Evolution Of The Athletic Shoe
From sports, to fashion, to collectibles, the athletic shoe has seen it all.
Today’s subculture craze for celebrity sneakers has spawned a lucrative reseller market below the radar of most older adults.
Online StockX was even launched as an exchange platform for these over-hyped rubber bottoms, utilizing the same transparent bid/ask index and historical data points associated with the stock market.
But long before evolving into pricey, pop-culture investments, American sneakers originated as humble canvas top and rubber sole keds. They replaced clonking leather walkers and were dubbed sneakers since they allowed a person to “sneak” around silently.
Converse debuted the All-Stars in 1917 and later hired Indiana hoops star Chuck Taylor as their salesman. By 1932, the Chuck Taylor All-Stars took on his signature and ankle star patch to become the greatest selling basketball shoes of all time.
Across the Atlantic, Joseph Foster outfitted Britain’s 1924 Olympic sprinters with his spiked running shoes. Those athletes were immortalized in the 1981 film, Chariots of Fire.
Decades later, Foster’s grandsons would break away to found Reebok. In Germany, Adolf Dassler and his brother Rudolph created the famed three stripes Adidas shoes. Jesse Owens won four gold medals in them at the 1936 Olympics.
After the war, Rudolph split from his brother to form Puma, launching a bitter rivalry between the two siblings. Sports legends like Muhammad Ali, Franz Beckenbauer and Zinadine Zidane branded Adidas. Pele, Diego Maradona and Boris Becker ran around in Pumas.
In Hollywood, 1950’s counterculture idols James Dean and Marlon Brando were seen wearing sneakers on and off the set, helping to transform the athletic shoe into a casual fashion fad.
At the opening whistle of the 1970 World Cup final between Brazil and Italy, Pele purposely bent down to tie his shoe, drawing the attention of millions of TV viewers to his Pumas. The distraction was part of a $125,000 prearranged deal with the foot wear company.
But it was Michael Jordan and his gravity-defying athleticism fifteen years later that transformed the marketing power of the athletic shoe.
Signing up with Nike in 1984, the basketball superstar took the sneaker to new heights and along with it, Nike’s profits. Jordan and his shoes became icons and street culture followed with a myriad of sneaker designs, colors and applications.
The air soaring legend might have retired from basketball in 2003 but his shoes did not. Size 12 “Jordan 4 Retro Eminem Carhartt” recently sold for $10,000.
BASKETBALL November 28, 2009 The Los Angeles Lakers defeat the Golden State Warriors 130-97 at Golden State. The Lakers would wrap up the season with a 57-25 record and go on to defend their title at the NBA Championship by overtaking the Boston Celtics 4-3. Kobe Bryant, star player on the Lakers roster, played all 7 games, averaging 28.6 ppg and taking home the MVP award.
BOXING November 20, 1999 Junior middleweight fighter Stephan Johnson fights Paul Vaden in Atlantic City for a $10,000 purse. Johnson is knocked out with two punches in the 10th round and falls immediately into a coma. Despite hospital efforts, he never recovers and dies less than three weeks later on December 7th. The 154-pounder who lived and trained in New York City turned pro in 1987.
FOOTBALL November 26, 1989 The Saskatchewan Roughriders defeat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 43-40 to win the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup. Finishing only 9-9 for the season, the Roughriders were underdogs going into the 77th annual Grey Cup championship. With the game tied at 40-40 and only 9 seconds left in the 4th quarter, they clinched the title with a 26-yard field goal.
BASEBALL November 19, 1979 Nolan Ryan signs a record 4-year, $4.5 Million contract with the Houston Astros. The gifted pitcher who hurled consistent throws at 100 mph and above remained a force on the mound into his 40’s. Ryan started off with the NY Mets where he won the World Series in 1969 before moving on to the Angels, Astros and Rangers. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.