Where other bands wore the clothes, though, Korn sublimated them into the edgy outsider culture. Twisting the popular schoolyard conceit that adidas is an acronym for All Day I Dream About Sex, 1997 single A.D.I.D.A.S. dared play with the sort of filth-under-the-fingernails sleaze and sexual self-deprecation that was unimaginable from nu-metal contemporaries who pushed a more toxic machismo. JD explains that it also reflected how ubiquitous the adidas brand had been as a kid in America, and that it was as ripe for nightmarish subversion as swing-sets and hopscotch courts. Even the title of parent album Life Is Peachy referenced American teens’ Pee-Chee All Season Portfolio which they’d commonly carve up to say ‘Life is Peachy, but sex is an All-Season sport’ (Pee-Chee declined to have their product depicted on the record’s artwork).
“It was some childish shit,” Jonathan shrugs, “but it worked, because we were kids at the time.”
adidas were more open to on-trend exposure, giving Korn some free merch to wear onstage in return for the massive levels of free advertising they were getting. Where Run-D.M.C. had parleyed their unofficial brand representation into a very real working relationship, which culminated with 1986 banger My adidas, however, the German giant refused the metallers the same deal.
“Get this shit,” JD shakes his head, clearly still sore from the slight. “Their reply was, ‘adidas is a sports company. We do sports, not music.’ I would look out into the crowd and see all these kids wearing adidas shit at our shows, but they couldn’t do anything for us. Then you’ve got Kanye West and all these other people with their own [custom] shoes [in the years since]. What the flying fuck?!”
Refusing to miss an opportunity, Puma (the rival sportswear company started by Rudolf Dassler, brother of adidas founder Adi Dassler) signed Korn to what was reportedly a $500,000 deal in 1998, actively featuring the band and their music in Kevin Kerslake-directed advertisements while directly targeting nu-metal fans. “We switched to Puma because they told us they’d put us in a commercial and give us a little money to wear their shit,” Jon says, simply. “We were just like, ’Fuck yeah! That’s more than adidas ever did for us!’ It wasn’t a sell-out thing. It was about respect.”