It must have been 1982. I was eight years old, in the second grade at school. We just got a new after school teacher, a young guy. He was relaxed, but perfectly capable of managing a group of busy kids as we were. And he had a bag. An Adidas bag. It was dark blue with a small flower in the upper right corner.
It’s difficult to imagine now, but there were very few Western brands in the Soviet Union back in 1982. I think I can name all Western brands I knew by the time I was 8 years all. Pepsi (available in Kiev and Moscow, but not in many places outside). Fanta (available only in Moscow. I was one of the very few kids in my school who’d ever tasted it then). Lancôme (my mother had some Lancôme cosmetics, no idea where she got them from). Marlboro (again, my mother had a pullover with Marlboro written on it. I had no idea it had anything to do with cigarettes). Wrangler (mother’s jeans). Opium (perfume by Yves Saint Laurent. I still get nauseous when I smell it. Luckily, my mother didn’t wear it). That’s it. Of course many more brands had found their way through the iron curtain through foreign visitors and occasional Soviet travellers abroad. But most of the brands I mentioned had gotten themselves a contract with Soviet authorities and were importing their products on a large scale.
So sometimes around 1982 someone at Adidas managed to do things ‘right’. And without advertising or even being widely available in the shops Adidas got their brand as far as into the minds of 8-year olds.
“Wow, that’s Adidas!” – one of the kids said when the new teacher put his bag on his desk. We were all proud to be aware of the latest trends and know brand names. Those who didn’t know, wisely kept silent.
“Yes” – the teacher smiled obviously pleased by the instant raise of status his bag gave him.
Since last Saturday I have my very own pair of Adidas shoes. They are white-and-red and have the modern triangle logo. It’s my first pair ever and they brought upon a wave of memories and emotions. I do miss the flower, though.