Most people who have a signature shoe are pretty well known.
But I'd venture to guess that many wouldn't recognize the face of Adidas' best-selling shoe of all time.
Stan Smith—formerly the No. 1 ranked men's tennis player and winner of the 1971 U.S. Open and 1972 Wimbledon—also happens to have a signature shoe that shares his name. And that shoe has been the heart and soul of the company's sales for decades.
Stan Smiths, according to Adidas' 2014 annual report, are the best-selling shoes in the history of the footwear firm, with more than 40 million pairs sold.
Smith became the face of the shoe by chance. The "Haillet," a plain white tennis shoe with green accents was first developed in 1965 for Frenchman Robert Haillet, was the first incarnation of the popular shoe. By 1971, Haillet had retired, so Adidas turned to Smith, who was in the prime of his career, as its sneaker spokesman.
So how did an accomplished, but relatively unknown, U.S. tennis player's shoes become so popular? A shift from performance to fashion. Stan Smiths haven't changed much since inception as a very simple white shoe with a green trim, though Adidas offers a broader range of trim colors today.
But sometimes simple is better. The sneaker's clean design has been the key to its cross-generation popularity. Rapper Jay-Z even gave the shoe a shout out on his 2001 album "The Blueprint."
Adidas pulled the shoe from the market for 2012, and by 2013 they were nearly impossible to find. That didn't stop celebrities from wearing them, but most fans were left out in the cold, so much so that they lobbied the company to bring the shoe back. Adidas listened and Stan Smiths returned to the market in 2014 for the 50th anniversary. More pairs of Stan Smiths were sold that year than in 2010-13 combined.
In 2015, Business Insider put the shoes on its list of the 18 most important sneakers of all time.
Today, Smith may not have the prestige of Michael Jordon or LeBron James, but when it comes to shoes the just-turned 71-year-old is more than holding his own.
Chris Sweeney is easy to find, just look for the bright white Stan Smith shoes. Follow him on Twitter @CSweeneyRPN.