A predator can take on many forms and over the years that sentiment has rung true when it pertains to the iconic adidas Predator boot.
Worn by legendary players who created legendary moments in them, the Predator has woven itself into the very fabric of the game, emerging as its own piece of football culture.
Since 1994 adidas have released savage new boots onto market, blowing away consumers with revolutionary engineering and design with each iteration.
And with the launch of the Predator 20+ Mutator – a boot featuring Demonskin technology, a unique layer of spikes designed to give players enhanced touch and control of the ball – they have blown up the market once again.
With over 25 years of history, it makes sense to chart the shapeshifting journey of the Predator through the years and with the help of Dean Lokes, VP Football Footwear and Hardwear, we’ve been able to do just that.
We’ve got all of them here so it’s fun just to glance back at them but 1994 is where it all started. I think the players that got those first few pairs, because a few pairs were circulated around the clubs, some of them were shocked by it.
I think that’s what it was, it was a moment in time where the game changed. People were used to wearing things like World Cups, the Copa Mundials and then suddenly this thing arrived.
It was heavy, it was made of rubber to a large extent and everyone was like ‘what is it?’. We want to provoke those moments again in the industry and the shoe became a legendary product because people put the product on and believed they could do things superhuman, they could go on and top right-hand corner, no problem.
They really happened, those moments really happened so the ’94 one was provoking the industry that things were different and could be different with innovation because swerving the ball was a unique opportunity.
That was ’94, it kind of set the journey forward.
1995. Predator Rapier
If we then go to ’95 it was a little update. Everyone knew the boot was very heavy and they wanted to make it lighter. Some of the rubber was removed, some of the details were finessed but it was quite a simple update.
1996. Predator Touch
If we jump to the ’96 Touch, I think this is where the designs and the philosophy started to be a bit more zonal. The whole rubber piece was switched into a three-part zonal area.
It was stretched up the lacing system to have even more striking areas. It was kind of the first time where the red fold-over tongue became so ominous.
It stands out [the black and red], it’s vibrant, it’s strong and it’s a team effect. It just became a USP for the product. I honestly need to go and check why they did it, but it’s stayed and it’s still there, even today you know we’re stilling using red, it’s collective memory, red means Predator. Whether you like it or not, red means Predator.
Obviously traction studs were also introduced at this time, but they probably got a little more famous later on when we used it in later iterations.
1998. Predator Accelerator
In ’98 we then did the Accelerator. For me personally, I’m a big fan of this one. I joined the brand a few years before and it was a moment when the brand changed the design aesthetic a little bit.
It became a little more fluid, the lines became fluid. It was around the era of Equipment and Feet You Wear, so the shape and proportions got softer and rounder.
It was also a moment where the branding was pretty rad, you know like the details on the side. Even the outsole became translucent and again that was the first time you could see into the inner workings of a shoe, so it was pretty cool.
2000. Predator Precision
2002. Predator Mania
If you then go to 2002, again it depends who you are but whether it’s the Accelerator or the Mania or the Precision, it’s kind of a sweet spot where lots of the collectors fall into that love affair.
I think Mania became famous for many things, but somehow the product was almost less important. It had a split tooling, it had new rubber elements on the medial side but the leather became a bit more back in focus, softer and more luxurious.
But incredible moments in sport, particularly if you’re English, just shone out. There were great things from Zidane, great things from Beckham and just became iconic for moments in time as much as the product itself.
2004. The Predator Pulse
2006. Predator Absolute
2007. Predator PowerSwerve
If you go onto ’04 with the Pulse, ’06 with the Absolute and the PowerSwerve, it was an era where I think the innovations were not as big.
The evolution was smaller and the brand chose to slightly put additional influences with innovations in.It’s where inside the shoe became as important as outside the shoe. At this point we introduced an insole which would allow to have a light insole which would mean the lightest Predator or a heavy insole that would allow to get some more momentum and give you more power.
There was swerve but there was also power. This phase of the Predator was I would say evolution rather than revolution, in terms of the period.
2009. Predator X
2012. Predator LZ
2014. Predator Instinct
As we get further into Lethal Zones and beyond we reflect that the journey of the Predator was softening.
It wasn’t as clear, it wasn’t as sharp, it wasn’t fold-over tongues anymore, it was a lot less leather, even synthetic was being brought to the fore.At the time it was right, but in terms of the legacy and the journey we wanted to go on in the future, we felt we were drifting a little bit off path.
For us we reset the franchise. We stopped it to really re-frame where we thought it should go.
2018. Predator 18+
In 2018 we relaunched it knowing that we weren’t going to put any DEMONSKIN type elements on the outside of it, but we knew where we were going beyond it.
We wanted to get the platform and the base set with a great laceless product, great fit, great comfort and great tooling. We knew what was coming and again you’ve seen today what happens afterwards and this was kind of the reset the base to take the next step.
It’s important to separate consumers at this point because I think in terms of the legacy of Predator, the Predator 18 is not in the zone of where the past has been.
But in terms of where the consumers are today, what consumers look for in terms of fit, comfort, high-cuts and the laceless journey, it is a great platform for what a control boot should look and feel like.
It isn’t the old Predator, and as much as some of us are incredibly nostalgic and we love those old shoes, consumers today they may glance at the past, but they want the new and that’s what this is about, it’s a base of a great fundamental control boot.
Now we’ve given you this DEMONSKIN that gives you superhuman powers to just take one step further and hopefully step on the field of play like Beckham used to and feel ‘I’m going to be able to do this’. That’s what it’s all about.
2020. Predator Mutator
We’re part of a bigger group of people who build the final product together, but it is a journey of exploration to get to what you see.
We know what we want to achieve but to try and get this DEMONSKIN to perform and become an aesthetic that’s really pleasing to the eye was a journey.
Originally it was twice as long and we first tested with players they said there was just too much grip.It was too strong and we had to tone it back. That’s part of the learning and testing process, but you will feel the difference.
There’s a little bit of getting used to it because you’ve never had it before, but those old players, imagine trying to get used to a shoe that’s twice as heavy, that’s what the old Predators were.
The boot is soft, it’s light, it’s pliable and it gives you an incredible performance that we believe consumers today are going to be excited about.
I talk about a pinnacle shoe and one of the things we’re quite proud of is that this innovation, or this iteration of innovation, comes down all the price points.
We want consumers who don’t have all the money in the world to also experience this and that’s also important for us.
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