The designer sneaker has its origins in the humble plimsole (or plimsoll) whose history seems to date back to the mid nineteenth century. The original simple canvas shoe with a flat, flexible rubber sole quickly developed into the popular ‘sports shoe’ common a century later as the ‘gymn shoe’ in schools and colleges in the UK and ‘sneakers’ in the USA.
In the UK the plimsole was compulsory footwear for PE lessons and cross-country running – usually white, black or navy blue. During the long, hot summer holidays, plimsoles were ideal for beach wear and boating and would become attractively faded with time.
At the same time, USA teenagers wore ‘sneakers’ which came to include the high ankle baseball shoe. Popular with cheer-leaders and beach boys, canvas sneakers were high fashion items, worn with casual jeans and full knee length skirts as part of the rock-and-roll styling.
A popular choice this summer, modern vintage sports shoes are a must for any wardrobe. Designer styling has created exciting versions with all forms of colour and fastenings; velcro, laces, buttoned straps and the traditional slip-on with elasticated insets (or gussets).
The designer sneaker (or trainer) is now an integral part of casual wear. Often customised, hand painted, decorated with diamontes or viewed as a marketing tool for campaign awareness it has seemingly endless possibility for innovation, invention and individualisation.