How sneaker trends have changed throughout the years

Getty Images/Daniel ZuchnikPeople have been wearing sneakers for decades.
  • Over the past few decades, sneakers have changed a lot.
  • Converse Chuck Taylors were popular in 1962 and they continue to be popular today.
  • In the ’90s, platform sneakers were trendy, partially because of how often the Spice Girls wore them.

From jeans to engagement rings, fashion trends are always evolving. And when it comes to footwear, sneakers have seen a lot of changes over the past few decades in terms of both function and style.

Although originally designed to be athletic wear, sneakers have since morphed into quite a fashion statement. Today, you don’t have to be an athlete to own dozens of pairs of sneakers. And you can buy sneakers from a variety of designers, not just athletic-wear brands.

From high-top Converse to slip-on Vans, here are some ways sneaker trends have changed over the years.

1960: Converse Chuck Taylors were worn by athletes and non-athletes alike.

Bettmann / Contributor/GettyEven some football players got in on the trend.

Although Converse High Tops had already been around for years, the sneakers continued to be popular throughout the ’60s.

The sneaker could be seen in movies like 1960’s “Tall Story,” a basketball-based romantic comedy starring Jane Fonda and Anthony Perkins.

Athletes were seen wearing these Converse, too. According to Dazed Digital, during the 1960s 90% of college and professional basketball players were wearing Chuck Taylor All Stars.

1969: Yoko Ono was photographed wearing a pair of white Keds sneakers.

Simpson / StringerGettyYoko Ono (left) wore a pair of Keds for her wedding to John Lennon (right).

Although Keds were released in 1916, throughout the ’50s and ’60s the shoes had a new wave of popularity as celebrities were spotted wearing them both in movies and in real life.

In the 1952 film “Clash by Night,” Marilyn Monroe wore a pair of Keds. And in the 1967 film “Two for the Road,” Audrey Hepburn was also wearing a pair of the flat, canvas shoes. Plus, in 1969, Yoko Ono was photographed wearing white Keds at her wedding to John Lennon.

1972: Adidas released its Stan Smith sneaker and unveiled a new logo.

Melodie Jeng/GettyThe Stan Smith shoe is still sold today.

In 1972, Adidas debuted its trefoil logo, a design that somewhat resembles a clover. The brand released it ahead of the 1972 summer Olympic games in Munich, Germany.

That same year, Adidas released the Stan Smith sneaker, named after the famed tennis player. The shoe’s original design was green and white. Today, the brand still sells versions of its Stan Smith shoe.

That same year, Nike released its Cortez shoe.

NikeA modern version of the Nike Cortez sneaker.

Also in 1972, Nike officially launched its Cortez shoe and the sneaker featured new innovations.

Bill Bowerman, a co-founder of Nike and Olympic track coach, created a cushioning system in the shoe that included rubber and foam. It was meant to make running easier by providing “advanced shock absorption” at the heel of the shoe.

1973: Basketball player Walt “Clyde” Frazier endorsed Puma Clydes.

Chance Yeh /Patrick McMullan via GettyThe Puma Clyde has been re-launched a few times since.

In 1973, as part of an endorsement deal, NBA starWalt “Clyde” Frazier began wearing Puma Clydes, a wider version of the brand’s suede Puma Basket.

With his endorsement deal, Frazier has been credited for putting the Puma company “back on the map,” according to Daily Knicks.

1974: Converse launched a suede and leather version of the One Star.

ConverseA 2017 version of the Converse One Star.

In 1974, Converse released the suede and leather version of the One Star, a low basketball shoe that was only sold for about a year.

1978: Nike debuted its Air Tailwind sneaker.

NikeThe Nike Air Tailwind is still being sold today.

Debuting at the Honolulu Marathon in 1978, the Nike Air Tailwind was the brand’s first shoe to use its “Air” technology that was co-developed by former NASA engineer M. Frank Rudy.

The sneaker used “blow rubber moulding” technique, which had previously been used to create astronaut helmets for the Apollo space missions. Nike marketed this shoe and its technology as being able to make the wearers feel like they were “running on air.”

1982: As aerobics became popular so did Reebok Freestyles.

Wikimedia Commons/ReebokUSA (CC BY-SA 4.0)A 2014 version of the Reebok Freestyles.

Inspired by the aerobics (a popular form of vigorous exercise) culture led by actress and fitness guru Jane Fonda in the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Reebok Freestyle fitness shoe hit shelves in 1982. Fonda herself also wore them in a few of her fitness video that year.

The all-white shoe features velcro straps and extra ankle support.

According to Time, shortly after the shoe’s release, Reebok launched a promotion that gave those who purchased the sneakers two free weeks of one of Richard Simmons’s fitness classes. Shortly after the promotion began, Reebok’s initial order of 32,000 pairs of this sneaker sold out in just a few days.

1984: Gucci released a luxury tennis shoe.

GucciGucci re-released the sneaker 30 years later.

According to Sole Collector, Gucci unofficially started the luxury sneaker trend in 1984. That year, Gucci released its tennis sneaker, a white shoe with green and red accents.

Gucci re-released the sneaker as part of an anniversary special in 2014.

1985: Nike’s Air Jordans entered the scene.

Focus on Sport/GettyMichael Jordan, the person the shoes are named after, has worn them.

In 1984, former Chicago Bulls basketball player Michael Jordan signed a six-figure endorsement deal with Nike, according to ESPN.

As part of the deal, Nike released its Air Jordan shoe nationwide in 1985. Each pair retailed for $US65 and came in a black and red design. And, in just two months, Nike had sold $US70 million worth of the shoes.

That same year, Jordan won the Rookie of the Year award for his 1984 to 1985 basketball season, which helped garner even more attention to his line of sneakers.

1986: Nike’s Air Force 1s were everywhere.

Wikimedia Commons/Xanor (CC0)This style of shoe has been brought back a few times since its initial release.

Debuting in 1982, these high-top, all-white Nikes were seen on professional basketball players around the US within a few years. In 1984, Nike almost discontinued the shoe but credited Baltimore’s “enthusiastic wearers” and local retailers for changing its mind.

According to Complex and Sole Collector, Nike re-released the shoes in 1986 and they once again rose to popularity.

Read More:

3 tips for keeping your sneakers white and as good as new

1987: White Keds were worn in “Dirty Dancing.”

Vestron PicturesJennifer Grey wore them during the bridge scene in ‘Dirty Dancing.’

In 1987’s “Dirty Dancing” film, actress Jennifer Grey (who played Baby) wore a pair of white Keds. The release of the movie, set in 1963, may have caused the shoe to have a bit of a resurgence in popularity.

1988: KangaROOS sneakers were quite a hit in the late ’80s.

Tsungam (CC BY-SA 4.0)KangaROOS sneakers have hidden pockets.

Released in 1979, KangaROOS sneakers began rising in popularitythroughout the ’80s. During this time, the brand released new fabrics and sponsored famed athletes including the NFL player Walter “Sweetness” Payton and MLB superstar Ozzie Smith.

By the end of the ’80s, KangaROOS were commonly worn and well-known for having pockets that could fit small items like loose change.

1989: The Reebok Pump made its debut.

Neilson Barnard/GettyThey initially retailed for over $US100.

Debuting in 1989, these sneakers have a special pump mechanism that allows the wearer to inflate the tongue of the shoe in order to achieve a perfect fit. The shoe retailed for $US170 at the time, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper.

1990: The Nike Air Max 90 was everywhere.

iStockNike Air Max 90s have been re-released since.

The third shoe released in the Nike Air collection, the Nike Air Max 90 was released in 1990. The shoe’s updated design includes a visible window for the compressed air inside the heel to be viewed.

1991: This was the year of the Nike Air Huarache.

Paul Yeung/South China Morning Post via GettyThere are multiple editions of this sneaker.

Debuting in 1991, the chunky neon sneaker was designed by Tinker Hatfield. The colourful shoe was initially met with mixed reactions although it would later become one of Nike’s best-selling designs, according to GQ.

1992: Every kid just had to have a pair of light-up sneakers.

LA GearYou can still buy sneakers with lights today.

In 1992, the company LA Gear debuted LA Lights, a collection of light-up sneakers. The LED lights in the soles of the shoes are designed to flicker as the person wearing them walks.

The company sold 5 million pairs of LA Lights in just one year, according to the Daily Dot.

1993: Converse were spotted on actors and musicians.

Mirek Towski/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/GettyWinona Ryder has worn Converse.

In the ’90s, Converse were famously worn by musicians like Kurt Cobain and actresses like Winona Ryder. Though these shoes have never really gone out of fashion, they were especially popular with fans of grunge (a type of punk-inspired rock music) in the ’90s and the trend for the sneakers at the time seemed to be “the dirtier, the better.”

1995: The Air Jordan XI was released.

Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via GettyThe sneaker is still famous.

This iconic style was worn by Michael Jordan on the basketball court for the ’95 and ’96 NBA season, according to Sneaker Files.

The sneakers were also worn by Jordan in the animated basketball-focused film “Space Jam,” which came out in 1996. The shoe’s presence in the film gave these sneakers the alternate title “Space Jam 11s,” according to Sneaker News.

1996: Adidas Sambas were spotted in movies.

Channel Four FilmsThe sneakers were worn by actor Ewan McGregor in ‘Trainspotting.’

These casual sneakers first emerged in the 1950s but they saw an uptick in popularity among British and American youth when actor Ewan McGregor wore them in the 1996 film, “Trainspotting,” a movie about a heroin addict who is trying to get clean.

The Samba design of the sneaker is still popular today.

1997: Platform sneakers became a major trend.

The LIFE Picture Collection/GettyFor the Spice Girls, it seemed no platform sneaker was too high.

Throughout the ’90s, the Spice Girls often wore extreme platform sneakers on stage and in their music videos. And, in 1997, the platform-wearing girl-group rose to No. 1 on the US Billboard charts with their debut album, “Spice.”

1998: Chunky sneakers from Sketchers were advertised and worn by celebrities.

Jeff Kravitz / Contributor/GettyChunky sneakers were trending in 1998.

In the late ’90s, celebrities like Britney Spears endorsed Sketchers sneakers in print ads that could be found in teen magazines around the US. In 1998, the brand also launched two new shoe collections: Sketchers USA casual shoes and Sketchers Sport athletic sneakers.

2001: Heelys became a major innovation in the sneaker world.

Tobias Hase/picture alliance via Getty ImagesSome schools banned them because they were considered by some to be a safety hazard.

A shoe that comes with wheels that can be popped inside of the heel in order to make them a roller skate, Heelys debuted in December 2000. The very first store to carry them sold out in hours, according to a 2004 report from NBC News.

By 2001, Heelys were popular with kids and celebrities like Usher and Shaquille O’Neal.

Within a few years, multiple schools and businesses had banned Heelys from being worn indoors due to safety concerns.

2003: Shoes from skater brands were quite popular.

Jason Merritt/GettyProfessional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek wearing a pair of DC shoes.

Although created a few years earlier, DC’s skater-inspired shoes began rising in popularity for skaters and non-skaters alike in the late ’90s and early 2000s. By 2003, the brand had greatly risen in popularity with DC Shoes’ revenue reaching over $US100 million per year, according to LA Biz.

2004: Big hip-hop labels dominated the sneaker market.

Johnny Nunez/WireImageModel and designer Kimora Lee Simmons with a Baby Phat sneaker.

Brands like Phat Farms (founded by Russell Simmons, a record producer), Rocawear (partially owned by musician Jay-Z), and Baby Phat (part of Simmons’ label) were quite popular in the early to mid-2000s.

These brands oftentimes had sneaker lines that included white sneakers with a pop of colour on the logo or shoes in eye-catching colours like red, blue, and pink.

2005: Checkered, slip-on Vans rose in popularity.

Getty/Paul A. HerbertVans has been around for decades.

Although the brand’s checkered, slip-on shoes were first introduced in 1982, by 2005, “the checkerboard slip-on was starting to kind of become cool with the downtown New York hipster crowd,” Brian Trunzo, a menswear trend forecaster, told Esquire.

According to the Los Angeles Times, in 2004, Vans was acquired for $US396 million by VF Corp., which also owns popular brands like The North Face and Timberland, According to Esquire, the brand’s popularity began to grow even more after the acquisition.

2006: Business-casual sneakers began to become trendy.

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GettyMichelle Obama wore a pair of these sneakers in 2009.

In 2006, Parisian brand Lanvin created an elegant, simple sneaker for men and women. That same year, the designer behind the brand, Lucas Ossendrijver, made the decision to feature the business-casual sneakers in one of his runway shows.

In the years that followed, Lanvin sneakers would continue to rise in popularity and be worn by CEOs and tech developers around the US.

2009: Thick-soled creepers were spotted in magazines and music videos.

Kirstin Sinclair/GettyCreepers come in a variety of different fabrics.

In 2009, thick-soled creeper-style platforms were in style and they were photographed in magazine spreads in publications like i-D and Nylon, according to Refinery 29. These chunky shoes could also be seen being worn by Gwen Stefani’s back-up dancers in the 2009 “The Sweet Escape” music video.

2012: Wedge sneakers were a rising trend in 2012.

Allen Berezovsky/GettyThey could be spotted on the red carpet, too.

Designer Isabel Marant, who is credited with creating some of the most famous wedge sneakers in 2012, said she wanted an extra lift for a boost of confidence and so she designed platform sneakers.

“Sneakers are so comfortable but at the same time it’s not very elegant,” Marant told Fashionista in 2012. “To have a little heel in it makes a difference, it gives you legs.”

ReadMore: What high heels looked like the year you were born

2013: Nike’s Flyknit sneakers became more widely marketed.

Max Mumby/Indigo/GettyKate Middleton wore Flyknit sneakers in 2018.

Nike’s Flyknit shoes debuted in 2012 and they were designed for and worn by Olympians and athletes. The Flyknit sneakers were engineered by Nike to be incredibly light and formfitting.

But in 2013, Nike expanded the shoe’s range by making a lifestyle range of Flyknit sneakers, according to Sneaker News. This expansion led to more individuals wearing these sneakers during day-to-day life.

2015: Kanye West’s Yeezys won an award.

Born from a collaboration with rapper Kanye West and sneaker brand Adidas, Yeezys are neutral-coloured sneakers that went from the runway straight to the closets of celebrities.

In 2015, Kanye West’s Yeezy Boost 350 sneaker won the shoe of the year award at the Footwear News 29th Annual Achievement Awards ceremony, which has been dubbed “Shoe Oscars,” according to GQ.

Although the shoes initially retailed in the low-to-mid hundreds, some sneakers were later re-sold for over $US2,000.

2016: Vans Old Skool sneakers saw a new spike in popularity.

Christian Vierig/GettyThe sneakers come in black and white.

The Vans Old Skool sneaker is known for its unisex, simple style that features a stripe across the side of the shoe.

Coming in both low- and high-top varieties, the classic skater shoe saw a sudden spike in popularity in 2016. In 2017, Vans confirmed that sales for the line of shoes were higher in 2016 than in previous years.

Vans attributed the sneaker’s re-ignited popularity to its Vault by Vans project, which revamps the brand’s classic shoes to spark new interest in them.

2017: Sneakers that look like socks were all over the runway.

Matthew Sperzel/GettyThey are sold in a few different colours.

The style grew in popularity over the course of 2016, but by the end of 2016, major fashion houses like Balenciaga, Fendi, and Marni came out with versions of the trend, cementing it as the “it” style.

By 2017, the sock-like kicks were spotted on celebrities around the globe and Vogue had named Balenciaga’s Speed trainers (the brand’s official name for its sock-inspired shoe) “the shoe of 2017.”

By 2018, some stars were even singing about this style of sneaker: “I like those Balenciagas, the ones that look like socks,” sang rapper Cardi B in her 2018 chart-topping hit, “I Like It.”

2018: Chunky “dad sneakers” were trending.

Raymond Hall/GC Images/GettySome people call these sneakers ‘dad’ sneakers.

Chunky sneakers were worn by a lot of celebrities, from Bella Hadid to Kendall Jenner, in 2018.

That same year, high-end brands like Balenciaga, Gucci, and Christian Louboutin debuted versions of these “ugly sneakers” that have also been called “dad sneakers” because of how some people said the thick-soled shoes resemble something their dad would wear.

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