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Stan Smith: The man behind fashion's favorite pair of Adidas

Stan Smith on iconic Adidas
Stan Smith on iconic Adidas 03:44

Stan Smith earned seven Grand Slam titles over his career. But most people know him for his success in fashion. 

If you were to Google images of Smith, you'd come up with pages of the classic white and green Adidas sneaker before landing on a photo of the man it's named after.

CBS News correspondent Meg Oliver met up with Smith at the Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head, South Carolina, where he remains in full swing at the age of 70 years old.

After Smith won the U.S. Open in 1971, Adidas took notice and offered to make his name and likeness the soul of its newest shoe. 

"Well, Adidas had created the first leather tennis shoe," Smith told Oliver. "Everybody said, 'Leather shoes, that's really amazing.'"

When Oliver asked Smith what it was like to have his face on a shoe he responded, "Well, sometimes I would look down to return serve, I'd look down at my shoe, and I'd say, 'Wow, that's my face on there.'"

In 1972, Smith won Wimbledon wearing his own Stan Smiths, but there's no way he could have predicted the cult-like fashion staple the shoe has become. 

Stan Smiths have been a hit on the runway and in music. 

"The first time I heard I was in a rap song my daughter, who was about 13 at the time, she said, 'Dad, you're famous, Jay Z has you in a rap song,'" Smith said. "I said, 'Oh, really? Who's Jay Z?'"

The tennis-pro-turned-fashion-icon owns at least 60 pairs. 

At the Adidas flagship store in New York, you can see how the brand has broken its traditional tennis white boundaries. There, you can have Stan Smiths in metallic, knit and floral patterns. 

Smith's youngest grandchild, 8-month-old Tatum, still prefers the classic. It's a taste of success that nearly soured just a few years ago. Citing an oversaturated market, Adidas pulled Stan Smiths from store shelves in 2012. 

"It sort of lost its niche, its little momentum," Smith said. "And they said, 'Look, it- we're going to relaunch it. We're really committed to it.'" 

After a two-year hiatus, Adidas brought the shoe back with a younger demographic in mind -- 15- to 24-year-olds. 

Stan Smith, the man behind fashion's favorite pair of Adidas  CBS News

"I said, 'Those are the last people that know who I am,'" Smith said. "And, uh, I thought it was a little bit stupid. And, little did I know, that their plans were quite creative."

Since its launch, Adidas has sold more than 50 million Stan Smiths, making it one of the brand's best-selling sneakers of all time.

"I would say most people that wear my shoe have no idea who I am," Smith said. 

But that was not the case along New York's 5th Avenue, where it took only minutes before Oliver spotted Smith fans from China, Germany and Miami. 

Yes, teenagers still know Stan Smith is more than the name on their sneakers. And though he retired from playing professionally three decades ago, Smith has plenty of game left. 

When Oliver asked how long he thinks he'll continue to play, Smith replied, "Well, only until 96. I figure at 96 I can't play any more than that." 

We'll see if his sneakers can hold up as long.

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