Ahead of the Copa 19+ launch we sat down with Dave Surace, Senior Design Director at Adidas Football, to find out more about the process behind reinventing football's most iconic boot – the Copa.

There's no denying that the Copa 19+ is one of the most innovative and visually striking boots that has been seen in recent years. The Predator is all about control, the X all about speed and the Nemeziz all about agility, but the Copa 19+ is built around touch, embracing the classic DNA of the Copa franchise, but reinventing it for the modern day. No easy task, for sure.

From the considerations surrounding the use of leather to sticking to the adidas mantra of authenticity to progression, Surace delved into the details behind the most high-tech Copa adidas could possibly build. 

Where do you start with something as huge as reinventing the Copa?

We started with who would actually be the player to wear it. We know the Copa Mundial sells, but that’s mostly to the 30+ group. The Copa 19 should be for the 19-20 year olds. We’re looking for someone who’s looking for authenticity, and authenticity doesn’t necessarily mean retro. It just means that it’s really from adidas. We’re also talking about the idea of a modern purist. So this idea that this sense of style comes out as something a bit more elegant and a bit more clean as opposed to some of the other players who are a lot more outlandish and a lot more extroverted. So we defined who that would be conceptually as we were working on the product.

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What were some of the key considerations you had to make?

At adidas, we always put our current zeitgeist first, and that’s really this idea of Futurecraft; everything that we’re building, everything that we’re working on is this idea that it’s built for purpose; that it’s daringly simple and it’s born for culture.

The idea of the Copa ’82 was that it was handcrafted. That shoe is still made in Germany. It represents a certain high-quality level of a German product. And it’s also authentic. It’s a little bit more authentic than it is retro; I mean, there hasn’t been any design changes to it since the early 80s. 

When we came out with the Copa 17, we took a softer approach to it. We said the Copa Mundial’s a great shoe, but at the same time no one in the modern age wants to play in a shoe that’s over 300 grams. So we started to look at how to use the best materials, make it lighter, make it stiffer, and what we came out with was a good shoe. But at the same time it still has a lot of heritage in it.

If the Mundial was authentic then the Copa 18 was a little bit more progressive, but it wasn’t really going far enough yet. So we stripped it back to say that the Copa 19 should really be about Futurecraft. We should try to find the most high-tech materials possible in order to make the design – even if it is an authentic Copa – the most high-tech Copa adidas could possibly build.

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Was it important for you to seek player input for the new design?

Oh absolutely. We actually went to the Bayern under 18 team, at their training ground. We went out and we started having the conversation with a lot of the younger football players, 15-18 years olds, about what Copa meant to them. And they were like, “oh yeah, it’s the coach’s shoe, it’s like my grandfather’s shoe, my great uncle’s shoe," and "this thing is so old.” It was interesting because for someone like me who’s been with the brand for so long, the Copa's right up there with Stan Smith, it’s right up there with the Superstar, but obviously it does mean different things to a different generation. And we had a challenge with that. 

What was their take on leather, and was there ever a consideration about whether to use it for this reinvention?

One of the key things we wanted to find out was does leather still mean something? We’re in the day and age where shoes have gone from leather to synthetic to knit, back to synthetic, you know, moulded materials and so on. Is leather just something that we love because there’s this element of craft in it or is it something that really resonates to a young player? And what they told us was pretty clear: it’s not the material, it’s the design. So the material was one thing, but the way that the shoe looks makes it something else. So they said, “yeah, this feels great, but a lot of the new textile shoes feel great. The benefit to me is what?”

So we came out of that conversation thinking, well that’s interesting to find out, because we really wanted to know what was important; if it was the materialisation or the design. And they told us leather can still be something that can be modernised. But what they wanted to do was take a fresh look at it and the attitude of the product, not necessarily the material itself. 

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With the idea of ‘Futurecraft’ in mind then, what were the essential modern elements that you felt had to be included in the Copa 19?

It’s not so much what would be included as what wouldn’t be. Working with our shoe developers and our material engineers, one of the first things that we laid out for the top price point was that it would be laceless. That would be something new. The reason why we did that was because we had a deeper dive into football anatomy and what does that football anatomy mean to playing the game, how does it fit, how does it feel, how does it move with your body.

Because of that we were able to build with this new material – something that is completely proprietary to adidas – a hybrid upper. In the past, you’ve seen this very clear cut between leather and whatever else is used in the upper. There’s a stitch line, or an overlay, and we just felt like, that feels like the past. That feels like something we’ve always done. But with this new process, we’ve had, we were actually able to create a hybrid upper which has these blurred transitions. It becomes a lot harder to tell now where the leather begins and where the leather ends.

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You’ve touched on how part of the beauty and appeal of the Copa Mundial was the fact that it was handcrafted. How has the construction process changed for the Copa 19?

A lot of the core of this comes from the concept of art inspired science. If we say that the original Copa was craftsmanship, what we wanted to do was bring that forward. The process that we’ve been working with – and this is not the official name for it – but it was this process of this liquid leather. And we just felt that this was a really interesting bridge between art and science. What adidas Copa was, in terms of craftsmanship, like an artists creation, versus where we’re going in the future with 3D printing and completely new materials that give a whole different product experience. 

So that ethos was a driving force in creating the new shoe. And we even looked at it from the point of view of going back to the anatomy, so you can see there’s a real connection between where you’re standing, where you’re rotating, where you’re flexing, where you’re kicking on the upper. That actually starts to create a different look to something that’s purely mechanical. But it started with this idea of aesthetically building out, and building a skeleton, and wrapping that skeleton in muscles and then again, on the very outside, a soft, supple, natural skin.

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Holding the boot in your hand now, is the Copa 19 everything you hoped it would be?

We feel that what we’ve created is something completely and undeniably adidas; no other brand could do this. I think the technology shows that leather is still a relevant material today and in the future. The Copa franchise isn’t just one of our most beloved products, it is a truly iconic part of footballing culture, and in creating the Copa 19 we were inspired by the classic design of the past, while simultaneously embracing the technical innovation of the future. The design is born from the iconic and classical look of the original Copa that is loved by football purists. However, it has been re-designed and re-engineered to deliver an unrivalled performance. It is our most progressive boot to date.

Pick up the adidas Copa 19+ football boots from prodirectsoccer.com