June Cate’s life wasn’t always about golf. Before joining Adidas Golf in 2004 as a shoe designer, he had aspirations as a professional skateboarder and even as a touring musician with three different bands.
Fast forward to the present day, and Cate is now bringing some of his favorite adidas skate and Originals designs from the past few years to golf, such as the Samba, Stan Smith and Superstar. Turning a street sneaker into a golf shoe is a process that may seem simplistic to an outsider who sees only surface level changes, such as a reworked outsole. But, as Cate will tell you, there’s a lot more going on under the hood.
On the other side of the coin, he has been instrumental in making the TOUR360, Adidas Golf’s most “traditional” performance shoe, into what it is today. That means the introduction of patented adidas technologies like full-length BOOST cushioning in the midsole, as well as Climaproof weatherproof protection for the outer materials, all while maintaining the same signature wraparound silhouette that the shoe had from the start.
Hypegolf caught up with the seasoned product designer to talk about balancing performance and aesthetics, staying ahead of trends, what makes a successful partnership and much more.
Golf style these days is less about imitating the pros and more about keeping up with trends in streetwear, athleisure and even high fashion. How has adidas been part of that?
On the footwear side, we started incorporating trends that we saw quite early on when we launched our adicross franchise and the adicross 1 in 2011. It was then that I got my first chance to bring in my skate influence and the shoes I loved to wear and skate. in, such as the Gazelle and Campus, as part of my designs. We then started building head-to-toe looks with our adicross range of clothing, keeping our designs moving forward and staying current (or ahead of) trends. Fast forward to today, we have now brought the brand’s most iconic models such as Stan Smith, Samba and Superstar into the golf space.
When you consider taking a Stan Smith or a Samba and introducing them to golf, how does that process begin?
First it starts with what model makes sense for our sport – what would translate well and resonate with the golf consumer and draw new consumers to golf. Once that’s defined, we’ll start communicating with our Originals team to align with the vision and direction for the shoe. For the Stan Smith Golf, we met with them regularly to show off our initial designs and discuss all the performance features that make it a golf shoe, while of course maintaining the design integrity that makes the shoe so unique.
What are the keys to taking a football, tennis or skate shoe and making it perform for golf?
Honestly, it has to be a balance. We do our best to work with the original design as a template and work almost inside out, keeping the technology hidden. For example, with the Stan Smith we found ways to make walking 18 holes more comfortable by hollowing out the cupsole and adding a lowered PU heel wedge. We’ve also used a waterproof recycled synthetic leather along with a number of internal support features that give you the performance you need during the golf swing, while maintaining the same design. For the outsole, I used the existing circular pattern as traction elements, just made it bigger and extended outwards for traction. If you look at the bottom of the shoe, you can see the design line from our golf version to the original version.
“The TOUR360 came in and it was bold, athletic, technical and progressive. It made people nervous.”
The TOUR360, adidas Golf’s highest quality shoe, has been around for a while. What has been the key to moving this model forward and are there any versions that particularly stand out to you?
The key is to continue to drive innovation, technology and performance coupled with a very rich and high-end aesthetic. But more importantly, we are a performance brand and we want to deliver the best product for the athlete, period. In addition, it must carry a certain design line, so that you know it is a TOUR360 when you see it.
For me, the very first TOUR360 stands out the most. In 2005, golf shoes were very traditional and classic. The market was flooded with all white, black and brown saddle shoes. Then came the TOUR360 and it was bold, athletic, technical and progressive. It made people nervous. I remember being at our sales meeting in Pinehurst and you could tell the room was blown away by the design. I was newly hired as a color designer in 2004, so I was able to watch the shoe take shape from the early sketches to the final execution.
How did something like the TOUR360 x Waffle House come about?
We wanted to stay away from the same old stuff we’ve seen from the other brands. We thought, how can we connect to that part of the world in a cool new way? We knew from the experience and success of our limited edition Crossknit shoe that we launched in 2017 that was associated with a Pimento Cheese sandwich that food items are doing well around that time of year. We looked around the area for inspiration, and since Waffle House is such an iconic restaurant in the South, we thought it would be cool to collaborate with them on a fun design that would also be unexpected.
Given adidas’ recent emphasis on sustainability, has the use of recycled materials been a challenge for product designers?
It just forces us to think differently, especially if we hold ourselves to a high standard when it comes to performance. Before we even put pen to paper, we meet as a team to discuss the materials that go into the shoe’s makeup. Whether it’s leather, synthetic or textile, we need to make sure it meets our recycled content standards. I’m actually proud to work for a brand that is at the forefront, especially in golf, when it comes to using more sustainable materials in our products. We will continue to evolve and push this initiative, so there is much more to come!
How much data goes into designing a golf shoe from a performance point of view? Do you ever work with force plates?
Data informs every shoe we make. As the technology continues to improve, we will continue to use it as part of our design process. From using force plates for improved traction data, heat mapping to better understand weight distribution, as well as Aramis studies to find areas in the upper to improve your golf swing. Golfers can continue to expect this from us and we will continue to use it in products to come, so stay tuned!