The legendary feud between the two brothers lasted to the grave. Before their deaths both brothers demanded that their graves remained separate, specifically that they be buried as far apart as possible. In accordance with that wish, they were buried at opposite ends of Herzogenaurach cemetery.
Herzogenaurach is the hometown of the Dassler Brothers - Rudolph and Adolph - on the banks of the Arach river in the state of Bavaria, Germany. In the late 1940s with tensions between them rising after years of working together, the two brothers split and formed two separate shoe companies. Two world famous shoe brands - Puma and Adidas - were born from this rivalry. These two companies would become iconic giants in the world of sporting goods.
The elder brother Rudolph was born in 1898, with the younger brother Adolph coming two years later in 1900. Adolph was colloquially known as "Adi" amongst friends and family.
Cristoph Dassler, the father, worked in a shoe factory, which often led to speculation that the two brothers were inspired by their father to enter the shoe business. However, Cristoph wanted Adi to become a baker and Rudolph to become a policeman.
But Adi had a different dream. He wanted to be an athlete, and he used to participate in various games. That experience showed him that there were no suitable shoes for players to wear in any sport. Adi believed that if a specialised type of shoe could be made for specific sports, then the performance of players would improve.
But before he could pursue this ambition, the First World War broke out and he was sent to fight in Europe after joining the military.
After returning home from the war, Adi set up a small shoe factory in his mother's bathroom. He was assisted by the experienced shoemaker Carl Jake, and shortly afterward started making athletic footwear and sandals in his small factory.
Germany experienced a severe economic depression after the war, and the struggle to buy the raw materials needed for shoes became insurmountable. That's why he started collecting discarded army gear from across the war-torn countryside. He started making shoes from the skins of discarded army helmets and water bags, and slippers from the fabric of abandoned parachutes.
In addition to the lack of raw materials, low electrical supply was another challenge, which limited his ability to operate his shoe making machinery.
His solution to this issue was to connect the leather milling machine to a bicycle with an attached dynamo. He used this to power his operation for years.
Two years later, Rudolph joined Adi's shoemaking business and the two formed a company called Gebruder Dassler Schufabrik. Adi, the innovator between the two, looked after the technical aspects of shoe making, while Rudolph took charge of sales, marketing and promotions.
The Dassler brothers started producing football boots made from leather in 1925. The bottom of these boots had nailed studs and track shoes with spikes, which were a new innovation at the time. With a workforce of only a dozen, they produced up to 50 pairs of shoes a day.
They achieved their first major success at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games, where Lina Radke won gold in the women's 800m race in Dassler's company shoes. Lina Radke's record-breaking win proved Adi's theory - you can run faster and perform better - in shoes designed by them. The Gebruder Dassler Shoefabric - Dassler brothers' shoe company - became the favorite shoes of competitors in the 1932 Los Angeles and 1936 Berlin Olympics.
In the 1936 Olympics, US track-and-field star Jesse Owens won all four gold medals wearing Dassler's shoes. Owens' association with Dassler's shoes proved to be a boon to the company's success.
With Owens winning the medal, Dassler's company became an international institution in the sports world, and their sales skyrocketed.
Rudolph went to war when World War II began, while Adi stayed on to run the company.
Due to the war, there was once more a severe shortage of raw materials, especially leather. Despite this crisis, Gebruder Dassler Schuhfabrik continued to produce shoes for players. By 1943, they were the only sports shoe company in Germany.
However, during the final two years of the war the factories were closed and they were forced to produce weapons.
After the war ended, differences between the two brothers began to arise. The two brothers lived in the same house with their wives and children, however conflict brewed between the brothers as well as between their wives.
Legend has it that one day during the war, Adi took refuge with his family in a bomb shelter during a bomb attack. Rudolph had already taken refuge in the bomb shelter with his family.
Upon entering the bomb shelter, Adi said, 'The dirty bastards are back.' referencing the enemy fighter jets. But Rudolph thought that he and his family were the target of his brother's words.
After two brothers split up, they also split the Gebruder Dassler Schuhfabrik company assets between them. Adi formed 'Adidas' shortly after and continued producing shoes under this new name.
Rudolph, on the other hand, took his business to the other side of the river. There he opened a company called Ruda, later renamed 'Puma'.
The family and the city was also divided into two parts. Some workers joined Adidas, some went to Puma, but a fierce and lasting rivalry developed between the two parties.
With each side of the river declaring support for their respective companies, any Adidas fan wearing Adidas shoes would find themselves unwelcome on the Puma side of the river. This division went so deep that in the end both sides would have their own bakery, bar, and sports club.
Many people took advantage of this conflict between the two brothers.
For instance, workmen would sometimes go to work at Rudolph's factory wearing Adidas shoes. Seeing this, Rudolph would get angry and ask them to bring puma shoes from the basement of his factory and wear them. They could get these shoes for free.
While the two brothers never reconciled while alive, time has done much to dull the rivalry between the families.
Frank Dassler, grandson of Rudolf Dassler, grew up wearing Puma shoes, but now works for Adidas as the company's chief legal counsel. He faced pushback from his family at the time, even from the citizens of his city, but Frank did not care.
He said, 'This enmity was many years ago, now these things are history.'
In 1987, Horst Dassler, Adolph Dassler's son, sold Adidas to French industrialist Bernard Tapie. On the other hand Rudolph's sons Armin and Jared Dassler sold 72% of the shares of Puma to Swiss company Cosa Liebermann.
Since being listed on the stock market, the ownership of the two companies is no longer in the hands of two families.
The workforce has also diversified, now most employees of both the companies are from outside the city, and the few people in the city who are still employed by the two companies are not as competitive as before.
While employees of the two companies do make comments about each other's clothes when they meet on the street, now this is done purely for fun.