Wade Smith’s two decades of shaping Liverpool’s style all started with one coach



There are few clothing stores that can claim to have defined Liverpool fashion as much as Wade Smith.

What sat on the shelves of the designer store could be seen as a litmus test for what Liverpool wore – and what he would wear next.

While the store was more concerned with haute couture in its later years, it was in sportswear that it was originally able to leave its mark on Liverpool in the form of three distinctive stripes.

Read more : 23 iconic photos of Liverpool in the 2000s from Wimpy to Woolworths

Initially working as a shoe buyer for Topman, shop founder Robert Wade Smith spotted a business opportunity that would capitalize on the explosion of casual culture that was starting to kick in in Liverpool and the North West early on. from the 1980s.

Steven Gerrard of Liverpool with Michael Ball of Everton outside Wade Smith Mathew Street sports store with new adidas Predator precision football boots in May 2000

Before the late 1970s, adidas sneakers were still primarily associated with athletic performance and not the ubiquitous staple that they are today. The adidas copa mundial at the feet of German football legend Frans Beckenbauer was arguably the most important observation of Adi Dasler’s iconic three stripes.

In his years as a traveling shopper in the late 1970s, Robert Wade Smith was starting to notice a trend in sales numbers. A third of Topman’s adidas sales came from Liverpool alone, thanks to the growing popularity of the adidas Samba and the Stan Smith tennis hybrid.

Wade Smith's empty building in Mathew Street in 2011
Wade Smith’s empty building in Mathew Street in 2011

Seeing this microclimate forming in Liverpool, Wade Smith decided to go it alone.

Legend has it that he took a van across Europe and set about loading it with rare adidas sneakers unavailable in Britain – the same types of sneakers that football fans crammed into their bags when ‘they were following Liverpool and Everton across Europe.

Much like the Cunard Yanks, who unloaded the American rhythm and blues records on the docks of Liverpool that would shape the scene from which the Beatles emerged, what was brought to the city from afar has always played an important role in his identity. Wade Smith’s story is no different.

Upon its return from Europe, and with Wade Smith’s first premises settled on Slater Street, the store built its success on the back of the humble Trimm Trab, an adidas training shoe that found its true home on the England football terraces throughout the 1980s. The store is said to have sold 110,000 pairs of sneakers over the decade

Robert Wade Smith, owner of the Wade Smith clothing store with a selection of some of his workout shoes housed in his stylish downtown apartment in January 2000

With fans swapping Fred Perry and Pringle sweaters for a balaclava and Trimm Trabs, Wade Smith has found himself at the epicenter of a rapidly growing subculture. Casuals made a pilgrimage to the store to browse the rarest silhouettes of adidas sneakers and clothing from Italian brands like Sergio Tacchini.

By 1989 the store was an established name and moved to more elaborate premises on Mathew Street.

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Move over time. Wade Smith turned to new fashion trends with his offering of Nike Air Max and tracksuits and the larger acid house brands like Kickers and Timberland – the former remaining today a quintessential scouse shoe piece. .

Over the decade, Wade Smith leaned more into high fashion and would become something of a celebrity attraction for his imports of high fashion brands like Prada and Gucci.

Inside the Wade Smith fashion store in Matthew Street Liverpool. Wade Smith was acquired by the Arcadia group in 1998

After changing hands with the Arcadia group, Wade Smith finally closed in 2005 – no longer the dominant force in Liverpool fashion.

ECHO launches a new 8-page paper nostalgia section every Wednesday. You can order a copy here or buy a copy of the Echo’s 64-page Memory Lane special, filled with nostalgic photos and articles here.

However, the store’s heritage still permeates contemporary Liverpool. and its beginnings remain surrounded by legend and romanticism.

At Wade Smith, Liverpool had a store that found the sole of the city.

The Kingsway Tunnel, also known as the Wallasey Tunnels, celebrates its 50th anniversary on June 24.


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