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Amazing History Of Sneakers

From ordinary rubber-soled shoe to functional shoes for sports and to the everyday shoe of today, the sneakers have really come of age. They have an interesting and amazing historical background comprising many phases of changes in trends and modifications by craftsmen and brands. Let’s trace their journey since inception to becoming a choice of millions as they are now, with the help of milestones telling about various style changes that this genre of footwear has undergone.


Plimsolls

At the beginning of the 18th century, running had become a very popular form of exercise in Great Britain and, the early running shoes were leather made. The leather stretches out when it comes in contact with moist. John Boyd Dunlop from the Liverpool rubber company initiated a new method of bonding canvas to rubber and this was the beginning of the Plimsolls.

John Boyd Dunlop

According to legends, the word Plimsoll comes from the name of a man who invented the system that measures the load of the hull of a ship. Since the Brits thought that the rubber in the shoes resembles the hull of the ship, the newly launched shoes were named Plimsoll. The Pimsolls were quite crude because there was no distinctly left or right shoe.

It is interesting that first Plimsolls were not meant for using in sports initially. They were in fact, first marketed for beach footwear and thus were called “sand shoes”.

The first sneakers

A book titled “Kicks: ” published in 2018 and authored by Nicholas Smith narrates the cultural history of this Iconic shoe. The first sneakers according to this book were introduced in 1860 for Croquet.


The Keds enter the scene:

Around 1892, The US Rubber Company, introduced a new version of sneaker that was canvas- topped and rubber-soled and was named Keds. By 1917, mass production of these shoes was started. Since they were too quiet and a person wearing them could sneak around (furtively walk) without being noticed, they were given the name sneaker. There is however another theory about the name “sneaker” that relates it to the derogatory use of word sneak meaning thief. According to this version, rubber being cheaper than leather, these shoes were very popular in the poor segment of the US and thus people coined the pejorative term sneakers for them.


Converse- The birth of a star

In 1908, a company named Converse is founded which starts manufacturing shoes around 1915 and introduces an iconic style “All-Star” in 1917, which are the bestselling basketball shoes of all time. Originally introduced as an indoor gym shoe, All-star gained immense popularity when Indiana based basketball coach Chuck Taylor endorsed it in 1923. In 1930; it reached the zenith of popularity when it was declared an official shoe of the US basketball team for Berlin Olympics. From then on; it has been a hot favorite of everybody, whether sporty or not.

Adidas: The sneakers get internationalized

With the advent of Adidas, the sneakers go global. In 1924, a German man Adi Dassler (to whom, the Adidas owes its name) introduced this shoe which later became the most popular athlete shoe in the world. 

Adi Dassler

The American track and field runner, Jesse Owens wore Adidas in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and won 4 gold medals. The rest, as they say, is history.

Sneakers become fashion statement:

Sneakers were worn mainly as sports shoes during the first half of the 20th century, but in the 1950s the trends started changing with kids wearing these as a styling accessory. During the 50’s the sale of sneakers rose high as school dress codes relaxed and children generally started wearing these. The use of these shoes in adolescents also picked momentum in this era.

Nike makes an entry:

Phil Knight, a University of Oregon business graduate and his track coach Bill Bowerman founded Blue Ribbon sports in 1964. After eight years the company was renamed as “Nike” after the Greek goddess. For whom the first Nike shoes were made is somewhat disputed as two men claim this honor. One of them is Phil Knight, who is one of the founders and another one is Otis Davis who was an athlete student of Bill Bowerman, the co-founder of the company.


The Swoosh (famous logo of Nike) was designed by Carolyn Davidson, a student of University of Oregon for a paltry $35.Some of the chronological milestones of Nike is given below:
  • Nike in collaboration with a NASA engineer launched Nike tailwind in 1979. It comprised a hollowed-out sole filled with dense gas to provide extended cushioning.
  • In collaboration with Basketball superstar Michael Jordon, Nike launched Air Jordan 1, in 1984, which proved a great success soon after it hit the stores.
  • By 1986 the Nike had acquired the status of becoming a $1 billion company.
  • In 1987, Nike launched its Air Max-1 model.
  • At the end of the 1990s, Nike introduced a fully customizable, Nike ID that allowed customers to choose color and material according to their own preference.

The journey to advancement in the 1990s

In the late 20th century, especially in its last decade, the sneakers witnessed technological advancement. Reebok used Pump technology that made it possible for users to inflate the air bladder of the shoe to their own requirement. 


The world also saw the first ever lace fewer shoes which were released by Puma. This era is also marked by mainstreaming of sneakers fever.


Sneakers in 2000s-Marching forward in the digital era

The 2000s can be defined as an era marked with collaborations with artists and prolific fashion houses.
Collaboration with Kanye West for a whopping deal of $ 10 billion, took sneakers popularity to yet other higher level. Kanye also signed a deal with Adidas for opening Yeezy stores and sportswear. This has been described as the biggest deal in history between clothing brands with non-athlete.


The other dominant trend of this digital era is using Retail platforms like eBay and Amazon to promote a secondary market from designers having limited edition. The latest digital marketing techniques of coupon codes, discounts, and extensive seasonal and periodic sale are generating immense sales volumes for businesses.

Wrap up

While wearing sneakers, have you ever thought where did sneakers come from and how they evolved in the shape they are today? Probably not! Well, this was the brief history of sneakers along with some latest sneaker designers. 


Hope this piece of information is useful for you and now you have pointers to keep in mind when you go for sneakers shopping the next time.

Published On: April 25, 2019