The recipe for making a pair of shoes that will last for generations to come is not easy. There might be one ingredient that’s more important then others, the endorsement of a well-known athlete. Frontmen has studied some of our times most classic white sneakers and how they became legendary.
By Henrik Malmberg | Guider | 2016-12-19
A stroll down a crowded street in any major city in the world is far from a walk in the park. You need to keep your eyes open and your elbows sharpened to prevent yourself from getting push around. But the next time you get yourself caught between in the stream of bodies moving along the street you can always try to stop and appreciate that it is in fact quite quiet. The normal people-on-the-street-buzzing-sound would be replaced by a whole different kind of sound. A constant clink-clonk-clink-clonk-sound from all the hard leather soles under each pair of shoes. Thanks to sneakers, or trainers or whatever you call shoes with a rubber sole, that clink-clonk-sound faded away from the streets.
No matter what you call the shoes with a rubber sole, it’s probably not Plimsolls. But that’s actually the first name for them in England back in the late 19th century. The name Plimsolls is originated from the British politician Samuel Plimsoll which invented the Plimsoll line. The Plimsoll line is a reference mark located on a ship's hull that indicates the maximum depth to which the vessel may be safely immersed when loaded with cargo. This depth varies with a ship's dimensions, type of cargo, time of year, and the water densities encountered in port and at sea. Any way, what’s this has to do with shoes with a rubber sole? Well, the horizontal lines on the rubber soles of the shoes looked like this Plimsoll line and therefor they were named after it. In Britain the name Plimsoll as slowly faded away and been replaced by the now more common nickname, trainers, which comes from what the shoes are made for, training.
In the US the shoes got the name sneakers. Why? Because with the rubber sole you could ”sneak up” on someone without them noticing you. The U.S Rubber Company made the first pair in 1892 and the reason they put rubber soles on the shoes was to give them more stability and flexibility to be able to workout and do sports in them.
In 1907 Spalding made the first shoes that was targeting a specific sport and market, basketball. They saw potential from a marketing perspective by giving some of the most well-known and cool people in the U.S, the basketball players, the shoes. But things didn’t go as planned and instead another brand succeed took a shot at it. Converse launched a basketball shoe and faced the same result as Spalding. To try to turn things around Converse tried a crazy idea to let one of the basketball players themselves to design and endorse a pair of shoes. It was a slam-dunk and all of a sudden boys all around the U.S waited in line to get their hands on a pair of Converse All Star ”Chuck Taylor”.
With the All Star ”Chuck Taylor”-shoe Converse was the first brand ever to do a signature-shoe and this sort of collaboration would make way for some of our times most iconic sneakers. Today you can find sneakers in all kinds of models, colors and materials. At Frontmen we prefer the classic and clean white sneaker. There are not a lot of things better than opening up a new box of sneakers and just smell that fresh new-sneakers-scent. We wear our white sneakers with everything from a suit to a pair of jeans and a nice t-shirt. We dug deep in our archives and picked up the three most classic and timeless sneakers you can were today.
Converse All star ”Chuck Taylor”
Once Converse had outmaneuvered Spalding in the basketball segment the country was now at their feet. More and more players in the NBA chose to play with the All Star ”Chuch Taylor”-model and not soon after the shoe were announced as the official shoe of the NBA. The years went by, the popularity of the shoe skyrocketed and during the 60’s ninety percent of the players in the NBA had a pair of Converse on their feet.
In the 70’s Converse for the first time saw the competitors in the rear view mirror when brands like Puma, Adidas and Nike established themselves for real. Converse ace in their sleeve in the competition against the younger brands were their lucrative contract with the NBA. But by the end of the 70’s the contract between Converse and the NBA wasn’t renewed and the brand now lost the big engine in their marketing machinery. Basically all they could hope for now was that their legacy and their repetition was strong enough to withhold the upcoming opponents.
The younger brands had for quiet some time come up with new, cooler models in different attempts to push down Converse from their throne. When the basketball market became available they went all in. Nike actually took inspiration from Converse and what they had done 60 years earlier when they teamed up with Chuck Taylor. Nike teamed up with Michael Jordan and provided him with a shoe and from that day the throne belonged to Nike. From here on now it all went downhill for Converse. The other brands seemed cooler and more hip then Converse and with all the flashy superstars of the NBA wearing Nike the kids and nothing to do with Converse.
Converse went bankrupt in 2001 and Footwear Acquisitions bought them up a couple of months later. Two years later they were once again bought, this time by their competitor Nike and they re-launched Converse in 2005. The All Star ”Chuck Taylor” was once again back on its, and peoples, feet.
Today the Converse All Star ”Chuck Taylor” is one of the most sold shoe models of all time. Most people today do not recognize the shoes with basketball but rather rock stars like Kurt Cobain.
Adidas Stan Smith
Does the name Robert Haillet ring any bells? If not, don’t worry, there are not that many bells ringing for a lot of people. But if the history would have looked different probably every other person on this planet would have had his or her bells ringing if the name Robert Haillet popped up. The French tennis player Haillet was the first player to endorse a tennis shoe from Adidas. He got his name and face printed on the tongue of the shoe in 1965 but for some reason the sales never got as good as Adidas, and Haillet, wanted. When Haillet retired from the world of tennis in 1971 Adidas striped off his name from the shoe and choose to work with, by the time, the number one tennis player in the world, Stan Smith. The rest is as they say, history.
The Stan Smith-model as gotten a lot of praise for its clean design and during the years they have been worn by the right people sort of speak. The legendary designer Marc Jacobs was one of those right people. Jacobs dressed simple but yet very good and he often had a pair of Stan Smith on his feet. He became the figuration of a designer that just didn’t have the time to care what he was wearing because of all the work he put in to design clothes for other people.
The extraordinary Dior-designer Raf Simons has also done his part in the building of the brand Stan Smith. His own interpretation of the shoes is making people paying almost three times as much compared to a pair of normal Stan Smiths. Just because he is Raf Simons. The rapper Pharell Williams has also made his interpretation of the model and today the Stan Smith-model is one of Adidas most sold shoes of all times.
Jack Purcell was known as the ”The Smiler” because he played with a smirk smile on his face. It probably wasn’t his smile that made him such a good player but rather his talent and will to be the best. In 1932 he beat all the best badminton players in the world and the next year he was declared world champion. Jack Purcell was a Canadian badminton player, not a tennis player that a lot of people thinks he was.
When Purcell was on the top of his career he, together with a tire company called BF Goodrich Company, made his own badminton shoes. He wanted to make a pair of shoes that gave him more protection, more support on the court so he could stay on top of his game and continue to be the best player in the world.
From that moment when he put on his own shoes he was unstoppable. Over a decade went on and Purcell never lost a game and by the time he put his racket on the shelf he could still call himself the best player in the world.
Jack Purcell’s legacy and his shoes lived on after his retirement thanks to its clean esthetics and because of the clean look of the shoe people could wear them to basically any outfit they liked. The really big breakthrough for the shoes came when the icon James Dean was seen wearing them during the shooting for his film ”Rebel with cause”. And when the style icon Steve McQueen was seen with a pair of Jack Purcell’s on his feet the Purcell’s was on everybody’s lips and feet.
It wasn’t until the 70’s that Converse got involved with the Jack Purcell shoes. Converse bought the trademark for the Jack Purcell shoes to try to hold on to the sneaker and athletic shoe market when brands like Puma, Adidas and Nike started challenge them for real. Converse was hoping that with the Jack Purcell model and their own All Star ”Chuck Taylor” that they could fight of the upcoming brands. They kept the clean look for the Jack Purcell shoes and with their experience were able to get the Jack Purcell’s into whole new markets.
There aren’t many people that think about basketball when they see a pair of Converse All Star ”Chuck Taylor”. There are probably fewer who think about badminton when the see a pair of Converse Jack Purcell. The Jack Purcell’s as made the same journey as the All Star ”Chuck Taylor”-model, from the badminton court and the sports world out to rock stars, fashion people and the broad masses. Jack Purcell’s smirk smile lives on to this day through the characteristic smile on the toe of every Jack Purcell shoe.
For members only
Let our experts guide you to the right look and fit
30 day right to cancel & secure shipping