What was bought for athletics and everyday wear is now being bought as a form of freedom and expression or societal status. The sneaker industry in India grows larger every minute. In 2022, the revenue in the sneakers segment amounts to nearly $2.46 Billion USD and is said to witness a volume growth of about 20.5 per cent in 2023. But before we go more into dissecting this growing industry, let’s take a quick peak into the history of sneaker culture and how it emerged into Indian markets.
The History of Sneaker Culture
The origin of the sneaker traces back to the late 18th century with the invention of the ‘plimsol’. They were somewhat rough, rubber-soled shoes that were relatively plain and straightforward utilitarian shoes with no “left” or “right” shoe and were initially offered by the Liverpool Rubber Company and advertised as beachwear. It wasn’t until nearly 60 years later, when the U.S. Rubber Company mass produced and created a more refined version of the plimsol, by turning them into canvas shoes with rubber soles under the brand name Keds. Because they were allegedly so silent, whoever was wearing them could simply sneak up on you, they acquired the colloquial moniker “sneakers.”
Later on in 1924, a man named Adi Dasler, created the first sports shoe in his mothers laundry room in Germany. Later, this business would develop into the globally renowned brand Adidas. When four-time Olympic gold medallist Jessie Owens was spotted wearing them during the 1936 Olympics, they shot to fame and became the first sport shoe brand to enjoy widespread popularity.
Sneakers would continue to be seen as a solely sport shoe for the rest of the early 20th century, with companies producing and selling sneakers specifically for sports activities. During this time, the legendary Converse All-Stars were developed and were exclusively worn as basketball shoes. Teenagers wouldn’t start donning sneakers as a fashion statement rather than merely for sporting events until the early 1950s, when James Dean, an actor, was seen wearing them.
In 1984, basketball star Michael Jordan had just been drafted into the NBA and was in search for an opportunity to make his name in the sports industry. Young Jordan made a deal of a lifetime with sports brand Nike as they signed a contract with the young basketball player and designed a shoe for him. Thus in 1984, the first iconic Air Jordan 1 also known as the grandfather of sneakers was introduced and paved the way for sneaker culture.