Sneakers: From rags to kicks

Tennies. Runners. Trainers. Kicks. Sneakers go by many names and they’ve come a long way from their humble beginnings. The first rubber-soled shoes were incredibly crude — a piece of rubber attached to canvas and without a right or left foot designation (ouch). 

They were born out of necessity in the late eighteenth century: for poorer people who couldn’t afford leather. Over the years, the style was slowly adopted and refined. They were dubbed plimsolls; worn for sports like croquet, and just for comfort.

Then things got real.

In 1876, the world’s first trainer company, Etonic, was founded in Brockton, MA, USA. Le Coq Sportif followed closely after in 1882. British company J.W. Foster and Sons (whose grandsons would go on to found Reebok) designed the first spiked running shoes in 1895. Spalding and Converse both marketed basketball shoes in the early 1900s and, by the 1936 Berlin Olympics, running sneakers were everywhere. 

As attitudes and dress codes relaxed throughout the fifties and beyond, people began to wear running shoes for purposes other than sports — they became fashion statements.   

Athletes, like Michael Jordan, and other stars got in on the action with endorsements. Designers, like Gucci, capitalized by releasing their own high-fashion sneakers. Pop stars, like the Spice Girls, started their own trends with platform styles. 

Fast forward to today — sneakers come in nearly every shape and style a fashion guru could possibly dream.

High-top and low-top styles. High-tech and low-tech styles, for that matter (yes, there are now high-tech sneakers that will do things like track running metrics, analyze your gait, do your laundry… ok, maybe not the last one). Manufacturers are continually testing the limits of fashion with colors, patterns, designs, materials, and technology, and we (as a society) are loving it.

The question is: What’s next? Automatic lacing? Injury prevention? All in the works. You may need to wait on the laundry help, though.

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