Tennis shoes, also called athletic shoes or sneakers (which are called so because wearers of these shoes are able to sneak silently), of course aren’t just for tennis. They are used for just about every aspect of life from fashion statement to every major sport.
Tennis shoes trace its origins back to the industrial revolution in the 19th century. Because of the discovery of canvas and vulcanized rubber, as well as the advent of mass production, these shoes were now more commercially available and thus, cheaper compared to individually hand-made footwear.
Plimsolls (or plimsoles) are said to be the precursors of the tennis shoes. Like tennis shoes, plimsolls are made of canvas on the upper part with a rubber sole and are lightweight compared to other chunky and heavy footwear. It was at the Liverpool Rubber Company in England where plimsolls were first created and developed, and were once used as a beach footwear.
By the late 19th century, more rubber companies were engaged in the production of sneakers. One of them was a small shoe company named Goodyear which used to manufacture rubber and canvas shoes. But now of course Goodyear has become a corporation principally known for its rubber tires.
Another rubber shoe making firm, Keds, was established in 1916 and became the first company to manufacture and sell more affordable priced sneakers for the masses. In 1920 Adi Dassler, a German shoemaker, started producing handmade athletic shoes at his home. When his business grew, Dassler established his new company Adidas eleven years later. Adidas has become one of internationally-recognized shoe brands today.
In 1908, Converse was established to make rubberized sole footwear for customers of any gender and age. But it was in 1915 that it began to manufacture tennis shoes. Twenty years later Converse introduced a new style of shoes originally made for tennis champ Jack Purcell. Since then these shoes had found its way towards the feet of Hollywood stars as well as the “bad boy” gangs, breaking well beyond the shoes’ athletic purpose.
By the 1950s and the “baby boomer” era, the popularity of the sneakers rose at an unprecedented rate. Sneakers were becoming more popular especially among children and young adults that they were often criticized as a symbol of rebellion. Matinee idol James Dean represented those rebellious youths not only by the way of living but also by the style of clothing — he was often photographed wearing jackets, pair of denim jeans and white sneakers.
The face of the athletic footwear took a different turn in the 1970s. Because of the development of sports medicine, particularly in podiatry, companies began manufacturing athletic shoes designed for a specific sport such as tennis, basketball, football, jogging, etc.
Since the late 20th century, tennis or athletic shoes have become wildly popular, largely due to glittering endorsements by famous sports personalities and brilliant marketing campaigns by competing athletic footwear companies such as Nike, Reebok and Adidas who were becoming more cutting edge in sports shoe fashion.
Rather than just shoes which are basically adapted for athletic purposes, tennis (or athletic shoes or sneakers) have also become a fashion statement and have even caused riots when the latest Air Jordans are released.