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.
AUTO RACING May 24, 2009 Brazil’s Helio Castroneves wins the 93rd edition of the Indianapolis 500, becoming the first foreign-born driver to claim the famed chase three times (2001, 2002). Starting out from pole position in car #3, Castroneves clocked the 200-lap race in 3:19:35. Placing 2nd at the 500 in 2003, 2014 and 2017, Castrovenes is regarded as the best driver who never won an IndyCar Series championship.
RUNNING May 18, 1999 American running champion Betty Robinson dies at the age of 87. The Riverdale, Illinois native was the first female to win gold at the 100m sprint when the race was introduced to women at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. She went on to claim gold again in the 4 x 100m relay at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin after the heavily favored Germans, who were leading, dropped the baton.
HORSE RACING May 20, 1989 Pat Valenzuela wins the Preakness Stakes aboard Sunday Silence, crossing the finish line in a time of 1:538 and edging out rival Easy Goer by just a nose. Both jockey and horse had won the Kentucky Derby earlier, but would miss out on a Triple Crown three weeks later at the Belmont Stakes after trailing Easy Goer by eight lengths.
BASEBALL May 16, 1979 The NL approves the sale of the Houston Astros by the Ford Motor Company (Credit) to John McMullen. The team would sign up pitcher Nolan Ryan, baseball’s first $1 million contract, and go on to reach the playoffs the following year for the first time in franchise history. Founded as the Houston Colt .45’s, the Astros were renamed in 1965 as a reference to the nation’s space center.