The team at adidas rarely do innovation by half-measures, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to their latest creation, the X Ghosted. Not only does this boot look revolutionary, it’s set to perform in that vein also, with a design that features a completely revamped upper and a soleplate that boasts a dynamic carbon fibre plate. For something this unique, we just had to find out more. Enter Philipp Hagel…

Philipp Hagel is the Senior Global Product Manager at adidas, and what he doesn’t know about new product releases on this level, frankly, isn’t worth knowing. So, being that we were intrigued to find out the story behind the new X Ghosted, we spoke with him about the inspiration and process behind the boot, digging into what’s gone into it, both physically and metaphorically. Along with this, Hagel also gave insights into some of the players that were involved in the design process in what was an enlightening conversation about the latest leap in boot design.

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Hi Philipp. The X Ghosted is an amazing looking boot. Where do you start when it comes to inspiration on a project like this?

When it comes to inspiration and insight, everything pretty much starts with the consumer. We did a lot of consumer sessions in a lot of key cities. Meetings in London, in Berlin, we also had athletes coming to Herzo and that really is the starting point. We asked them “what do you actually want from a modern day speed boot?” And from there, that’s where we got things like the low-cut silhouette and for speed we need it to be super lightweight but also not just lightweight on the scale, it also needs to look incredibly fast and light. 

This aesthetic of something new, something fresh was pretty much summed up by the word: ‘Rad’. Our players and consumers wanted something ‘Radical’. Ultimately they also wanted to have some sort of performance innovation so that they can be the fastest version of themselves. That’s the starting point. 

When you then see how this triggers into inspiration, they give you a lot. When you talk to a 15 or 16 year old, they have no filter, which is great and you can see a genuine response to different things. An example of that is translucency – that was a big aspect for us so that we could convey the message that says “this boot is lightweight” and intuitively, that is what we have done with the Mirageskin. It resonates. 

We already had some of the ingredients needed to make that, but it also derived out of the world of fashion. We were looking at the next generation and what they are wearing, looking at how massive sneaker culture is and these are all massive sources of inspiration for us. We listen to what we’re being told but also observe the world that the audience lives in. It’s not just about the game on the pitch. Football is 24/7 and you cannot separate the sport from the culture anymore and this is the essence of our inspiration.

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Our players and consumers wanted something ‘Radical’. Ultimately they also wanted to have some sort of performance innovation so that they can be the fastest version of themselves. That’s the starting point"

Creating something so highly engineered as well as something so aesthetically pleasing, can you tell us what the process looks like in achieving both?

Yeah, absolutely. The process is based on a huge team, it’s not just one function doing their own gig, it’s all of the expertise coming together. Whether it’s consumer insights from product marketing, whether it’s all the design expertise that we have in the brand or the product development and construction expertise, the quality and testing specialists, the sports marketing function - when all of this comes together and gets structured, it supports a very iterative process of becoming better and better.

The challenge is always to make something that works and makes someone better – in this case, helps you in your mission to become faster, while at the same time, it’s aesthetically pleasing and just looks cool, looks rad. It’s what we do every day and it’s a very iterative process but it’s amazing. There’s so much energy that goes into creating a boot like this and so many experts in their fields contributing to it.

Talk to us about Ghosted as a name… when did that come into the process? Was the boot built around that concept or did the concept follow the design of the boot?

We knew that translucency was a very intuitive way to showcase something that is lightweight, but when we wanted to create this optic of the Mirageskin, we had to go through layers of the material. When you layer material, you create this mystic material package that is fused together. You have your inside lining, your top coating, your wire frame structures in the middle providing support and the outcome is actually a pretty unique aesthetic. It’s almost like this ghosting aesthetic. It’s this mirage, this ghosting visual that translates into a meaning in modern life, in the wider sense. “Ghosting” has become synonymous with disappearing. In the football context it’s about leaving defenders behind. It’s this nice double meaning that then resembles the aesthetic and the intent behind the boot. So it’s a concept that was born pretty early in process but then we refined it as we saw it resonating a lot, throughout the prototype stages. 

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The Three Stripes on the forefoot are very distinctive in their execution though there is also a beautiful fade to the branding. What was the thinking behind that?

Yeah fading is a good word. Fading is synonymous with the starting point of the design – for us, creating visual fastness through certain elements that are very precise and certain elements that are blurred. That’s what you see on the Mirageskin and this is also on the branding. When you see the branding on the shoe you will see it has very fixed points but it also has this fading design and blur. Visually, that creates fastness but we also made sure that the sharp areas of the boot have an element of purpose. When you have the boot in your hand, you will see that there is another subtle structure of layering which adds another detail to the boot. That is ultimately all built for purpose but also to create an impact visually.

You’ve said that this is the fastest boot that adidas has ever produced. How does it compare to landmark boots that have gone before it?

What we have is something unique. Whether you look at previous Adizero generations, what we did with the 99gram boot, one thing we have a lot of at adidas is heritage when it comes to speed boots and fast aesthetics. That heritage is so important. You will never know where to go if you don’t know where you have come from and what we have tried to do this year is to provide the next level of speed and of course there is a certain romance to our archive and also a proof of concept in the 99gram boot which is very much our North Star that symbolises where we’re going but it’s important to re-invent and bring those milestones to the next level. In this case the next level of speed was the X Ghosted. 

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'Ghosting' has become synonymous with disappearing. In the football context it’s about leaving defenders behind. It’s this nice double meaning that then resembles the aesthetic and the intent behind the boot"

There’s been a lot of talk about the Carbon Fibre elements of the boot. Just what makes it such a big moment to do what you have with this material?

It’s pretty massive because what we have is the first dynamic Carbon Fibre plate. I can give you all the tech talk about stiff zones and how it is specifically designed for football but what it does in a nutshell, is supports you in your mission to become the fastest version of yourself, in the process of acceleration and propulsion. So in a nutshell, the boot is flexible when walking or running at a slow speed, but through the process of acceleration, getting faster and faster and faster, the plate will stiffen up and this will help you in the push off moment. That’s what supports you most with this boot. It’s such a dynamic and intelligent material. It’s designed specifically for this movement and it’s a real achievement in excellence. 

For such a statement product, how do you keep re-setting standards and what’s the response been like from the players who have tested it?

I’d say that’s a bit of our mission, we constantly want to push the boundaries of innovation, we want to push the boundaries of design and of what’s possible. It’s not just that we’re competitive and like to get better and better, it’s ultimately about what the consumer demands. When you talk to football players, when you talk to athletes, they pretty much know what they want and it’s a very very high standard. It’s incredible fun to constantly meet and shatter their expectations. That drives you to create another level of innovation. It’s always about climbing the ladder to push the boundaries and in this case, achieve next levels of speed. 

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Football boots have this unique ability to unlock emotion. What’s it like to see the reaction to a product you’ve worked on from elite players?

I’d say that’s the biggest reward we can get out of our jobs. Whether you put the product in front of consumers or academy players or some of the biggest names in the industry. When you show them something and you see their eyes brighten up… we all love football and we all see football boots as the magical piece needed to help make us look good on the pitch and perform even better. We had special moments like this through the process with the X Ghosted. We knew we had the ingredients to spark that emotion with our athletes and now we’ve cooked them up to build up this next level of speed. What’s more the players are on board, they’re into it.

Can you tell us about some of the players who have given their input into the creation of the X Ghosted?

A nice anecdote was when an ex-Dortmund player, now at Inter Milan Achraf Hakimi – he is very attack minded – he came here to see the product. He embodies that modern speed player. On paper he is a defender but he needs speed for his game like nobody else because he is going up and down the line and he really has set new standards this season at Dortmund and will bring this to Inter for sure. I remember his eyes when he saw the product. We talked him through it, it was a very special moment. Mo Salah has been on board as part of the journey and that’s kind of the highest blessing that you can get, the same for Gabriel Jesus.

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The adidas X Ghosted will be available from 11 August at