By Miranda Likeman
Published: 19 December, 2006
History of the Sneaker
Sneakers have evolved from functional sportswear to cult fashion. Here FashioNZ traces their rise to fashion item, gives you tips on how to find cool pairs and care for them, looks at New Zealand’s only sneaker brand and previews exhibitions focusing on the humble trainer.
Nike Air Force 1 Premium, Year of the Dog edition, 2006 (1982) leather, fur, synthetic leather, fabric, thread and cord, plastic, metal, synthetic rubber 12.5 x 11.0 x 30.5 cm
Collection of Mathew Fabris, Melbourne
‘Sports shoes’, ‘trainers’, ‘runners’, ‘joggers’, ‘baskets’ and ‘kicks’ are just some of the words that refer to what is widely known as the sneaker - one of the most dynamic areas within fashion and design today. The history of the sneaker stems back to the second half of the 19th century when the first prototype emerged in England and America. By 1870 the word ‘sneaker’ was being used in North America, referring to the quiet sounds made by shoes with rubber soles.
In the 20th century canvas sneakers became the foundation for sport and casual wear. In 1917 the first Converse All Star was released and is still produced today. By 1955, this style of shoe was so popular in America that Converse was claiming their All Star as the number-one selling shoe in the country.
Reebok The Pump Bringback Limited edition ed. 1914/1989 2004 (1989)
leather, synthetic fabric, mesh, thread and cord, plastic, metal, synthetic rubber 21.2 x 11.5 x 30.3 cm
Collection of Jazz Bonifacio, Melbourne
adidas Superstar Upper Playground edition 2005 (1969)
synthetic fabric, leather, plastic, thread and cord, synthetic rubber
10.0 x 10.0 x 32.0 cm
Collection of Brett Pooley, Melbourne
By the 1960s, the sneaker was a global phenomenon - due in part to the success of the Olympic Games and the expansion of professional sport generally. In the 1970s and 80s, jogging and fitness crazes elevated brands such as Nike and Reebok to multinational status.
Coming into Summer 06/07 sneakers are firmly in the spotlight, with an exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia named Sneakers: Classics to Customs exploring Classic, Limited Edition, Collaborations, Designers, Celebrities, Independents and Custom sneaks. Then the Puma Archive opens the an exhibition to commemorate the relaunch of the first signature sneaker created, the Puma Clyde; and New Zealand’s only sneaker brand, Poynter, gets down to some serious business of its own. We take a look at these before giving you some tips on how to find some cool sneakers for yourself!
“Some dudes buy shoes like they dine from a buffet, a bit of this, a bit of that… what determines this is personal and include[s] hype, fads, peer pressure and brand loyalty, but mostly I think it has to do with the emotional connection you get when great design hits the hip-pocket nerve. Sure you can have little flings here and there, office romances and so on, but once you fall in love the first time, you can never leave it.” Woody, Sneaker Freaker magazine
Daylight Hallucination (Nike Air Zoom LeBron II Low) 2006 (2005)
synthetic polymer paint on synthetic leather, synthetic leather, fabric thread and cord, metal, plastic, synthetic rubber 13.5 x 11.5 x 30.5 cm
Collection of Sekure D, Melbourne
The curators at the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia are pretty switched on cats. They regularly commission exhibitions of fashionable works, and heven invited WORLD Designers Francis Hooper and Denise L’strange-Corbet to contribute to an exhibition in 1999. Now they are delving into the world of sneakers, exploring Classic, Limited Edition, Collaborations, Designers, Celebrities, Independents and Custom sneaks from around the world.
adidas Game Day Lightning, sample
synthetic leather, mesh, fabric, thread and cord, plastic, synthetic rubber 16.0 x 11.0 x 30.5 cm
Collection of Mathew Fabris, Melbourne
adidas adicolor High Y2, Taro Okamoto edition, Yellow palette 2006 (1985)
synthetic fabric, leather, thread and cord, velcro, metal, plastic, synthetic cord 15.8 x 11.0 x 29.5 cm
Collection of adidas Australia, Melbourne
Roger Leong, the NGV Curator for International Fashion and Textiles says: “Apart from the essential need to have a rubber sole, it is almost impossible to generalise the sneaker. There is an endless variety of ways a sneaker can look, and it is a source of pleasure to both the casual wearer and the serious collector. It also makes for an impressive visual experience when 300 of the most style-worthy sneakers are displayed together.”
Mr Leong agrees that today sneakers are seen as icons of style and fashion. “Interestingly, most of the lenders to this exhibition are young males, many of whom began collecting in the past five years,” he says. “Shoe companies are introducing more and more exclusive sneaker releases, all intended to excite sneaker fans, and this enthusiasm has proved that sneaker culture is not a short lived fad, rather, it is diverse, rich and part of the urban streetscape.”
Tony Ellwood, NGV Deputy Director said many of the items on display had never been removed from their packaging. “This exhibition will delight both the general public and serious collector with its diversity.” The exhibition runs from 16 December 2006 – 8 July 2007.
Grab your own designer sneaks!
The original Puma Clydes make a comeback
If you were a sneaker fan, you would know that the first pair of sneakers that were ‘endorsed’ were the Puma Clydes. A simple suede sneaker, it made its way onto the court and ended up as a fashion and culture icon. New York basketball legend Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier put his name to the shoe in the early 70’s, to have it embraced by street culture and remain a timeless classic today. Clyde would pair his Pumas with his famous fedora hats and mink coats, pioneering the original pimp look and enabling the shoes to move from the basketball court to the street – where it became a shared property between a variety of ‘scenes’ from B-Boys to Punks. A staple for thirty years, the Clyde has returned – identical replicas of the original shoes are now available.
Poynter is New Zealand’s only sneaker brand
Poynter Footwear is New Zealand’s only sneaker brand. Born from an inherent desire to create and a genuine love of sneakers, Poynter set out to add innovation to the footwear industry with a solid shoe collection. Since it’s inception, the sneaker has morphed from being strictly a sports focused commodity into a major fashion luxury that transcends both race and class. At Poynter they admire the diversity of the sneaker, with style influences as varied as the sneaker itself. Their style is not European, east or west coast, but a unique blend of all these influences with our own South Pacific flavour. For summer Poynter has released it’s best range ever including four new sneaker styles and some great prints. If you are after some Poynter sneaks to invest in, check out the King Kapisi’s.
Another must have for sneaker collectors is a pair of the Puma Yutori’s. Influenced by traditional Japanese costume, this distinctive rocking profile of these shoes are inspired by Geta shoes and echo the folds of the kimono. The back is collapsible, allowing the style to be worn as a slip-on shoe or slide. The Yutori Kimono is crafted from real Kimonos purchased in vintage shops throughout Japan, making every shoe unique. Quantities are limited to 600 worldwide, and there are only 20 in New Zealand – sold through Sole in Newmarket Auckland.
There are only 20 Puma Yutori in the country
Indian Designer Manish Arora’s line of sneakers for Reebok
Everyone – from rockers to sports stars or moguls on casual Friday’s, love their Converse shoes, something the company revels in. Try on a pair of leather sneaks, or purchase a pair of John Varvatos Converse shoes. They are mens’ answer to the little black dress – they go with anything. They were flavour of the month at the Milan Fashion Collections in July, and the love affair with them shows no sign of slowing down.
Reebok collaborated with Indian Fashion Designer Manish Arora to make ‘Fish Fry for Reebok’, named after Bollywood blockbusters and sold through select Reebok stores around the world.
The Sneakers Low Down
Interested in sneakers? You might want to buy a pair of pale grey Nike Pigeon Dunks, only 150 pairs were made as a tribute to New York. Adidas’ Forum RS are stitched together with pieces of their vintage tracksuits, some even from the Munich Olympics! And thanks to a partnership between Apple and Nike, your iPod nano can become your personal trainer, coach and work out companion with the new Nike+ range of shoes. Simply insert the lightweight sensor into the customized pocket in your Nike+ shoe, plug the receiver into your nano and you are ready to select your playlist and tailor your run.
tune your run with Nike
So how do you get involved in the phenomenon of buying sneakers as a fashion item? Here are a few tips:
Remember you don’t have to be obsessed and spend piles of money to find killer pairs. Just keep tabs on a few coveted styles and move quickly when you see them. An example of must haves are the King Kapisi branded sneaks from Poynter, New Zealand’s only sneaker brand.
Own the essentials. Also get yourself a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors, they’re great straight out of the box and three months later with some character.
You can buy sneakers not made in sweat shops
You can buy fair trade: If you are concerned about not buying products made by children in sweat shops, try the ‘No Sweat’ sneaks that look like Chucks from fair trade importer Trade Aid or socially responsible Christchurch fashion label chalkydigits.
Personalise it: Every woman needs a pair of plain white sneakers, and every brand does them – but if you want to customize the sneaker yourself, attack it with paint and pens. But if you prefer to leave customizing to the experts, some brands now offer this as a service.
Do some research. The National Gallery of Victoria in Australia’s exhibition named Sneakers: Classics to Customs explores Classic, Limited Edition, Collaborations, Designers, Celebrities, Independents and Custom sneaks. Or check out sites such as www.hostilekicks.com or www.kix-files.com.
Sneaker heads will smile now that Loaded has opened in Wellington
Speak to the experts: Visit the Loft in Chancery Auckland; Loaded in Manners Mall, Wellington or visit http://www.funkyshoes.co.nz/.
Take care of them. Fanatics clean their shoes daily, or if they are going to keep them for an investment piece, never take them out of their box. But the coolest sneaks are the ones you wear and love, so don’t be afraid to wear them, cleaning occasionally.
Accessorize your sneaks. If you are going to enter the world of cool sneakers, you can’t treat them like they are the accessories. We suggest tees from Robot Shirts or Mr Vintage, teamed with jeans and pants by Doosh or Dual as perfect items to match your runners.
COURTESY OF: FASHION NZ