History of the Sneaker
People today wear sneakers all the time—to run, play sports, for comfort, as casual everyday shoes, and even as a fashion piece. Here we take a look at the origin of the modern sneaker and its development into the shoe it is today.
The first prototype of modern sneaker emerged in the 1800s. It was a basic rubber shoe called a “plimsoll” that didn’t even have a left and a right shoe. Eventually, people began carving the soles with makeshift cleats for extra grip. While the plimsoll doesn’t resemble modern athletic shoes, it was the first shoe worn specifically for physical activity, making it the father of the modern sneaker.
At the turn of the 20th century, the US Rubber Company designed a comfortable rubber-soled shoe with a canvas upper, called Keds. They were so popular that they were being mass-produced within just a few years.
After World War I, sports became more popular as they were considered a way to demonstrate patriotism, increasing the demand for athletic shoes. In the 1920s, Marquis Converse made the first ever basketball shoes—Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Converse became the best-selling basketball shoe of all time.
The popularity of the sneaker became global in the 1930s, when track star Jessie Owens wore sneakers made by German designer Adi Dassler in the 1936 Olympics. The brand became known around the world as Adidas.
Following World War II, dress codes and social norms relaxed, and teens began wearing sneakers more casually. The post-war boom increased leisure opportunities, and more people began jogging and playing recreational sports. Shoes companies started designing special shoes for each activity.
In 1984, Michael Jordan wore a Nike shoe called Air Jordans as part of an endorsement deal, launching Nike to national and eventually international fame and popularity. Air Jordans continue to sell, even though Jordan himself has long since retired.
Sneakers are more of a fashion statement than ever before. While they have been a status symbol in hip-hop culture since the 1970s, that idea has gone mainstream. As companies develop better marketing strategies, using celebrity endorsements to promote their brand, sneakers have become as much a part of the fashion world as the world of sports.
Think about buying one of our GOAT hats or Custom GOAT shirts to go with your favorite pair of sneakers.
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