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Through the Years: Sneaker Evolution

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Are you someone who lives in your sneakers? A collector? Let’s go down memory lane to learn more about the quintessential shoe almost everyone has in their arsenal.


Did you know that sneakers go way back to the 18th century? This was the time when rubber shoes gained their popularity. Shoes were finally being produced on a massive scale as a result of the Industrial Revolution. People no longer had to rely on shoemakers to cobble together each shoe by hand.

Along with faster production, new products were also introduced to the shoe industry — in this case, vulcanized rubber. The first rubber-soled shoes were developed in England and were called “plimsolls”. They were made without a discernible right nor left foot.

What’s in a Name?

Interestingly enough, ‘sneakers’ got their name as rubber shoes were initially made for the use of catching criminals without being caught. From then on, rubber shoes then became a preferred choice for ‘sneaks’ as compared to heavy-heeled leather shoes which were more prevalent back then.

The first ever pair of sneakers to be mass produced for sale in the market were a canvas topped shoe that was produced by the United States Rubber Company. It was then known as a streamlined, basic shoe featuring a rubber sole that would hold up far better than a pair of leather shoes used for sports.


However, not long after in the 19th century, there was the introduction of exciting innovations in the sneaker industry. One of which was the introduction of the well-loved Converse All Star high-tops. They’re known as the first basketball shoes in the world. And, bringing in the world’s first running shoe in New Balance with complete with ripple shoes deemed as “The Trackster”.

By the 1980s, the sneaker began its climb from footwear basic to an iconic trend. And, it was during this decade that modern sneaker culture began.  In 1985, Nike collaborated and released a line of basketball shoes with NBA basketball player Michael Jordan. This generated and fuelled the hype amongst consumers for sneakers.

Sneakers vs Trainers?

There used to be a difference between the terms ‘sneakers’ and ‘trainers’. Initially, trainers were designed with technical aspects in mind as they were most commonly used for sporting purposes, such as for tennis and running. 

In terms of design, trainers are typically equipped with functional elements such as added ankle support, shock absorbing soles, light-weight fabric and sturdier materials for a better fit. 

Although trainers are designed to be used primarily for sports and exercise, it was still a common sight back then to see people wearing trainers for fashion as well.  This, due to comfort. 

By the 1990s, fashion trends started to evolve as people started consciously pairing their trainers with their casual wear for that stylish and sporty look, the term ‘trainers’ became synonymous with the term ‘sneakers’.  For example, Converse shoes were initially launched as conventional basketball shoes. But today, the very same pair of Converse Chuck Taylor High Tops are worn as casual trainers which can be easily paired with any outfit.

Fulfilling your trainer fix

The range of trainers available in today’s market has grown by leaps and bounds in terms of design in order to cater to towards those who appreciate sneaker culture.  Even in the 19th century, trainers were the easiest type of shoes to pair with various looks and styles. From a smart casual look to that sporty yet stylish feel. You can even pull off an edgy yet cool vibe.

From wearing trainers with jeans, or even your favourite summer dress; trainers are meant to be worn anytime, and anywhere.  Comfort is definitely an important factor when it comes to footwear, but with wearing a pair of trainers, it brings out the best of both worlds where comfort meets style.

In today’s era, trainers are taking the world by storm with well-known celebrities collaborating with certain shoe brands to come up with their own limited edition trainer collection or styles. This includes Yeezy Boosts and the Puma Fenty collection.

In addition, certain classic retro trainer styles and designs have recently made a comeback this year such as the Vans Old Skool collection, Nike Air Force 1, Reebok Classic Leather and the Adidas Originals Stan Smiths, among others.

There are many types of trainers available nowadays. Ranging from high-tops, to slip-ons, the well-loved classic lace-ups and even various colourways. There’s something to suit anyone’s distinctive style and personal tastes.

At JD’s 6th and latest King of Trainers outlet at IOI City Mall, there are selected store exclusive products available. Nike Air Max 98s, adidas Alpha Bounce 2s, Converse One Stars, Nike Vapormax Pluses, New Balance 697s, and Reebok Pump Supremes are expected to drop in as early as January 2018.

Currently, there are a total of 6 JD Sports outlets nationwide. This includes its flagship store at JD Pavilion Elite, JD Sunway Pyramid, JD Sunway Velocity, JD KOT Mid Valley, JD AEON Tebrau City and JD KOT IOI City Mall. – The Binge

This article was contributed by JD Sports Malaysia.


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