The History of Shoes - Sneakers

Edition 2: Sneakers

Sneak in through the door and be my spies,
O daisies, pansies and fairies of the light
Bring me sneakers; laces and velvet for the ties.

A Humble Beginning

Did you know originally shoes had no right or left side? They were same. In late 1700’s, people wore rubber soled shoes called plimsolls. The origin of ‘Sneakers’ goes to the U.S. Rubber Company that came up with comfortable rubber sneakers with canvas tops. They got the nickname sneakers because they actually did not make much noise, making easy to sneak upon someone!

Later the shoes were supported by game of basketball and with the endorsement of Chuck Taylor they became big hits. He was a basketball player and shoe sales-person who did exactly the right thing to the game of sneakers – pulled out the bestselling sneakers of all time, the Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Apart from basketball, tennis shoes are also sneakers to many. Sneakers were popular with the rich and were worn at the time of playing sports. These have served more than the general purpose – it has actually worked as national identity, style and a way of life just like the Indigo Jean (equally defining, albeit reverse in fashion pyramid). When the U.S. government rationed rubber during World War II, sneakers were exempted following widespread protests.

After second half of 20’ th century, when dust had settled after the wars and casual wear as a way of life cum fashion was blooming, kids began wearing them as fashion statements. James Dean wore sneakers in the popular movie Rebel without a Cause and that lead to a big trend in favour of the shoe. It defined rebellion, a willingness to step outside of society’s rigid rules and sartorial senses. The denim and sneaker trend spread like wild fire and there was no looking back. The comfortable casual and relaxed 50’s was spectacular. Many famous players were signed by top competing sports brand. Sneakers began to be produced for every sport, including walking, skateboarding and “cross training.” The competition brought in dynamic changes to how basic sneakers looked; in terms of not only design and colour schemes but parameters of ‘performance’ and’ innovation in shoe textiles’ or ‘functional clothing’ resulting in better fit, cushioning and comfort – which is a phenomena till date. Today, 3-D printed custom made sneakers is a possibility. Companies are using recycled plastics as a call to protect environment. Recently, with rise in number of people looking for fitness and sports, sneakers have trickled down in fashion pyramid and are now popular like never before.

Today is the best time, definitely

Recently, Chunky Heeled Sneakers and Flat forms are back – they ruled the last in 1980’s. The basic white sneakers have gone through various design dimensions and are now worn over almost everything from jeans to dresses and from blazers to sportswear. It is certainly a well-received shoe across masses and classes. This time, it has been ‘feminized’ with exploration of colour schemes, sparkle, feathers and various design elements like the wedge-sneakers. Sneakers stand on the thin line dividing casual shoes from sports shoes and sports shoes from active sports; in a sense, it is perhaps common to three categories. The style, colour and material defines the final purpose but it is definitely a style upon which many leading brands have built their umpire.   

While the journey continues, making new fashion moments and histories, we have one man to thank for: Charles Goodyear – for adding Sulphur to heated rubber and giving us vulcanized rubber; both durable and mouldable. This is truly a wholesome export from US to the world.



 Sneakers this season: A combination of design, aesthetics and functionality. Chunky soles are back in trend and we see patterns and surface details coming up. Pictures and products: 


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