Modern Sneaker Marketing

Once the basic processes were established to make and market sneakers, companies other than rubber manufacturers were founded. These companies evolved technologies and created competition in the marketplace. Some of the most influential companies are reviewed chronologically.

Reebok. In the 1890s, Joseph William Foster from Bolton, England made some of the world's first known track spikes. Although track spikes are technically different than sneakers, Foster was interested in making athletes run faster by evolving shoe technologies. By 1895, he was in business making spikes for an international circle of distinguished runners. In 1924, J. W. Foster and Sons made the spikes worn in Summer Olympic Games by the athletes celebrated in the film Chariots of Fire (Van-derbuilt 1998, p. 11). In 1958, two of Fosters' grandsons started a companion company named Reebok (which went on to make sneakers), after the African gazelle. Reebok has grown to be one of the world's largest athletic shoe manufacturers, producing products for many sports like tennis, basketball, and cross-training.

New Balance. Location was another commonality between the first sneaker manufacturers, as talent and machinery were important in keeping manufacturers in business. Most came from England or the New England region of the United States, particularly Massachusetts. New Balance was one of those companies, and was established in 1906, by William J. Riley from Watertown, Massachusetts. Riley was a 3 3-year-old English immigrant who committed to help people with troubled feet by making personal arch supports and prescription footwear to improve shoe fit. Arch supports and prescription footwear remained the core of New Balance's business until 1961, when they manufactured the "Track-ster," a performance running shoe (weighing 96 grams) that was made with a rippled rubber outsole and came in multiple widths (Heard 2003, pp. 48-49). The Trackster was the preferred shoe of college running coaches and YMCA fitness directors. Since the 1960s, New Balance's reputation for manufacturing performance footwear in multiple widths has grown through word of mouth and "grassroots" marketing programs for which they are still known.

Adidas. The first major non-English or American sneaker manufacturers were the Dassler brothers, Adolf (nicknamed Adi) and Rudolf (nicknamed Rudi) who setup business in Herzogenaurach, Germany (1926). Their first sneakers cost two German Reich marks, and followed three guiding principles: to be the best shoes for the requirements of the sport, to protect athletes from injury, and to be durable. The Dasslers developed many firsts in the athletic shoe industry. Some of them included shoes with spikes and studs for soccer, track, and field. They also looked at constructing shoes with materials other than leather and canvas to reduce weight. By 1936, the Dasslers' shoes were internationally known, and were worn by many great athletes like Jesse Owens. In the Berlin 1936 Olympics, Owens won in almost every track and field event he competed in, earning four gold medals while wearing the Dasslers' shoes (Cheskin 1987, p. 11). Due to irreconcilable differences, Adi Dassler parted from his brother Rudi (1948), and they formed two separate shoe companies (Vanderbuilt 1998, p. 29). Rudi's company was called Puma, named after the powerful wild cat. Adi's company was called Adidas, where he took the first two syllables of his first and last name to create the famous name for his product line. To give support to the runner's midfoot, Adi created the three side stripes trademark in 1949 which is still used in almost every Adidas athletic shoe design (Heard 2003, pp. 90-93).

Onitsuka Tiger (ASICS). Although most sneakers in the early 2000s are manufactured in Asia, Onitsuka Tiger (later named ASICS) was the first Asian brand to make a statement in the sneaker market. Established in Kobe, Japan (1949), by Kihachiro Onitsuka, the company's philosophy was based on "bringing-up sound youth through sports." Onitsuka believed that playing sports was a solution to keeping kids out of prison, especially after World War II. The company's first shoes were made in Onit-suka's living room and resembled the Converse All-Star. Another philosophy of Onitsuka's was "harmony between human and science." In an interview with Onitsuka, he said: "We try to analyze all phenomena which affect a human body during sports and to make shoes which will meet the needs of the users is our principle toward the shoe making" (ASICS 2004). The company's name evolved to ASICS in 1977 based on the Latin phrase "Anima Sana In Corpore Sano," which translates to "A Sound Mind in a Sound Body." Although ASICS is a smaller company compared to the others mentioned, it is important to note, as it inspired the creation of Nike. Nike's founders, Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight, started their careers in the sneaker business working for ASICS, where they designed, developed, and sold their products.

Nike. Of all the major sneaker companies, Nike is the youngest, yet the largest globally. Nike was a business venture between the track coach Bill Bowerman from the University of Oregon and Phil Knight (who ran for Bowerman). Bowerman always had a desire for better-

quality running shoes and was always tinkering with new ideas. He even made customized shoes for his own athletes. Bowerman was very inspirational to Knight, and while studying for his MBA at Stanford University in the early 1960s, he devised a small business plan for making quality running shoes, producing them in Japan, and shipping to the United States for distribution. After graduation, Knight traveled in 1963 to Japan to seek a way to live his dream. Representing Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS), he met with the president of Tiger ASICS (Onit-suka Company) and they agreed to go into business. Knight traveled throughout the West Coast of the United States and sold ASICS out of his car. Even Bow-erman got involved and evolved some of the designs. Eventually the partners decided to split from the Onit-suka Company and create their own company. In 1971, Jeff Johnson (the first Nike employee) coined the name "Nike," and the Swoosh was created. The name originates from the Greek goddess of victory, and the famous Swoosh design was the creation of student Caroline Davidson, who was paid only $35 (Nike 2004). The first Nike shoe to feature the Swoosh was the Cortez in 1972. Product innovation and marketing has been key to Nike's success. By the end of the twentieth century, technologies like the waffle outsole, AIR, SHOX and legacies like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods were just a few things that contributed to making Nike the largest sneaker company in the world.

Trainers. Technically, a sneaker is a shoe made of a canvas upper and a soft rubber outsole. What some refer to as a sneaker is much different and a more correct term to use is "trainer or "athletic shoe." Since the creation of the first sneaker-type construction, technology, fashion, and the desire for athletes to perform more efficiently and accurately have led to design evolution. The most typical types of sneakers are: running, cross-training, walking, basketball, and tennis. Technologies in materials have allowed sneakers to be made of synthetic leathers and 3D knits that are lightweight, breathable, and waterproof. A modern-day trainer could be as complicated as a shoe with an upper, midsole, insole, outsole, and shank. Within those parts, there are often subparts that better define each particular technology and give it its own specific performance advantage to others in the marketplace.

See also Shoemaking; Shoes. BIBLIOGRAPHY

Cheskin, Melvyn P. The Complete Handbook of Athletic Footwear.

New York: Fairchild Publications, 1987. Coye, Dale. "The Sneakers/Tennis Shoes Boundary." American

Speech 61 (1986): 366-369. Heard, Neal. Sneakers: Over 300 Classics from Rare Vintage to the

Latest Designs. London: Carlton Books, 2003. Hendrickson, Robert. Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins. New York: Facts on File Inc., 2000.

Tenner, Edward. "Lasting Impressions: An Ancient Craft's Surprising Legacy in Harvard's Museums and Laboratories." Harvard Magazine 103, no. 1 (September-October 2000): 37.

Vanderbuilt, Tom. The Sneaker Book: Anatomy of an Industry and an Icon. New York: The New Press, 1998.

Internet Resources

ASICS. "Special Interview: The Reasons Why I Keep Making Sports Shoes." ASICS Shoe History: Epochs of 1949-2000. Available from <>.

Bellis, Mary. "Footware and Shoes: What You Need to Know About." Available from <>.

Goodyear. "Charles Goodyear and the Strange Story of Rubber." Goodyear. Available from <>.

"The History of Your Shoes." Shoe Info Net. Available from <>.

Kippen, Cameron. "History of Sport Shoes." Curtin University of Technology: Department of Podiatry. Available from <>.

Nike Inc. "Niketimeline: From Humbling Beginnings to a Promising Future.", The Inside Story. Available from <>.

Paquin, Ethel. "From Creepers to High-tops: A Brief History of the Sneaker." Lands' End Catalog. Available from <>.

Perrin, Charles L. "Athletic Shoes: Many Types, Many Nicknames." Charlie's Sneaker Pages. Available from <>.

"Plimsoll Line." Britannica Student Encyclopedia. Encyclopedia Britannica Premium Service. Available from <>.

Wagner, Christopher. "School Sandals." Historical Boys Clothing (HBC). Available from <>.

Susan L. Sokolowski

SOCIAL CLASS AND CLOTHING Display of wealth through dress became customary in Europe in the late thirteenth century. Therefore, a person's class affiliation could be assessed with relative ease. Because dress was recognized as an expressive and a potent means of social distinction, it was often exploited in class warfare to gain leverage. Dress was capable of signifying one's culture, propriety, moral standards, economic status, and social power, and so it became a powerful tool to negotiate and structure social relations as well as to enforce class differences.

For example, the sumptuary laws in Europe in the Middle Ages emerged as a way to monitor and maintain social hierarchy and order through clothes. People's visual representation was prescriptive, standardized, and regulated to the minutest detail. The types of dress, the length and width of the garment, the use of particular materials, the colors and decorative elements, and the number of layers in the garment, for instance, were confined to specific class categories. However, after society's lower-class groups relentlessly challenged the class structure and evaded the sumptuary laws' strictures, the laws were finally removed from statute books in the second half of the eighteenth century.

The sartorial expression of difference in social rank is also historically cross-cultural. For example, in China, a robe in yellow, which stood for the center and the earth, was to be used only by the emperor. In Africa among the Hausa community, members of the ruling aristocracy wore large turbans and layers of several gowns made of expensive imported cloth to increase their body size and thus set them apart from the rest of the society. In Japan, the colors of the kimono, its weave, the way it was worn, the size and stiffness of the obi (sash), and accoutrements gave away the wearer's social rank and gentility.

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100 Fashion Tips

100 Fashion Tips

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