Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

The 10 greatest ever trainers

They’ve gone from functional sports kit to high-end fashion statements. Shoe obsessive Josh Sims recounts the colourful history of every man’s favourite type of footwear.

When Charles Taylor lent his name to a pair of canvas basketball boots in 1932, the sportsman-turned-shoe-salesman couldn’t have imagined the legacy he was building. Although created in 1917, Taylor helped to popularise the once-revolutionary rubber-soled trainers. They became the footwear of choice for many counter-culture icons of the ensuing decades, from James Dean in the Fifties to The Strokes in the Noughties. 


Now, more than 70 years on, the shoes remain at the forefront of a multibillion-dollar industry that reaches far beyond the sporting fraternity. They are even the stuff of catwalk fashion, with the likes of Prada, Louis Vuitton and Lanvin chasing the sneaker dollar. 


This is not a cultural shift that occurred overnight, though. When Bill Bowerman paid $10 to a local graphic artist to design a ‘swoosh’ logo and co-founded Nike in 1978 (the original company was formed in 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports), his intention was to capitalise on the craze for jogging. And it wasn’t until the mid-Eighties, when Peter Moore styled the first Air Jordans, and design supremo Tinker Hatfield began devising ways of building air bubbles into his shoes, that you could see people’s perceptions of trainers altering. 


Hip-hop had a big part to play. In 1985, Run DMC sang: “My adidas only bring good news and they are not used as felon shoes.” The New Yorkers were among the first to embrace trainers as a fashion statement; indeed, they were also the first hip-hop stars to collaborate with a sportswear brand. And by 1989, even fictional sneakers, such as Marty McFly’s futuristic Nike Hyperdunks in Back To The Future Part II could start mass-salivation among guys.
The history of sneaker-pimping has even seen innovations such as Nike’s toe-separating Air Rift, Reebok’s pneumatic Pump and Puma’s Disc, with its lace-free tightening mechanism. 
Today, trainers pound every pavement. As Hatfield put it: “The cachet of sports shoes is that they’re fashion but actually do something too. But I could never have predicted how sneakers could influence popular culture or be a means of self-expression.”

Related

615x330_style_frag_220910.jpg

New scents for autumn

menswear.jpg

Runway trends of 2011

Comments

More

What Action Man and G.I. Joe taught me about style

"Each doll had multiple dope mission-specific outfits and their uniforms and gear were like extensions of their personalities..."

24 Apr 2017

Supreme and Nike collab on some more classic basketball trainers

Just like your mum, they're chunky but beautiful

by Sam Diss
24 Apr 2017

adidas’s Busenitz Pro is designed to look even better as you ruin them

Thank god

by Sam Diss
24 Apr 2017

The Idle Man drops new summer collection and, yes, it's very good

Realistic British summer outfits from the London store

by Sam Diss
20 Apr 2017

In praise of (the very small amount of) stylish football players

Celebrating the lesser spotted nicely-dressed footballer

by Sam Diss
20 Apr 2017

How Supreme left New York and made your dad furious

Streetwear's defining label swaps skate for Stoke away

20 Apr 2017

Can a man ever get away with wearing a shawl?

It's a half-cape-half-cardigan and we have conflicted feelings...

by Sam Diss
19 Apr 2017

5 best pastel trousers for this summer that won't make you look dumb

This is the tribute George Michael deserves

by Sam Diss
18 Apr 2017

Gucci's new collection channels sixties Northern Soul

The fits are on point but are the brands motives are sus?

by Sam Diss
18 Apr 2017

Timex teams up with Mr. Porter for this ace, all-black watch

And it's an exclusive

by Sam Diss
13 Apr 2017