By Belinda Morris
Fifty Sneakers that Changed the World
By The Design Museum and Alex Newson
(£12.99, Octopus Publishing)
There are probably some among you, devotees of a sturdy, British, Oxford brogue perhaps, who are rather dubious that a sneaker (“sneaker? When did plimsolls become ‘sneakers’?!) could possibly have influence on a global scale. They’re just sports shoes, right?
Well, no, they’re not. For a start, as the author points out, various types of sneaker are “perfectly acceptable footwear in virtually any situation” and they’ve made the transition from track, pitch and field to the high street. He also goes on to suggest that sneakers have influenced design, art and popular culture and “reveal the tensions and creative connections between the world of sport, design and fashion”.
As you might expect, despite a cover image of a Converse All Star, the book (like the market) is somewhat dominated by the big players: Nike, adidas and Puma. But as the ‘Fifty’ come along in chronological order, a few other names creep in, beginning with the original plimsoll (or, depending on where you come from, daps, gutties, sannies or pumps) came along around 1850 thanks to the New Liverpool Rubber Company and later, Charles Goodyear who discovered vulcanisation. We then jump to 1916 with Keds’ Champion from the US Rubber Company and a year later the aforementioned Chuck Taylor All Star, designed for basketball.
Sports shoe geeks will be gratified to know that the book takes us up to 2013, so every conceivable innovation and technological advancement has been covered. And if you don’t agree with the final 50 (personally I’m happy to see that Camper is in there, along with Baby Spice’s platform sneakers) then please take it up with Mr Newson