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Sneaker history: The beginning of an era!

July 4, 2020 11:50 AM
Sneaker history: The beginning of an era!

Dear community! Welcome to the first real part and the beginning of our Sneaker history series! Last week I already presented this new series to you here. In the next time I would like to live through the exciting history of our beloved sneakers with you and today we go back to the absolute beginnings.

So I want to take you on a journey to the beginning of the sneaker era as we know it today. Don't worry, there will be no boring history lesson waiting for you! On the contrary! I think I can surprise you a little bit! Be curious:

Sneakers - this is how the sneakers have crept into our hearts

Sneakers! A word that some of us hear almost daily or at least come into contact with it. But what is actually behind it? Shoes used to have harder soles and you could hear every step. The first shoes that went in the direction of sneakers had a (quiet) rubber sole and the name was born.

But let's take another step back. After all, we want to take a closer look at the beginning of the sneaker history. In the blog post I linked you above, I quote the official meaning of the word sneaker:

A sporty-looking shoe developed from the sneaker, especially worn by young people in everyday life. - Duden

I am telling you this because the concept of sneakers is becoming important to us now. In Germany, the sneaker culture was consolidated in the 80s, the term sneaker, which is known today, became established in the 90s. But our history begins much earlier and that's when the concept of sneakers becomes important for us. More precisely, we move around 1840. Here the story of sneakers begins in England and at about the same time in the USA. With the then innovative rubber sole and a leather upper the journey of our sneakers starts. Soon upper materials such as canvas were added.

At that time, sneakers were still low shoes that were originally intended for sports. The now well-known brands Converse and Keds then developed shoes at the beginning of the 1900 century that we would call sneakers today. Keds designed sneakers for children, but they quickly became popular with adults as well and eventually made their way from the tennis court to the street. Even Converse, who had their beginnings in basketball, started out with a sneaker/sports shoe design that we know too well today. But more about that later.

Converse Chuck Taylor
Unsplash by: Nqobile Vundla

Sneaker history - that was the beginning

So the beginning of the sneaker culture and with it the beginning of our history is absolutely in sports, but for some of you this is surely no news. Sports shoes become all-rounders for leisure, everyday life and the beginning of a whole culture starts here. The sneakers were constructed lighter, sat better on the foot and were quickly suitable for mass production. Already at that time, of course in a completely different measure than today, these shoes could be produced in comparatively high numbers, relatively cheaply. A milestone as we know today, the steps of which have begun here.

Sport was booming at that time and with it came sneakers and sports shoes. In the 1950s, the star James Dean appeared in sneakers, which of course gave a big boost to the trend. Soon the comparatively cheap and above all easy-care and light shoes became the constant companion of youth culture. Over the years, even the term "sneaker generation" was coined, but we will be looking at this in detail in the next week.

What remains to be said, however, is that the reason why sneakers, sneakers, or whatever we want to call them, found their way into everyday life in early years was the following: The youth wanted to protest against the adults and to stand out. This was also evident in their clothing and footwear, because the adults continued to rely on the good old leather shoes.

Cultural asset, expression of opinion, protest, something that holds together, connects and stands for more. As you can see, we are getting closer and closer to the sneaker culture. But we are still in the early 1900s and want to see how the big brands of today have established themselves.

Unsplash by: Dmitrij Paskevic

Sneaker history - the beginning of the brands

Converse, early 1900s:

Now we have already heard that Converse played a more than decisive role in the beginning of our sneaker history. Marques Converse first worked in a vulcanizing company and thus had experience with rubber, which he then incorporated into his shoe design. The high top basketball shoes designed by Converse were loved by star player Chuck Taylor. He not only wore them in his games, but also worked on the design. Pushed by him, the now legendary Chucks became famous in the basketball world and the rest is history as we know it: The Converse Chuck Taylor models are now the best-selling sneakers in the world!

Reebok, ca. 1895:

Also the story of Reebok starts quite early as you can see! In the beginning, sports shoes were designed here as well, and at the 1924 Olympic Games they equipped some athletes. The name Reebok was created in 1958.

New Balance, ca. 1906:

The beginnings of New Balance also go back a long way. A brand, which is so well-known today, started out with orthopedic insoles until they developed the first running shoes with wavy soles and not much later equipped some sports teams with them. An innovative design that in a way heralded the beginnings of the special technologies we know today in shoe soles.

The Dassler brothers, 1920s:

In the beginning still in the laundry room, the famous brothers designed sports shoes and quickly developed into a factory. A short fun fact at this point: The Dassler brothers were the first to put studs under their soccer shoes. What a … in the history of sports. After the war and especially after some arguments, Adolf and Rudolf Dassler went their own ways. What came into being here at that time, we know today under the names PUMA and adidas as the largest sports goods manufacturers in the world and their sneakers are famous all over the world!

PUMA, ca.1948:

Rudolf Dassler also remained true to sports shoes and founded the PUMA brand at about the same time. He was also a passionate sportsman and was called 'Puma' by his friends.

adidas, ca.1949:

Adolf Dassler, whose name is then also the company name adidas, founded the brand with the three stripes around 1949. That brings us back to the keyword, on the first day, so to speak, he patented the three stripes as a trademark. A career that influenced football, the sports world and finally the sneaker culture, hardly any other.

ASICS - Onitsuka Tiger, ca. 1949:

The brand ASICS was founded in Japan in 1949, at that time still under the name Onitsuka Tiger. Over the years, they too have revolutionized the sports world and are now known for high-quality running shoes and great sneakers. ASICS, that means: Anima Sana In Corpore Sano.

Nike, ca.1964:

At that time Bill Bowerman and Philip Knight founded the brand: Blue Ribbon Sports. In the beginning they were responsible for the distribution of, you wouldn't believe it, ASICS shoes, before they themselves entered the shoe business 'properly'. In 1971 the brand was renamed to Nike and soon they convinced with their shoes with even lighter soles. Today the famous Nike Air Max technology is on everyone's lips.

Vans, ca.1966:

The brothers Paul and Jim Van Doren, together with two partners, founded the Van Doren Rubber Company in March, which we know today as Vans. The Authentic Silhouette of Vans was created at that time as a skate shoe and 10 years later the skate scene in California was full of Vans sneakers.

Air Jordan, ca.1984:

With the young basketball player and talent of the century, Michale Jordan, Nike then brought a crass supporter into the house as we know today. The Jordan brand, is created with the hype, is now more than just on everyone's lips as we know of course!

Sneaker history
Pixabay by: ArtTower

It's Sneaker history time!

Also brands like Mizuno (1906), Karhu (1916), KangaROOS (1979), FILA (1911), Saucony (1910) and some others have a history that goes back a long way in time and has shaped the sports world in its development as well as the sneaker scene of today.

Whew, what a story! Every day we wear sneakers because they are a natural part of our lives and nowadays there is a real sneaker culture. And now we know how it all began. But our journey does not end there! In the next week I would like to take the next step with you and tell you what happened afterwards.

That's where it gets really interesting again, because the development of the sneaker culture, with all its influences and the important people or companies that promoted it, is really special. So look forward to even more Sneaker history content that starts at the beginning of the journey we have made today and illuminates the course of history from then until today. So, check out our Sneaker News regularly if you want to follow the story!