Sneaker History - From Active Footwear To Today's Fashion Symbol
Sneakers are now ubiquitous.
The vast majority of sneakerheads are unaware of the history behind their favorite sneakers. It is difficult to imagine how sneakers got their start, but they have existed for a long time. Sneakers are now ubiquitous.
People of all ages wear sneakers; from sportsmen to performing artists to youngsters, sneakers have been a fashion staple for decades.
Aside from the world's biggest icons partaking in and walking around in their iconic sneakers, the sneaker industry began modestly.
It is impossible for me to imagine an event where this amazing footwear won't fit. One wonders how these shoes came to be, and how they got so popular.
Origin Of The Word "Sneaker"
Sneakers date back to the early 1900s as a term for footwear. The term originated in 1917 when an American advertiser, “Henry Nelson McKinney”, referred to it like that since the rubber soles of the shoes made them sound muffled and stealthy like if they had been sneaking.
Sneaker History: The Early Years
1839 was the year - a scientist from the USA named “Charles Goodyear” - created vulcanized rubber.
The process of vulcanizing rubber involved adding sulphur to heated rubber in order to produce a flexible material, one that could be molded and was also waterproof.
Following this process, shoes became more durable thanks to the new manufacturing process.
The 1870s were the era of plimsoll sneakers, whose horizontal lines reminded wearers of the horizontal lines on a ship's hull.
The majority of people wore them while on vacation or during their sports activities because they were comfortable.
At the time, the only drawback was that left and right feet weren't distinguished.
1886 was the year, during which the first sneaker company was founded. As soon as the 1900s arrived, people started wearing them for leisure activities. Since then, they've been transforming.
Demand For Sneakers Soar
The turn of the century witnessed a high demand for such footwear, leading to its mass production by 1917.
Exactly one year later, Converse All-Stars came into existence. After some time, they gained the support of Indiana Hoops player Chuck Taylor, earning the nickname of Chuck Taylor. The best-selling basketball sneakers of all time have remained the same since they were introduced.
In the post-World War I era, the US sneaker market surged, leading many teenagers to purchase sneakers that were endorsed by sports figures.
Despite their athletic roots, sneakers have succeeded in transcending their original purpose to become modern and contemporary items that everyone desires.
Olympics 1936: Sneakers Make Their Debut
A series of Olympic events held in Berlin in 1936 paved the way for shoes to be popular around the globe. Converse was the team's go-to shoe throughout the competition, including United States athlete Jesse Owen, who brought home four gold medals in track shoes created by “Adolf Dassler” of the world-renowned athletic brand “Adidas”.
Dassler was able to grow his business by leveraging the performance of athletes, and before the Second World War, his company sold 200 thousand pairs of shoes in a year.
When the 1940s rolled around, a large number of shoe brands remained in business even though they had been in business for several decades.
Among them were Fila, Wilson, Gola, and many others.
A Change Of Mindset After The Second World War
As the 1940s advanced, sneaker culture underwent a cultural shift. Wearing them for fashion rather than for fitness became more popular among the younger generations.
As time went on, new brands, such as Diadora and Puma, emerged.
In the 1950s, recreational activities became more and more essential to people's lives. School dress codes have been loosening up also, and sneakers have become more acceptable in the classroom.
The sales of these shoes increased significantly around this time, to the point that they began to have a negative impact on footwear made from leather and other materials.
As a result, the top 2 brands of the world came into existence in the 1960s. The top 2 brands are:
Towards the end of the 1960s, the first ripple-soled running shoe named “New Balance Trackstar” came into widespread production.
It was a perfect time to release this shoe in the 1970s because it was a boom time for running and shoes designed specifically for running were in high demand.
Due to technological advancements, more and more sports shoes were created such as special shoes for basketball, football, etc.
The Origin of Sneaker World
During the 1980s and 1990s, sneakers were a hot commodity. The growing popularity of many brands led to increased sales, and it soon became apparent that shoe sales were no longer restricted to the rich.
The likes of Nike, Reebok, Adidas were becoming household names and more celebrities started to endorse sporting shoes.
Current trends influenced the color, patterns, and designs, laying the groundwork for modern-day sneakers.
A major brand x star partnership occurred in the 1980s - Nike Air Jordans were created thanks to Michael Jordan's partnership with Nike.
Air Jordan continues to be a global icon, raking in enormous sales. However, the turn of the decade led to heightened competition. Rather than competing with other types of footwear, sneakers now competed with other major shoe brands.
The focus shifted to marketing, resulting in enormous budgets and celebrity endorsements. Their marketing made them into fashion statements instead of sports shoes alone.
The Present And The Future
With the onset of the new century, there were hundreds of sneaker brands, celebrities endorsing them, and more fashion labels embracing the trend.
The following brands acquired the following:
-Adidas acquired Reebok
-Nike acquired Converse
Both of which illustrate sports brands' power and wealth. Additionally, the emergence of hip-hop culture caused musicians like Jay Z to endorse sneakers.
These collaborations eventually led to partnerships, including a high-profile one, Kanye West’s Adidas Yeezy’s that became an instant hit.
In the fashion world, it's impossible to ignore sporting goods and footwear - whether you shop at a mall or online.
From 2010 to the present, sneakers have become increasingly valuable. Many of the sales have broken records, with sneakers selling for up to millions of dollars.
The trend doesn't seem to be slowing down with global footwear sales forecast to reach over 95 billion dollars by 2025.