he bought and never wore because they were too tight or something. These were on there and people were bidding them up, so I put a high bit on with the auction sniper. At that time we were buying vintage stuff like Fila and Lacoste and mixing it with new stuff like YMC. Unfortunately these trainers never made it to the shop floor — they stayed with me because they were so good.

And then this other pair turns up — I call this one the mink colourway. When I got them I just squirrelled them away like a few good bottles of wine. These aren’t the only two colours either. There’s a sagey green one, There’s another pair called Saratoga Sand that is a sand Riviera with sand stripes. If anyone’s got a pair of nine and a half or ten in good condition, then please get in touch.

There aren’t many of them around at all. There aren’t many of any of these trainers around anymore. To me these trainers are like rare Northern Soul records. 

The adidas Rivea (they couldn't get the real name 'cos of some licensing mumbo jumbo) are available now.