With the eruption of athleisure style for men and women, I would argue that the role and rise of the sneaker in so many closets of today’s women are an important indicator of our changing roles and views in society. Their mass democratization across both genders is very exciting and I think a very positive indication of the trends toward less gender stereotyping, more female expression and greater steps toward equality.
Growing up, I remember only wearing sneakers when I was doing sports or working out. Nowadays, I wear them just about every weekend on all my errands around the city or social events, and I can’t get enough of them.
We all know famous sneakers brands are notoriously tied to great athletes and celebrities. In my research to dig a little deeper about sneakers and their evolution I was quite surprised to find very little information on women’s sneakers’ history and their influence. There is a lot to be said about this trend from a cultural perspective which is why I wanted to highlight a few facts about women’s sneakers and their history specifically.
First, a little background. Sneakers have always been strong cultural symbols. Their first inception began in the mid-1800’s when Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber. This essentially means that Goodyear found a way for the rubber material to remain stable in both hot and cold conditions. Sneakers get their name from the very fact that they don’t make a noise when you walk around in them, meaning you can easily sneak around. Their rubber soles are what makes them so quiet to walk in.
The first mass produced sneaker brand was Keds in 1917, and was shortly followed by the introduction of the Converse All Star. The famous basketball player, Chuck Taylor, was the first athlete to get his own pair of sneakers named after him, now famously known as Chuck Taylor All Stars. You can find out about all the great milestones of sneakers and their evolution all over Google but it’s harder to filter down and see where women’s sneakers played a role and as you read each fact below you’ll see why I think that’s about to change. Below are 8 facts about women’s sneakers that just might blow your mind.
1. Sheryl Swoopes was the first female athlete to receive her own signature sneakers in 1995. She is known as the Michael Jordan of the WNBA.
2. Female athlete signature lines are still largely under-represented in the market compared to male signature lines. Female sneaker lines today are more often associated with a female celebrity rather than a female athlete. We hope to see this begin to change especially as women continue to prove themselves on and off the court. As women’s sports is catching up in terms of viewership (remember men were able to participate in sports long before women could) brands might finally be out of excuses to ignore our female athletic heroes.
3. You can find some amazing female sneakerheads (serious sneaker lovers and collectors) out there that you need to follow on Instagram like Jessica Gavigan @juicegee, Selma Kaci @selmaksebbagh, Janelle Shuttlesworth @jcheyenne, Tasha @lovetasha and more.
4. Basketball player Elena Delle Donne is one of the most recent female pro-athletes to get her own signature sneaker in 2016 and remembers wearing her Swoopes sneakers as a young girl and feeling inspired by them.
5. 75% of US consumers according to a NPD study say they don’t use their sneakers for the intended use of sports. We are looking for comfort and wearability more than ever.
6. Searches for ‘sneakers’ are up 67% overall since January 2011 compared to January 2017 according to Google Trends. Athleisure is a thing, as we all know. Even more interesting however is that ‘womens sneaker’ searches are up 250% for the same time period according to Google Trends. Ladies we hear you!
7. New York and California are hot spots with the most searches for women's sneaker searches according to Google Trends. I will add that those states have very different lifestyles but they certainly have sneakers in common.
8. Some of the top trends in women's sneakers since 2011 are sneaker wedges, and more recently slip on sneakers.
In closing I’d like to add that I never gave too much thought about how sneakers have evolved, even in my very own closet. What I can say now however is that I am excited to see what’s next and how we will continue to shape the future of the sneaker.
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