Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
The love of the Adidas Samba has been well-documented. It's a classic. 35 million pairs have been sold in the shoe's 65-year existence. I hadn't thought about Sambas in nearly a decade until this past fall, when I took a fateful flight from Los Angeles to New York.
You THINK the guy on your flight is cute because he's wearing Sambas but then you see he is also wearing sunglasses inside at night— Julia Rubin (@juliarubin) October 19, 2015
And ever since, I have not been able to stop thinking about this damn shoe. The Samba. The Cute Boy shoe.
I first became aware of Cute Boys in Sambas when I was in elementary school. Back then, Cute Boys wore Sambas with bright nylon Umbro shorts because they had been introduced to Sambas while playing soccer.
The Samba was originally conceived as a playing-soccer-when-it's-icy-out shoe in 1950, and now it's primarily an indoor soccer shoe. Further context: St. Louis, where I grew up, is a big indoor soccer city thanks its professional team, the Ambush. There were so many kids' leagues when I was growing up, and so many Sambas. (Soccer: forever and always a Cute Boy sport. Not a coincidence!)
I remember liking the simple design, the white stripes on black leather, the contrast gum rubber sole. Sambas looked so much nicer than the grubby Reeboks and clunky Nikes that seemed to otherwise dominate the closets of prepubescent boys in the mid-'90s.
By high school, the Cute Boys in Sambas were Cute Boys in Bands. They had abandoned (or maybe never even been interested in) sports, and picked up Strats because The Strokes had changed their lives and sometimes they wore Converse high-tops, but sometimes they wanted to be just a little different and wear Sambas while playing Saddle Creek covers.
And then, I forgot about them, them being Sambas. It's not like they went away — I think it's actually the opposite. Sambas are so ubiquitous, I simply stopped noticing them. Until the Cute Boy on the plane, who was actually not a Cute Boy because of the aforementioned eyewear situation. After that, I started tweeting about Sambas all the time.
an oral history of cute boys in sambas— Julia Rubin (@juliarubin) November 1, 2015
For the record, I still think this should exist! I will pay someone to write this! In the meantime, you get this post instead. And at this point, I would like to introduce an important character in my personal Samba reawakening, Nicola Fumo, who you might know from this very website. Early on, Nicola made an astute and unfortunate observation.
Softboys love Sambas. They do. It's part of their appeal, probably. This sucks. I would like to posit that Sambas are so iconic, so universal, that this can be overlooked. It's the "all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares" rule, but for Cute Boys and athletic footwear.
Anyway! Nicola's most profound contribution to this whole thing is undoubtedly #sambawatch.
Over the last few months, we've seen Sambas outside coffee shops and inside tiki bars. We've seen almost-Sambas. There have been Sambas in our office, and Samba discussions in Slack. We began creepshotting Cute Boys in Sambas.
And remarking on their pant habits. These pants need to be cuffed:
One guy wore them with SUIT PANTS. I don't know if I love or hate this! Probably hate, but at least the pants fit nicely, even if the shoes are pretty grimy. I like imagining this guy knows about the Samba's icy origins, and chose to wear them instead of boots during New York's most recent blizzard, thus the salt stains:
Here is my absolute favorite result of all this Samba-watching:
My dad asked why I've been so into Sambas recently, told me he likes them too, and then bought a pair for himself. #sambawatch— Julia Rubin (@juliarubin) December 21, 2015
Look at my dad being a Cute Boy in Sambas!!!
He opted for the sturdier, more dad-friendly Samba Millennium, even though my mom and I advised him to get the Classics. Still a Cute Boy though! My most recent #sambawatch occurred at Sqirl, a spot in LA I affectionately refer to as The Most Important Restaurant in America. It was perfect.
Long live Cute Boys in Sambas. Please tweet us pics.