Sneakers have been a part of our lives since we were old enough to know how to tie our shoes, but they have not always been around and have not always been thought of in the same way. Most of us who are older would say that a pair of sneakers is meant just for sports or to wear with casual clothes. Lately, this opinion has changed. More and more people are wearing sneakers with almost anything! Dresses, tuxedoes… you name it. If it had been fashionable back when I got married, I would have worn them under my bridal dress!
So, where did the sneaker come from? There was a very crude form of rubber-soled shoes introduced in the late 19th century for the wealthy. The U.S. Rubber Company introduced a better form in 1892 called Keds, and those were mass produced by 1912. Since we still recognize Keds today, I would say they were a big hit. Converse began that same year making sneakers just for basketball.
Sneakers had gone international by 1924, and Adidas was born. For a while, Adidas sneakers were the most popular brand in the world and were used by track stars in the Olympics.
Sneakers didn’t make it into the fashion scene until the 1950s when kids started to make a statement. I immediately think of the movie “Grease,” and James Dean helped with this trend by wearing them in “Rebel Without a Cause.” Most of us still just wore sneakers with casual clothes, though.
Now jump to the 1980s, which introduced us to Michael Jordan’s famous Air Jordans – still a best-selling sneaker today. Sneaker companies began popping up to handle this new market, and sneakers were developed with newer technology for every sport you could think of. Some used gel, some used air pumped into the shoe for performance, and some had springs, but they were still worn for function and comfort, not fashion.
Gucci was the first fashion house to recognize that sneakers could be used for more than sports and made their own Italian-designed tennis sneaker in 1984. The rap group Run-DMC helped to introduce sneakers to a much wider audience. Prada created a functional sneaker with a more aesthetic look that helped us to look at sneakers differently. Instead of strapping on a sneaker for sports or comfort, it was OK to wear them for their style – after all, it was a Prada!
In 2002, Adidas teamed up with two designers to help us transition from sporty comfort to fashion by bridging the gap between the two. They used a forward-looking design sense along with humor and a sense of outlandishness to recreate two of their earlier styles. Lanvin helped introduce sneakers into the corporate world for the start-up dot-coms.
More fashion houses started to jump into this space. Louis Vuitton created designer sneakers and used the artist Kayne West to promote them. Pairs were priced at more than $1,000 and still sold out. Other houses recognized the new market space and started their own creative version of the sneaker. Christian Louboutin released his first men’s collection in 2011 with the Roller Boat Sneaker. In my opinion, this was the start of letting a man express his personality in fashion without taking away from his masculinity. Basically, you were a stud if you wore a fashionable pair of designer sneakers with your business or evening attire.
Sneakers are now seen in every shape, style and color in every form of fashion by every top designer. They are an accepted form of shoe for every occasion, and people are not only embracing the comfort associated with a sneaker, but also the idea that they can express themselves while wearing them!
So, the next time you put on a dress and dread the high-heeled discomfort, go for a cute pair of sneakers that express your personality. I have started to do this and feel not only good about myself, but my feet thank me at the end of the night.