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These Two Brothers Founded Adidas And Puma – But They Actually Loathed Each Other

Sibling Rivalry

Some siblings get along great and say that they are best friends. Other siblings have never been able to get along, and with each passing day, the sibling rivalry increases. Just look at Cain and Able from the Bible. Or Romulus and Remus in Roman mythology. While these are well-known stories, there are other sibling rivalry stories that you may not be familiar with, such as the story of Rudolf and Adolf Dassler.


The Dassler brothers grew up in the German town of Herzogenaurach. The brothers were born into a family of four children. Rudolf was born in March 1898, and Adolf was born in November 1900. Early on, the family worked in the dying and weaving business. When the local textile trade dried up, the family changed their career paths. When they were young, the two brothers helped out with their mother’s laundry business. It wasn’t until later that they followed in their father’s footsteps and got into the footwear business. The boys’ father started out stitching felt slippers. Soon, he started working as a cobbler at a factory near the family home.

Early Passions

When Adolf finished school, he got an apprenticeship as a baker. It turned out that he had no interest in baking. Instead, he spent his spare time pursuing his passions such as boxing, soccer, skiing, hockey, and track and field. His older brothers went to fight in World War I, but since Adolf was too young, he remained at home. When baking didn’t work out, Adolf began working with his father, learning how to make shoes. He combined his interest in sports and his interest in shoe design to create a shoe that could enhance sporting performance. He was creating shoes for many different sports. When he went off to war, his dream of making shoes had to be put on hold.

Economic Devastation

Although World War I ended in November 1918, Adolf remained in the military until October 1919. When he returned home, he saw how the war devastated his hometown. His mother had to close the family’s laundry service. With no job, he started working on his specialized sports shoes. He set up a small shop and took a job repairing shoes to pay the bills. Materials were scarce due to the war. He scavenged the countryside looking for old leather, helmets, and parachute silk that was left behind after the war. He began experimenting with materials that would be tough but lightweight.

Asking For Help

Adolf went to his father for shoemaking advice. He also asked his childhood friend, Fritz Zehlein, for some help. His family owned a blacksmith business, and he helped make the earliest pair of cleats. Rudolf didn’t join the company until 1923. Before that, he was training to be a police officer but chose to work with his brother instead. By 1925, the two brothers were creating leather football boots and spiked running shoes. Adolf was the creator, and Rudolf was handled the business side of things. It wasn’t long before the German track and field team were wearing their shoes. Soon, people who played other sports were using the shoes. They got most of their exposure when German middle distance runner, Lina Radke won a gold medal while wearing a pair of the spikes at the Amsterdam Olympic Games. Later, another runner won the gold wearing the brothers’ spikes at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic games.

A Family and a Town Split

The two brothers were a team. Adolf was blessed with ingenuity and Rudolf was blessed with business know-how. Together, the men were unstoppable. Both brothers married, and their wives did not get along. Despite this, they still lived in a single villa together. The brothers struggled to get along with one another, so after World War II, they ended their partnership and went their separate ways. Not only was their rift hard on their family, but it was also tough on the town. The residents were split because half had pledged their allegiance to Adolf and the other half pledged theirs to Rudolf. Rudolf went off to war, and Adolf thought that he could have the shoe business all to himself.

Adidas and Puma

When the two brothers went their separate ways, they each started their own footwear empire with one brother starting Adidas and the other brother starting Puma. They divided their assets and employees between them. Even their family took sides. Their mother sided with Rudolf and this sister, Marie, sided with Adolf. After splitting the business, the two brothers never spoke again.

Hometown Economy

Both brothers’ businesses were really taking off, and they were responsible for most of the economy in their hometown. The two factories were on opposite sides of town, and workers shopped and lived n their own side of town. They never crossed the other side of the river from where they worked and lived. Even marriages from couples on opposite sides of the river.

Adidas Is On Top

For years Adidas was bigger than Puma. This was thanks to Adolf’s technical expertise and his connections in the sporting world. Puma remained relatively small. When Rudolf’s son, Armin grew up, he joined the business. Thanks to his savvy business skills, the company grew to be as big as Adidas. Unfortunately, Nike took over the United States and continued to dominate the athletic footwear market. Although the men had a new rival, it never brought them back together. When Rudolf was dying in 1974, he asked Adolf to come to speak to him, but Adolf declined. Four years later, Adolf passed away.

A Sad Ending

These Two Brothers Founded Adidas And Puma – But They Actually Loathed Each Other. They would be thrilled to know that their businesses are still successful today, but it is a shame that these two brothers never spoke again.

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