In his first book, journalist Smith follows his fascination, sprinting through the evolution of the planet’s hippest, most popular footwear, a history that goes way beyond sports and into the streets of the youth culture.
The tale begins with inventor Charles Goodyear, whose innovations and patents on rubber laid the basis for all things sneaker to come. Combine these innovations with a demand for sports footwear, and an industry was born. From the expansion of soccer and rugby, men’s and women’s tennis, the rebirth of the Olympic games, and the 1891 invention of basketball, the turn-of-the-20th-century sports explosion created an increasing proliferation of athletes—along with thousands of feet needing protection. As the author demonstrates, with the professionalization of sports through the coming decades and events like the 1960s creation of jogging as a pastime, the demand for sneakers continued to grow—and it hasn’t lost any momentum in the new millennium. The demand for sneakers today often boils down to status (“some people will wait in line for days to get kicks no one else has”) rather than utility, and Smith details how ingenious media campaigns such as Spike Lee’s Mars Blackmon/Michael Jordan ads spawned an all-new fashion boom beginning in 1988, with Nike selling millions of pairs of Air Jordan sneakers for their creative efforts. Today, with sneakers dominating the streets on the feet of the youth, the author explains that this universal footwear has become the latest symbol of globalization. With that symbolism, new controversies abound. Aside from sneaker manufacturers still battling to overcome stigmas of sweatshop conditions and poverty wages, they walk a fine line in marketing their wares as the popularity of gangster fashion grows in the street culture.
A cornucopia of factoids and fun asides bursting with a wealth of in-depth information on every aspect of sneakers, from their birth to their current and continuing explosive popularity.