Sneaky History

17 03 2010

Plimsoll High

Plimsoll Low


To understand the present, we must first examine the past.  Thus, we must go back, way back to over a century ago to learn about the origins of sneakers.  By the mid 1800’s, the first rubber-soled shoes, called plimsoll, were being manufactured in the UK.  Meanwhile, it wasn’t until the late 1890’s that Goodyear Shoe Co., then a division of the U.S. Rubber Company, began to manufacture rubber and canvas shoes in the US under different names.  The company finally decided to settle on Keds as the best name.  By 1916, Keds created an American Classic by becoming the first mass marketed athletic shoes. This shoe was coined “sneakers” by Henry Nelson McKinney because the soles were quiet and allowed someone to “sneak” up silently.  Also very important during this time, Marquis Mills Converse started a rubber shoe company in 1908 by passing a rubber trust that prevented most companies from doing business directly with their retailers.  The renowned company, Converse, revolutionized the game of basketball by releasing the world’s first performance basketball shoe in 1917, the Converse All Star.

Converse All Star and Keds Champion

From this point forward, the athletic footwear industry or “sneakers” continued to grow and evolve.  Both Keds and Converse were pivotal in the success of sneakers.