Welcome to Herzogenaurach, the city where you have to choose whether to be Puma or Adidas

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Helmut Fischer was born in Herzogenaurach in 1949 and, interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, admits: «My heart has always been for Puma». Why Puma and why should he specifies it?
Herzogenaurach is a small German town of just over 22,000 inhabitants, not far from Nuremberg, and for decades has lived in a state of rivalry that brought the same citizens to split into two: Puma and Adidas, two of the largest industries and brands of sportswear, were founded here, in Herzogenaurach, after World War II. Born after the split of a family-owned shoe company, Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik. A break more than a split with its negative feelings: Adolf – called “Adi” – one of the two brothers who ran it founded Adidas, while the other, Rudolf – known as “Rudi” – built Puma.

A bit Montecchi and a BIT Capuleti, in this city of Bavaria by the glorious textile past, the inhabitants began to join factions and “feuds” hovering as if they were two rival families. Many of them worked and still work for the two companies present nowadays in Herzogenaurach: Puma has its headquarters on the north of the river Aurach, while Adidas on the south.
This split, over the years, has also had repercussions on everyday life: in the past, “mixed” marriages were banned, there were different places to avoid being in contact with the “rivals”, each one had their own trusted shop like the butcher or the pub and the two teams in the town, ASV Herzogenaurach and FC Herzogenaurach, respectively represented Adidas and Puma.
But that’s not all because also religion and politics were involved in creating specific identities: those who married the Puma cause were Catholic and conservative, while Adidas were Protestant and Social Democrats.
In short, from clothing to choice of where to drink, every facet was dominated by the pressing and Herzogenaurach became famous for being “the city of bent necks”: a person before greeting and starting a conversation with another person, checked what shoes he was wearing.

But why there is so much hatred? Let’s take a step back. In 1924, the two brothers Adi and Rudi decided to start a shoe factory with so many beautiful dreams and a small room: the first place, in fact, was the room where their mother lay the laundry. Adolf was involved in the creation and manufacture of shoes, while Rudolf paid attention to the distribution.
The turn was a decade later: it is said that they reached international exploitation in 1936 by supplying shoes to Jesse Owens, the black US runner who dominated the Berlin Olympics and won four gold medals. For the Dassler brothers that was their luck.
But business brothers argued often. Many, too many quarrels, a resounding during a World War II bombardment. Thus ended the hostilities, the two in 1948 decided to split the company half by spreading the employees. Adolf, therefore, created Adidas (a pun between Adi, his diminutive, and initials of surname), while Rudolf his company who initially called Ruda before the present name Puma.

For more than 70 years, however, the inhabitants of Herzogenaurach have lived a “civil war”, but today according to Helmut Fischer this rivalry has been very severed. Of course, on the street you can see different logos, but according to the mayor German Hacker the climate is much lenient. And he says that in the past he had to wear an Adidas shoe and a Puma shoe at the same time or balance himself dressing both companies. The first citizen also built a new fountain with a statue depicting two children playing the rope and wearing both shoes, while in 2009 Puma and Adidas employees played a mixed team match (workers against executives and have won the first 7-5) as a sign of reconciliation. The used ball had impressed the marks of both companies.
Two big industries in the hands of two brothers. And then there would be Horst Dassler, son of Adolf, who inherited the company and who in 1973 created the Arena, another well-known brand of sportswear apparel. But this is another story…

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