Table of contents:
- 1. Modern fashion, sports and the history of sneakers
- 2. Musicians as trendsetters
- 3. Films and Marketing
- 4. Pushing gender boundaries
- 5. From streetwear to luxury fashion
- 6. Changes and contradictions in modern fashion
Video: The History of Sneakers, or How Street Shoes Became the Basis of Modern Fashion
2023 Author: Richard Flannagan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-24 13:10
Perhaps sneakers are one of the few fashion items that perfectly emphasizes and expresses individuality. They currently have a variety of shapes, colors, finishes, and unlimited uses for the modern consumer. These are footwear worn by more than half of the population: from athletes, artists, models, adolescents, children, women and men to the elderly, who keep pace with the times, adhering to the motto "fashionable, stylish, practical and comfortable." But these are all details familiar to everyone and everyone, and few people know about the history of sneakers and their impact on modern fashion.
1. Modern fashion, sports and the history of sneakers
One of the main reasons for the popularity of sneakers among consumers has been their introduction into sports, especially basketball. Until Chuck Taylor came along, basketball was never associated with a particular shoe. He was a semi-professional basketball player who became a salesman for Converse sneakers in 1921 and promoted them so well that he eventually became the face of the brand. It was the first sports shoe endorsed by celebrities and the Chuck Taylor star was born. He became one of those who began using basketball shoes from the 1900s to the 1960s and 70s. The growing popularity of basketball made Converse popular with consumers, and footwear gradually expanded beyond other areas, including music, skateboarding, and casual wear.
The first NBA player to have branded sneakers was Walt "Clyde" Fraser with the PUMA Clyde. Fraser was known for his fashionable sense of style, both on and off the basketball court. He made a big contribution to the look and design of the sneaker when he approved it in the 1970s. These shoes are known for their suede surface and the variety of colors they come in. Like Chuck Taylor's name, Fraser's name has been placed on the sneaker in the form of his signature. In the 1980s, sneakers gradually began to attract the attention of not only athletes, but also dancers.
Michael Jordan wanted to sign with Adidas as it was his favorite brand. However, a turn of events led to the biggest shift in sneaker history. Michael Jordan's Nike Air Force sneakers debuted in 1985 as part of a pop culture legend. Shoes were sold not only for sports, but also for everyday life. Jordan's massive appeal made the sneaker desirable for athlete fans who wanted to wear the same sneaker as their idol. The Nike Air Force has become one of the most coveted sneakers in modern fashion and remains a very popular choice among athletic shoe lovers to this day.
2. Musicians as trendsetters
Like sports, the music industry has played a key role in the history of sneakers, making them a product that attracted the masses. Music listeners could imitate their favorite artists and wear the same shoes as their idols. Rap, reggaeton and hip-hop have been catalysts for making sneakers the staple of modern fashion and an integral part of people's everyday wardrobe.
The PUMA Suedes and Clydes were popular choices for b-boys / girls in the 1980s, while the Nike Air Force 1 was a favorite for both rappers and musicians. Converse sneakers began to be worn by rock and punk artists including Kurt Cobain, Joe Strummer or Billie Armstrong. The music and culture of sneakers has become even more intertwined with popular artists creating their own versions of sneakers with sportswear brands.
Collaboration between artists and major contemporary fashion brands began with Run-DMC collaborating with Adidas after they released their song "My Adidas". They created a version of the Adidas Superstar sneaker that debuted in 1985. In 2020, another joint series was released to celebrate the anniversary of the Superstar sneaker. Jay-Z's collaboration with Reebok created a sneaker inspired by the 1984 Gucci sneaker, making the style more accessible to the masses.
Kanye West has been involved in many different sneaker collaborations, including his most popular and notable Nike Air Yeezy. He has also worked with Louis Vuitton and Adidas.
Rihanna's collaboration with PUMA has been a defining moment in the fashion industry and sneaker history. She is not only a star of the female show business, but she was also appointed the creative director of the brand in 2016. Her influence on young women has changed consumer attitudes towards this once-popular sneaker brand in the music industry. It is a testament to how the influence of the individual can lead to a renewal of modern fashion brands that have lost the favor of the public.
3. Films and Marketing
Some sneakers will forever go down in pop culture history as a catalyst for making them a household name. The Nike Cortez, marketed by the brand in the 1970s, solidified its iconic status when it appeared at Forrest Gump. The Vans plaid slip-on sneakers became popular after the character of Sean Penn appeared in them during the movie "Rapid Change at Ridgemont High."
The Baby - Dirty Dancing white sneakers made such a lasting impression that the brand's sales increased tenfold in the same year. And it is not surprising that white sneakers are still very popular today, occupying one of the leading positions in the market.
Sneakers and marketing play a huge role in the brand's drive to attract shoppers, thereby increasing sales. Some of the sneakers featured in the films became so popular that consumer demand ended up allowing real versions to be sold years later. This was the case in Wes Anderson's Water Life, where Steve Zissou's team wore Adidas sneakers, white with blue and yellow laces. Adidas released a limited edition sneaker that reportedly consisted of just one hundred pairs in 2017. Another example is the classic 1996 Space Jam, when a film-inspired shoe collection was released in 2016 to celebrate the film's twentieth anniversary.
Retro and nostalgic releases of your favorite films generate excitement around new products. Sneakers have the ability to identify people with specific eras throughout time. A reminder of the style that was in vogue as a child makes these "reissues" more alluring. Creation of limited edition items from iconic favorite movies makes these sneakers more desirable for collectors.
4. Pushing gender boundaries
Made for both men and women, the sneaker helped blend the lines between what was considered a men-only fashion. Women's fashion began to change in the early 1900s. Women began to go to work and actively engage in sports and exercise. However, their sneakers still resembled shoes and wedges designed to bring a feminine touch. Therefore, the ladies were forced to wear dresses and skirts during sports until the 1950s and 60s. Participation in sports and the desire to wear what was traditionally men's clothing, including sneakers, was a step in getting women to want to get rid of the restrictions imposed on them.
As more women went to work in the 1980s, high heels continued to play a key role in office style. Think of the movie "Business Woman" and Tess McGill in sneakers on the streets of New York trying to make a career in a male-dominated industry. Over time, sneakers became part of the women's lifestyle and were no longer meant only for sports. Clothing standards in society have changed significantly. Women began to gain more confidence and freedom in their choice of clothing and footwear, as well as their desire to partner with major sneaker brands, becoming the face of promotions and campaigns. Game-changing collaborations include Cardi B and Reebok, Rihanna and PUMA, and Reebok's It's a Man's World Campaign. Nowadays, women with no less pleasure give preference to comfortable and stylish sneakers, replenishing their collections with fashionable novelties.
5. From streetwear to luxury fashion
The availability of some brands, including Nike, Adidas or Fila, began to compete with luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, or Prada. Contemporary fashion brands such as Supreme, Stüssy and Palace are releasing products in limited quantities and styles that will only sell for a short period of time. Part of the streetwear culture kind of indicates that there are categories of people who, in spite of everything, will buy the thing they like, even if its price is measured in a couple of thousand. Streetwear has the freshness and excellence that high-end retailers are trying to capture in a market where traditional retail stores are closing.
One of the things that makes luxury exclusive is the high price tag. Luxurious designs were the norm for the few who could afford them, but now fashion has become attainable on a wide variety of levels, and streetwear is no exception. Sportswear brands including Converse, Vans, Nike or Adidas have become important in streetwear culture because of their affordability. Wearing casual clothes is considered fashionable and preferred.
Runway sneakers have the potential to create new designs that haven't been seen before. Modern fashion brands have the freedom to create unique shapes, interesting color combinations and quality materials. The sneaker history and its rise in fashion also led brands like Supreme to partner with Louis Vuitton or Anna Wintour / Vogue with Nike. This is likely to continue in the future, as more brands partner with each other to create hyped and special edition sneakers that will delight fans of the shoe.
6. Changes and contradictions in modern fashion
Sneaker companies are more capable of change than any other shoe category. The love of sneakers has great potential in the development of fashion. Nowadays, consumers are paying attention to a company's practices and how environmentally friendly or ethical it is.
Celebrity partnerships also give sneaker companies the opportunity to further transform their brand by taking a stand on issues that matter to the consumer. Farrell Williams' collaboration with Adidas since 2014, including his HU (human) line, has focused on addressing the challenges of diversity and inclusion. As a result, a series of sneakers was released, in which pregnant women and nursing mothers participated in the promotion. LeBron James wore Equality sneakers during the Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Washington Wizards game in 2017.
Sneaker companies have also dealt with controversies that have affected the way their brand works. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Nike faced extreme controversy over sweatshops and child labor violations. It was consumer demand for change that ultimately drove the brand to change the way it works. It was a big wake-up call about how some areas of the modern fashion industry are working in part overseas. This ultimately led to Nike's sustainability agenda and was a pivotal moment for the company to reach an increasingly environmentally conscious part of the market.
Cultural insensitivity is another challenge that sneaker brands face due to name, image, or color choices that hint at racial stereotypes or related cultures. Farrell Williams and Adidas created a Holi-style collection in 2018, which caused a storm of outrage. Even though the brand wanted to focus on humanity and equality on a global scale, it was still received with hostility. Another big controversy was the adidas 'shackle sneaker' designed by Jeremy Scott in 2012.
Reportedly inspired by the toy "My Favorite Monster", the collection received huge backlash from the African American community and the NAACP, as it resembled images of slavery. The brand canceled the shoe after criticism it received. Even years later, this still raises questions about the brand's motives for creating items that may be viewed as contrary to the moral principles and ethnic views of others. Often times, this is seen as ignorant or deliberate marketing to the public.
Consumers can require modern fashion brands to practice what they preach, and more often than not they listen. Brands know that without a consumer, they don't have a product to sell. The relationship between public consumers and sneakers is a strong bond that continues to evolve.
And in continuation of the topic of popular shoes, read also about how Martins became one of the most iconic boots of all time.