A Brief History of Trainers

A Brief History of Trainers

Aug 02 , 2021


Tags - History of Trainers

Once the iconic symbol for athletes, trainers have now made their way to fashionable objects of desire and stepped away from its primary function.

From sportswear to street style and high-end fashion, trainers have truly made their mark in the shoe world.

Today, footwear is the second biggest selling online category and trainers have made quite the contribution to this growth.

In fact, in 2020 the global trainers market was valued at £56 billion and is predicted to reach £85 billion by 2026.

So it’s safe to say, trainers are here to stay and are now an undisputed symbol of our generation.

Worn by everyone such as children during their PE classes to professional athletes in the olympics, pop legends to royalty, supermodels to supermarket workers - trainers are the shoe that’s keeping everyone’s feet on the ground.

Let’s explore how trainers have evolved over the years.

19th Century

The history of trainers is long but fast paced and begins in 1839.

In this year, Charles Goodyear, an American scientist, invented vulcanised rubber which is waterproof and mouldable.

A few years later, during the 1870s this rubber was applied to shoes to allow for more durable soles, in particular plimsolls which are the ancestors to the trainers we know today.

At first, these were typically worn by people who were going on holiday or were into sports.

Approaching the 1900s, these shoes quickly gained popularity for other outdoor activities, and have been on an evolving road ever since.

Early 20th Century 

As these shoes became more and more popular, they went into mass production during 1917.

In this same year, the Converse All-Stars were born, which were later endorsed by basketball coach Chuck Taylor in 1923 - whose name can still be found on these trainers today.

A year later, trainers went international, when a German man named Adi Dassler created a trainer named after himself: Adidas - today, Adidas is one of the most popular trainers brands in the world.

During the beginning half of the 20th century, trainers were mostly worn to play sports.

It wasn’t until the 50s where there was a cultural shift towards trainers and the younger generations began to wear them too.

Especially as more brands began to appear, such as Diadora, Tiger and Puma.

Furthermore, the 50s saw a time where leisure activities were seen more seriously as an essential part of life.

1950 - 1970

Around the late 50s, schools began to relax their uniform policies, which made space for trainers in the classroom.

It wasn’t until this time that sales really started to rise and quickly, children were wearing trainers with jeans for everyday attire, because they were comfortable, casual and easy to move around in.

This shift resulted in new brands being born in the 60s - Nike, Vans and New Balance, still iconic brands today.

These brands could not have come at a better time, especially where more people took up jogging and these trainers were designed for running.

With technology beginning to advance, more and more athletic footwear was being created.

1980 - 1990

With new brands gaining more popularity and sales continuing to rise, now more than ever trainers were truly made for the masses.

Brands like Nike, Adidas and Reebok quickly became household names, and many celebrities began to endorse trainers.

Now, trainers were being marketed to younger people who wanted to embody the “coolness” of their favourite celebrities.

For instance, in the 80s Michael Jordan partnered with Nike to create the Nike Air Jordans - even to this day they are one of the most famous trainers and rakes in enormous sales.

During this decade, we saw the release of Reebok’s Freestyles, which were marketed specifically towards women.

The 90s now meant competition was fierce.

Rather than fighting over shoe types, it was now the battle of the brands as trainers dominated the market; trainers were now seen as a fashion statement and not just a sports shoe.

Present Day

From social class, sports, culture and music taste - trainers participate in everything.

Endorsements have evolved into collaborations: the most successful being Kanye West’s Adidas Yeezys.

Trainers are unavoidable, with so many styles, materials, designs, heel heights and more to choose from, there’s no doubt you can find a comfortable pair for you - whether it be for fashion or sports reasons.

The Trainers Resale Market

Today, there is a growing presence of “sneakerheads” who collect and trade trainers.

Specifically, brands like Nike and Adidas release limited edition shoes every so often, which are usually associated with a celebrity, popstar or athlete.

And, some people go to extreme lengths just to get their hands on these rare versions, like queueing up outside the store during the night.

For good reason too, these limited edition trainers tend to retail for around £135 - £170 and have been found to be resold at crazy prices - pop sensation, Kanye West released a limited edition pair of Yeezy’s which later sold on eBay for over £90,000!

As a result, these sneakerheads have created a new cult, who through entrepreneurial spirit generate hype and personal income.

If you’d like to know, please contact us today.


In the meantime, check our full range of Trainers here

Trainers for men

Trainers for women

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