Origins of ordinary things: Sneakers

sneakers have evolved to different designs and comfort over time. Net .

Sneakers, also called trainers, athletic shoes, tennis shoes, gym shoes, sport shoes or runners, are shoes primarily designed for sports or other forms of physical exercise, although are also widely used for everyday wear. They are made of flexible sole made of rubber or synthetic material and an upper part made of leather, synthetic substitutes or cloth.

According to Wikipedia, an encyclopaedia, these shoes acquired the nickname ‘plimsoll’ in the 1870s, derived from Nicholette Jones’ book The Plimsoll Sensation. 

Plimsolls were widely worn by vacationers and also began to be worn by sportsmen on the tennis and croquet courts for their comfort. Special soles with engraved patterns to increase the surface grip of the shoe were developed, mostly for the British Army. At the turn of the 20th Century, athletic shoes were increasingly used for leisure and outdoor activities. 

In 1917, Marquis Converse produced the first shoe made just for basketball, called Converse All-Stars. In 1923, an Indiana hoops star named Chuck Taylor endorsed the shoes, and they became known as Chuck Taylor All-Stars. These are the best-selling basketball shoes of all time. This is according to Fact Monster, reference site for students, teachers, and parents. 

British company J.W. Foster and Sons, in 1895, designed and produced the first shoes designed for running; the shoes were spiked to allow for greater traction and speed. 

During the interwar period, athletic shoes began to be marketed for different sports, and differentiated designs were made available for men and women. Athletic shoes were used by competing athletes at the Olympics, helping to popularise athletic shoes among the general public. In 1936, a French brand, Spring Court, marketed the first canvas tennis shoe featuring signature eight ventilation channels on a vulcanised natural rubber sole.

Adolf “Adi” Dassler began producing his own sports shoes, after his return from World War I, and went on to establish one of the leading athletic shoe manufacturers, Adidas. He also successfully marketed his shoes to athletes at the 1936 Summer Olympics, which helped cement his good reputation. 

During the 1990s, shoe companies perfected their fashion and marketing skills. Sports endorsements with famous athletes grew larger, and marketing budgets went through the roof. Sales of sneakers really took off in 1984, when Michael Jordan signed a contract to wear a Nike shoe called Air Jordans —the most famous sneaker ever made. Even after Jordan retired from the NBA, his shoes continued to be best sellers. As companies like Nike, Reebok and Adidas competed, they changed the way sneakers looked, adding wild colours and doing away with laces. Sneakers began to be produced for every sport, including walking, skateboarding and “cross training”.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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