It’s often said that the historical pendulum of youth culture swings every 20 years, so it’s no surprise, then, that we are living through an alt-rock renaissance. Once popular in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, the subgenre has now found a second life among Gen‑Z listeners, who are rediscovering the in-your-face sound and style of the movement thanks to TikTok and a yearning for Y2K style – baggy JNCO jeans, wallet chains, chunky skate shoes and all.
You only have to look at the huge live shows from Limp Bizkit, the epic Sick New World festival in Las Vegas headlined by System Of A Down and new bands taking inspiration from the 2000s sound, like Spiritbox and Wargasm, to acknowledge the reality of the revival. Still not convinced? According to Google Trends, people are searching for it more than ever.
Two decades on from its initial reign – and given how unflatteringly it’s been treated since – it’s easy to forget just how phenomenally influential the scene actually was. Reaching across pop, rock and hip-hop, from 1997 to 2003 it seeped into every aspect of mainstream culture. In 1999, Fred Durst managed to secure Eminem, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg and just about every other big name for the music video for Break Stuff. And a year later, in 2000, Linkin Park’s debut album Hybrid Theory outsold albums released by Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and N*Sync that same year with over 27 million copies purchased worldwide.
Now, it’s bubbling up into the mainstream all over again, from Heaven by Marc Jacobs’ collaboration with Deftones to contemporary artists like Lil Uzi Vert rocking Tripp NYC pants on the red carpet, bringing the look to a brand-new generation of fans who are discovering it for the first time.
But beyond all the skate-obsessed frat couture of Fred Durst and the steroidal goth glam of Coal Chamber that the subculture is best remembered for, one aspect that’s often forgotten is the proliferation of sportswear within the scene – in particular adidas apparel – which became the subversive uniform for a new generation of outsiders.
“The last thing people would expect is me sporting sportswear and a tracksuit,” says Korn frontman Jonathan Davis, whose adidas two-piece kickstarted the trend. “We were rebelling against everything. And it just went with exactly the opposite of what people thought rock should be.”
Inspired by the uniforms of B‑boys in NYC and the tracksuits popularised by rap-rock pioneers Run‑DMC, Korn adopted adidas three-stripe tracksuits and trefoil printed sportswear as a blatant middle finger to traditional alt-rock dress codes. For a new generation of millennials coming of age in the ‘90s, the band’s technicolour reinvention of sound and style was representative of alt-rock and rejection of boundaries, “That’s something you have when you’re like 24 years old,” Davis recalls. “You don’t give a fuck and then you get older and you start settling down and shit. But at that time, it was fun. We were just us against the world.”
A host of other artists began to dabble with similar styles. Golden State natives Deftones incorporated significant amounts of adidas into their overarching skater look, most notably Chino Moreno wearing the adidas Campus. The same can be said for Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst who also shared an affinity for three stripes, having famously worn adidas tracksuits in music videos like My Way while the rest of the Jacksonville band donned superstars and Campus on stage at their infamous Woodstock 99 show.
Ahead of Korn’s 30th anniversary next year, the music titans have partnered with adidas for a special capsule collection, out now. The drop includes two pairs of sneakers – the Campus 00s and the Supermodified – along with seven pieces of apparel: two T‑shirts, a black and white Korn logo hoodie, one black and white tracksuit, and one purple tracksuit with sequinned trousers.
Anyone who’s a longtime fan of the band will know this is a watershed moment for Korn. “We wanted to do a collaboration with adidas because you know we never got any love from them,” says Davis of the German sportswear giant who, at the time, refused Korn the same endorsement deal as Run-DMC in 1986.
Instead, adidas offered to give Korn free merch to wear onstage in return for the massive levels of free advertising they were getting. But this wasn’t enough for the band. “That’s when I took it upon myself to get my tracksuits and start customising and doing this stuff,” he says. “I made adidas kilts, I made adidas sparkly tracksuits and all that stuff.”
To mark Korn’s collaboration with adidas, we take a look back at some of the most iconic adidas moments in alt-rock.
Korn’s Kerrang cover, 1996
Korn’s love for adidas can be traced all the way back to 1994 when Davis wore a black-and-red adidas tracksuit in the debut music video for Blind. From there, the band continued to endorse adidas in many of their music videos, press appearances and live shows. This cover shot from Kerrang’s 1996 issue features Davis in a custom sequin tracksuit while guitarist Head stands behind in an adidas trefoil logo tee.
Jonathan Davis’ custom adidas silk Dragon tracksuit for the 1997 Grammys
As Korn’s sounds got louder and weirder, so did Davis’ custom adidas tracksuits. Going beyond the embellished tracksuits synonymous with the mid-’90s, Davis took the twin sets to new heights at the end of the decade thanks to flamboyant patterns and colours. This adidas Dragon silk version, worn at the The Grammy Awards in 1997, demonstrated how sportswear could be elevated for the red carpet.
Deftones performing live in Nottingham, UK, 1997
Deftones distanced themselves from the alt-rock scene, but the band’s dreamy and thoughtful mood and effortlessly cool Cali style set them up as the cooler older brother of the movement. Here frontman Chino Moreno wears a pair of black adidas Campus on stage during the Deftones performance on their Adrenaline Tour at Rock City, Nottingham in 1997.
Korn members in adidas tracksuits and various adidas shoes, 2000
Jonathan Davis might’ve been the frontman for adidas, but the wider members of Korn had an equal affinity for the three-stripe brand, too. This image, taken ahead of one of their performances in 2000, demonstrates the diversity of adidas products worn by the Bakersfield five. Head wears a pair of adidas Campus, while Davis, Fieldy and original drummer David Silveria wear Campus, with a couple of bright purple tracksuits thrown in the mix.
Fred Durst wears adidas Campus shoes at the Dysfunctional Family Picnic, 2000
The style of alt-rock’s jock-in-chief, Fred Durst, is perhaps more explicitly indebted to hip-hop than any other alt-rock band. The Limp Bizkit frontman incorporated adidas Superstar and Campus sneakers alongside track jackets, basketball shorts (with white socks pulled up to the knees) and that infamous red New York Yankees cap.
Papa Roach in adidas, 2000
Every alt-rock fan has watched Papa Roach’s Last Resort video from 2000. With one of the catchiest hooks of the millennial rap-rock revolution, the band of musical misfits from Vacaville, CA, grappled their way into mainstream consciousness in nothing but all-black fits and adidas kicks. Frontman Jacoby Shaddix dons a pair of adidas Campus while other members join on the white light stage in Superstars. The looks from this music video swiftly became the band’s defacto style, as seen in numerous shots from the era.
When Slipknot appeared on the cover of its self-titled album in 1999, the Iowa crew arrived in red jumpsuits, their freakish masks and a mix of leather boots and adidas sneakers. From the jump, band members wore a mix of black and white Superstars, as well as niche adidas styles from the era like the 1997 Supermodified. The shoe featured a similar shell toe design as the Superstar but the three stripe pattern was tweaked with a more forward-facing placement, meaning that it could still be seen while wearing baggy pants.
Jonathan Davis’ custom adidas kilt, 2005
Though Jonathan Davis is most famous for his adidas tracksuits, the frontman is just as fondly remembered for his love of kilts, too. From bleached denim, to Chinese silk, pinstripe and his own Scottish family tartan, Davis wore a plethora of styles over the years. Perhaps best is this bespoke adidas kilt adorned with the trefoil logo that was worn during Coca Cola Music Live Festival in September 2005.
Jonathan Davis wearing the adidas x Korn collection tracksuit at Sick New World, 2023
Taking inspiration from Davis’ iconic customisations, this special purple sequin tracksuit is one of the limited edition pieces from Korn’s new collaborative adidas collection. “The new collection is stuff created by us,” says Davis. “This is obviously from the pinnacle of the era with a homage to the purple tracksuit worn in the A.D.I.D.A.S. video.”