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The Evolution of Music & Sports - Puma

The notion that music and sports make a formidable duo is something that is hard to argue with. The relationship stretches across different domains, be it crowds chanting along to fire up their teams or themed music performances that have become integral components of large-scale sporting events, with North America’s Superbowl halftime show being amongst the more prominent ones. Needless to say that such events have a tangible impact on consumer behaviours in the aftermath.

The interaction between musical artists and sports goes as far as some artists having changed their lyrics to incorporate references to sport related programs and events to accommodate the circumstances that their music was going to be used in, e.g. Hank Williams Jr.’s contribution to the football programs or even rebellious icons of Joan Jett’s calibre making modifications to their lyrical content for the same purpose.

Needless to say that some genres of music lend themselves better to fit in with sports, hence the prevalence of country, hip hop and rock versus e.g. classical music. The common denominators seem to be obvious as both music and sports are essentially about entertainment and the ensuing crowd interaction during a music show is not dissimilar to how crowds are hyped up during competitive sports events using an appropriate soundtrack.

On a more personal level, being a runner music is pivotal to me as it has the potential to elicit a small but significant effect on performance and proves to be a borderline ideal accompaniment for training. It helps me to focus and overcome sensations of fatigue, amplifies vigour and boosts my mood through disassociation and personal associations to what I am listening to. In essence, it does not only make exercise more fun but can be used as a powerful stimulant to either calm one down or psych one up.

An interesting positive side effect I find with cardio exercises is that when I can synchronize with the beat, it results in greater endurance and can add an element of fun to what at times can feel mundanely repetitive.

Apart from the enhancing effect music can have on sports, there is of course the relationship and association between artists and brands.

An example par excellence is the case of Run DMC, which not only made three stripes borderline congruent with hip hop but also found the brand inspired lyrical content which manifested in the group’s oeuvre and Adidas releasing specific editions as a nod to the group.

A brand that has accompanied me since my earliest youth is Puma.

Puma’s equivalent to the Run DMC collaboration is their nod to the 30th anniversary of Public Enemy release of their Fear of a Black Planet album, which inspired a recent Def Jam themed collaboration and capsule release that is informed by not only the style of the album but also Def Jam’s colourways.

The details of the release catapulted me back into Puma land as I found the Def Jam capsule release to not merely be a throwback move; but the nuances, details and branding to be excellent, paying homage to both Public Enemy and their label in a stylish, honorary and not declamatory way that manages to carry a social-justice charged message which could not possibly be more relevant today.

My first contact with Puma was in the 1980s. As I was an avid fan of Bayern Munich, Adidas was the obvious go-to, however, the association of Bayern’s trainer Udo Lattek and Puma’s endorsement of him made me curious about the brand.

One of my first sneakers I ever owned was the all-white Udo Lattek Velcro sneaker, which in my mind went perfectly well with Miami Vice merchandise I was collecting around the same time, and at least in my imagination the Udo Lattek model was something that Sonny Crocket would naturally wear. Cue Jan Hammer soundtrack.

Udo Lattek’s signature shoes, which through the course of time found different incarnations under a variety of names, were enthusiastically received by sneaker aficionados and became classics in their own right.

Fast-forward to 2020 and a close examination of Puma’s current incarnations shows that the DNA has been retained yet quite a few stylish and functional facets have been added that have made them a personal preferred go-to for sports related gear.

For my daily runs, I have tested and tried a wide array of self-proclaimed leaders in the field of creating the ideal running shoe, which is a moving target.

Now, when it comes to running shoes functionality and comfort reign supreme for me and beat style any given day. Given the aforementioned and being very much into early Jordan era high tops, Puma’s detailed Ralph Sampson variant is a dreamboat in terms of light comfort.

Puma’s low boot Enzo 2 is an example for a running show that surprised me in many aspects as its sole has the grip that keeps you grounded even on slippery ground and the design does not hurt the eye either. The branding is subtle and specifically for running an animal like a puma that adorns your gear only adds to the experience.

Given the state our world is in, sustainable business practices are needed more than ever and it was good to see Puma at the forefront with its FIRST MILE’s initiative. The initiative ticks quite a few boxes in the realm of sustainability as its foci are firmly set on supporting micro-economies in low-economy countries and essentially, turning plastic waste into products. The collection focusses on running gear and especially from a stylish standpoint, has an eye pleasing subtle edge to it.

The Hundreds is a California-based conglomerate that channels its attitude and personal perspective into subculture couture, and collaborations with other brands have been manifold over the years. I was quite excited when I heard about The Hundreds’ collaboration with Puma and what route would be taken.

The outcome is heavily focussed on vintage gear reminiscent of the 1990s with elaborate throwback branding. Both the half-zip neckline camouflage running jacket as well as the more colourful trackpants, offer a myriad of adjustable fit features, space for storage and elasticity.

What is striking is that the collaboration manages to walk the thin line of incorporating both the DNA of The Hundreds and Puma to create something refreshingly new while still honouring the respective brands’ legacies with the outcome being products that can also be worn casually without looking like a hoodlum.

An example par excellence for the successful collaboration between the two brands are the PUMA x THE HUNDREDS Palace Guard Sneakers with the brief having been to create an homage to the iconic style that was prevalent in the 1990s.

Yup, you spotted correctly – there’s preppy and jock-esque elements to the leather upper bits, however, the design is expertly crafted to not just hover in that territory but with its monochromatic edge reminiscent of running shoes gives it a profile that elevates the shoe and gives it a “je ne sais quoi” factor that makes it look much better in the third dimension than photographic depictions would have you think.

Interesting to see how effortlessly Puma delves into such collaborations to create gear with trademarked attributes being married with innovative endeavours.

There are a range of other recent Puma collaborations which might appeal to some more than others, e.g. racing related gear with BMW, Red Bull Racing, Porsche and Mercedes and while it comes with the territory of the respective sport, it is again the finer, subtle details that Puma seems to have a knack for as they are infused and omnipresent in each piece of apparel.

Compared to the many other sports apparel companies, I find Puma to be at the more affordable end, especially when it comes to sport shoes and sneakers as I find them to be more durable and to have an edge specifically when it comes to casual looks – an edge that comes about organically and not as forced as it is the case with many other brands.

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