It now seems as though sneakers are everywhere, from the basketball court to numerous runways around the world. Things were not always like this, and it is an interesting examination to see how sneakers went from the court to becoming an expression of individuality and personal identity. Nowadays, sneakers come in numerous finishes, colors, and shapes, and have become so versatile that they are worn everywhere. Read on to find out how sneakers became the fashion behemoth they are today.
Beginnings in Fashion
Trainers have been used in athletics since the 1900s. It was not until the 1970s that sneakers started becoming something more, leaving the field and becoming an item in many people’s wardrobes. Basketball played a massive role in making things this way, with the phenomenon starting around 1921 when the first Converse sneakers were introduced to the basketball court by Chuck Taylor.
Converse sneakers were marketed so well that they became a basketball staple. As the popularity of basketball grew, so did the popularity of Converse sneakers. In that era, many basketball players played streetball and many people came to watch these games instead of NBA games. This led to further exposure of sneakers, which, to many people, were as cool as basketball.
It was not until basketball players started matching their sneakers to their outfits that they started becoming fashion items. Since basketball was much more popular on the East Coast, it is easy to understand why it became the hub of sneakers worn as fashion items.
The Rarity and Popularity of Certain Brands
With Converse sneakers dominating the market, other players started taking note. Adidas and Puma released shoes, intentionally making them rare and pricey to make them more desirable and to increase their demand. The need to own a rare item is a well-known human trait, and these rare and pricey sneakers became very popular very fast. This idea has persisted in the sneaker world, with pricey and rare sneakers going for thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars in primary and secondary markets.
Signature Sneakers Associated with Exceptional Players
With so many eyes on basketball, it was only a matter of time before sneaker companies started collaborating with basketball players. The first truly signature sneaker was worn by Walt “Clyde” Frazier. Known for his sense of style on and off the court, his influence on the design and desirability of the Puma Clyde was clear to see. Although the shoe did not become as popular as others, it is still worn by basketball players today. However, this is a modern take on the shoe with a suede exterior and multiple colors.
There was also a massive shift to sneakers becoming fashion items when Michael Jordan partnered with Nike to produce Mike Jordan’s Nike Air Force sneakers. Michael Jordan was a massive fan of Adidas, and he loved their sneakers. However, certain events led to him working with Nike, inadvertently causing arguably the biggest shift in sneaker history. Now Air Force sneakers are known and revered the world over by basketball players and fans alike.
Music and Marketing
While the Clydes remained popular among basketball lovers, the Nike Air Force 1s were becoming the preferred sneakers for musicians and rappers. Rock and punk artists like Billie Armstrong, Joe Strummer, and Kurt Cobain would regularly be seen sporting Converse too. Music, fashion, and sneaker culture became so intertwined that artists started collaborating with sportswear brands to produce special sneakers.
Some of the more recognizable collaborations are between Run-DMC and Adidas through the song “My Adidas” which was tied to a re-released version of the 1958 Adidas Superstar Sneakers. Jay-Z has worked with Reebok, Kanye West has worked with numerous sneaker companies, and Rihanna has collaborated with Puma for a line of sneakers.
Designers have also collaborated with sneaker companies to make renditions of popular sneakers. The Rick Owen Converse sneaker is a collaboration between two powerhouses. Rick Owen teamed up with Converse to create a converse sneaker that has design elements and languages from both companies and brands.
Another notable collaboration is between Reebok and Maison Margiela, with the companies working on a version of the Tabi sneaker.
Movies and Sneaker Marketing
Of course, we cannot forget the influence movies have had on making certain sneakers household names. The Nike Cortez is arguably the best example as it was popularized in the highly acclaimed Forrest Gump. The checkered sneakers from Vans also became popular from being featured in a movie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Another very successful marketing campaign was for the White Keds which were worn by Baby, a character in the movie Dirty Dancing. This campaign was so successful that it led to a tenfold increase in the brand’s revenue for the year.
The history of sneakers is long, but there are important moments in history that shifted them from sportswear to fashion items. Their popularity in basketball and modern inclusions in music, movies, and other arts have all contributed.