Monday, March 18, 2019

Olympics: A brief history of running shoes

In the ancient games the competitors ran barefoot but as the Greek Empire extended more athletes from colder climates came to race, wearing sandals. At first spectators and barefoot competitors treated shod athletes as a novelty and sign of parochialism. When runners wearing shoes became winners then public opinion changed and sandal wearers were viewed with great suspicion and associated with cheating. Eventually once it was recognized the sole of the sandal increased ground traction and helped the leg propel forward with greater efficiency most athletes adopted the running sandal. The sole of the sandal needed to be securely attached to the foot with leather thongs wrapped to the ankle and above.

Between the Greek and Roman Civilizations during the Bronze Age (3200-600 BCE) a small, almost obscured civilization, known as the Etruscans (768 –264 BCE) developed a technique to attach the sole of the sandal to the upper of the shoe with metal tacks. The Romans stiffened their sandals with tacks to secure the sole to the upper. The more robust footwear was further strengthened with hobnails (or clavata). Prior to this, sandals were flimsy and would break easily but the tacks held the shoes together with vastly improved sole traction. This simple innovation was the beginning of the running shoe. A similar innovation would take place centuries later when spikes were added to running shoes.

As new events were added to the Ancient Games, such as chariot racing and archery, then being shod became the norm. After the Fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD the craft of sandal making was almost lost to the world. Ironically shoe makers on the periphery of the Empire carried on making sandals which kept the craft alive only to be rediscovered centuries later.

Throughout the Middle Ages sports were played in different cultures but it was the British in the 17th and 18th centuries that kept the Greek traditions of racing in a straight line. Resurgence in running brought about by the English in the 18th century meant the development of a light weight shoe which could grip the ground. As the influence of the British Empire, with its concentration on militaria and muscular Christianity, permeated throughout Europe and the colonies, many were taken with the idea of competition and fair play.

In 1832, Wait Webster patented a process whereby rubber soles could be attached to the shoes and boots. By the 1860s a croquet shoe was available made with a rubber sole and a canvas upper that fastened with laces. Movement in the canvas topped rubber shoes was noiseless and quickly adopted by sneak thieves, gaining the name “sneakers.” The pursuit of leisure became an important means of conveying ascent up the social ladder. tennis, croquet, and seaside holidays gained in popularity and so did interest in the equipment and clothing, including sneakers, required to pursue these amusements. It was rising middle class prosperity fueled by the Industrial Revolution that created the first market for sneakers.

Frenchman, Baron Pierre de Coubertin saw a window of opportunity to bring trading nations together on the field of athletics. This was a good commercial opportunity for suppliers to manufacture sport's clothing and footwear. At first the choice of footwear was of little importance but the popularity of cycling during the mid-1860s saw a rise in demand for lightweight cycling shoes.

Improved machinery meant the cost of mass produced footwear fell and by the 1880s no cyclist of repute went without lightweight heelless leather shoes with eight or ten eyelets. The big step to develop shoes specific to different sports probably came from shoe makers with specific interest in each discipline. The cycle shoe was easily adapted to running by adding metal spikes. The nineteenth century saw the introduction of an all leather spiked, running shoe. The need for greater speed in the modern games necessitated further refinement of lightweight shoes with improved traction. Competition shoes were made from leather and fitted tightly to the foot but because they were not waterproofed, wet conditions meant the shoes got heavier and the leather stretched which left the shoes too big to wear with comfort.

The earliest spiked running shoes made on a production basis is thought to date from 1865. These were low cut design and made from leather. Extremely lightweight at 280 grams there were three spikes under the forefoot and one under the heel, suggesting that the shoe was used as a distance running or a cross-country shoe. They also incorporated a broad toe band, which was a separate piece of leather, sewn into the welt of the shoe to add lateral stability.

In 1890, Joseph William Foster was a UK shoe maker and made a living making handmade running shoes. His passion was for running and he wanted to develop a shoe that would help increase speed. He came up with the idea to create a novelty spiked running shoe to help runners shave down their times. After his ideas progressed he joined with his sons to form the company, J.W. Foster and Sons, in 1895 and they made running shoes for some of the top runners at the time including the running spikes for Lord Burghley who competed in the 1924 Olympics. The shoes were lightweight made from rigid leather. Foster's grandson later took over in 1958 and renamed the firm, Reebok.

By 1894 the Spalding Company (US) featured three grades of spiked footwear in their catalogue. Low cut and made from kangaroo leather uppers, the soles had six spikes. These shoes cost $6.00. This was very expensive at the time with an average family of four survived on $11 per week. Competitive sports were very much the pastime of the upper middle class.

In 1907 the Spalding company produced shoes specifically for the game of basketball. Gradually running spikes grew longer until they were 2 inches in their heyday. The addition of spikes meant runners could adjust their performance to different conditions such grass or ash surfaces as well as dry and wet conditions. The ability to treat leather with synthetic waterproof compounds made significant contribution to sports footwear in general. In 1907 shoemakers began stitching separate leather strips around the top of runners to prevent unwanted stretching. This was also the beginning of the various dashes which now form standard design for modern sports shoes. The need for greater speed in the modern games necessitated further refinement of lightweight shoes with improved traction. During the 1920s various designs of sports footwear were created with various models of sports footwear being offered for different distances and types of running. The invention of foam rubber improved comfort and eventually inclusion of injected PVC and man made soles saw the decline of molded rubber shoes.

Between the Wars the demand for leisure footwear grew and by the 30s and physical culture sneakers became associated with sports and leisure activities. In 1936 the US Basketball Team adopted the Converse Chucks as the official shoe.

The father of the modern running shoe was Adolf Dassler who began making shoes in 1920.

By 1936 his shoes were internationally acknowledged as the best and were worn by athletes of the calibre of Jesse Owens.

Dassler specialised in shoes designed for sport. After the lean war years he continued to progress and developed the training shoe made from surplus tent canvas and rubber from fuel tanks.

In 1948 he founded Adidas but the company was soon to split into Addas (later known as Adidas) and Puma. To give support to the running shoe Dassler added three side strips to the shoe which first appeared in 1949.

By the 1950s famous runners were supplied shoes free and gratis by competing sports manufacturers. At the discretion of the athlete, they either wore socks or not. This would imply the shoe was a very tight fit.

The Melbourne Olympics (1956) was the first televised event and when the Eastern European athletes were filmed warming up in brightly coloured training shoes the world took notice. Competition between shoe companies was fierce and many athletes were unofficially approached to wear brand names. According to Jennings (1996), From the Melbourne Olympics, 1956, Adidas executives were alleged to have offered bribes to athletes to wear their shoes.

In 1962, New Balance introduced the first scientifically tested shoe which weighed 96 grams. Throughout the 1960s manufacturers experimented with new spike patterns and eventually brush spikes were introduced in 1968. Only 200 pairs were ever made and John Carlos and Lee Evans set world records at the Olympic trials wearing them. The records were later rescinded because brush spikes were eventually banned because the 68 spikes (pins) violated the rules governing spikes.

Track shoes began to incorporate tough mesh fabrics into the uppers combined with lightweight synthetic soles and much later new polymer spikes to match the new running tacks. Adi Dassler design a new style runner featuring a raised heel to keep runners on their toes during longer distances. Decathlete Willi Holdorf took home the gold in the 1964 Olympic Games wearing the spikes featuring a raised heel and a full length midsole.

Removable spikes were reintroduced in the 70s. These were first developed around the 1930’s, but fixed spikes were preferred due to their strength and weight. The spikes worn by Alberto Juantorena in the 1976 Olympic Games were among the first to feature a modern removable spike system, allowing for the customization of the spike configuration for track surface and personal preference. Juantorena went on to win gold medals in both the 400m and the 800m, the latter win in world record time.

The 1976 Montreal Olympics was the first time an athlete was photographed endorsing his running shoes after winning 10,000 metre race. Such public endorsement was well rewarded by the companies which produced the goods.

Phil Knight was a track athlete at the University of Oregon and Bill Bowerman (his coach) started Blue Ribbon Sports in 1964. The company distributed Japanese Onitsuka Tiger shoes in the US. When the arrangement came to an end, the pair started Nike in 1971. The company's first products were track running shoes. In 1974, Bill Bowerman came up with a novel idea and made a pair of running shoes without spikes inspired by waffles. These were called the Waffle Trainer. The company then diversified into all manner of sports and liesure footwear to become the biggest sports manufacturer in the world.

The emphasis of modern running shoes is weight (90 - 100g) The feather light shoes are constructed from lightweight mesh fabric uppers combined with synthetic soles chosen for maximum flexibility and comfort. The shoes incorporate a carbon fibre spike plate for responsiveness and dynamic lacing system capable of changing shape with the foot as it goes through the running cycle

(Video Courtesy: RashaadRahh by Youtube Channel)

Hunter B 1991 The game's afoot Brisbane; CopyRight Publishing
Jennings A 1996 The newlords of the rings London: Pocket Books
Pattison A Cawthorne N 1997 A century of shoes NSW: Universal International
Steele V Shoes: lexicon of style London : Scriptum Editions

Reviewed 19/03/2019

Friday, March 1, 2019

Olympics: Origins of the footrace

The Greeks were the first ancient nation to acknowledge the importance of corporeal exercise. Athletic games and religion became the central parts of the lives of the ancient Greeks and a key ingredient of many religious festivals. Distance was important and the human foot was key in all measuring systems.

The ancient Egyptians had used a "step" for a measurement and a two-step stride was equivalent to two yards (1.8 meters). The ancient Greeks adopted this and a distance of 100"steps" (about 200 metres) became a stade. This was a popular distance for foot races and runners sprinted for 1 stade.

Amphitheatres where foot races were held were called a stadium and were 192m long and 32 m wide.

The ancient running course was a rectangular field marked off at each end by stone blocks set into the ground in a line or sill called a balbis. The balbis usually had parallel grooves carved along its length, as well as sockets at regular intervals for posts. The posts in the balbis served a dual purpose, as part of the starting gate and as turning posts (kampteres). The grooves marked the positions for the runners' feet. Runners had a standing start with the left foot slightly ahead of the right. The back end of the starting grooves was vertical to allow the runners to grip with their toes and shove off, whereas the forward end was bevelled toward the track to keep the runners from stubbing their toes.

In the city of Corinth, they experimented with the form of the starting line in their stadium, built ca. 500 B.C. The balbis was curved so that in races with turns the runners on the outside did not have to run farther than those on the inside. Also the runners placed their toes into individual toe grooves, not a continuous groove along the sill. The front and rear grooves were two or three feet apart, indicating the runners employed a wide starting stance. Races were started with a trumpet blast or auditory cry. The starter had a whip with which to beat the athletes who started too soon or broke the rules.

To prevent cheating circa 450 BC foot races started from mechanical starting gate or hysplex. Between poles at each end of the balbis, ropes were stretched to form a barrier. Using torsion from twisted ropes, the gate was lowered to the ground, then raised against the tension and kept in a vertical position by a ring and cord fastened to larger stationary posts at each end. The rings were also attached to ropes and held by an official standing behind the runners. At a jerk of the ropes, the rings slipped off the poles, and the gate slammed forward, allowing the runners to spring onto the track. Footraces included a double stade (or diaulos) in which runners raced up the field, turned around a post, and returned; the dolichos, (literally the "long race"), was seven to 24 stades in length (1,400 to 4,800 meters). In the diaulos runners had individual turning posts and two lanes for the run up the track and back. Coloured dust was used to mark off the lanes. For the dolichos the runners turned around single posts at each end.

In the stadium at Nemea (circa fourth century BC) there was a stone block with a socket hole 5.3 meters on the track side of the balbis and 3.4 meters to the west of the central longitudinal north-south axis. The socket hole held a turning post, and a similar one must have existed at the other end of the stadium. It is surmised runners clustered to their right as they approached the posts at each end.

An armed race or hoplitodromos was used as part of military training. Runners ran a diaulos with full body armour (estimated 25kg), including helmet, shin guards and carrying a shield. The 200metre (656 ft), foot race was the only event in the first 13 Olympiads. Runners wore loin cloths but later appeared naked. Any tricks bribery, or force employed by competitors to gain advantage upon others were strictly prohibited.

As time passed the Greeks added different events with the pentathlon and wrestling first introduced at the 19th Olympiad. Later in Roman times a Roman mile or mille passum (1000 double paces or strides) measured about 5000 feet or a little short of today’s mile (5,282 feet). In the beginning competitors ran barefoot but as the Greek Empire extended more athletes from colder climates came to races wearing sandals. At first spectators and barefoot competitors treated these as a novelty and sign of parochialism. As soon as shod athletes became winners then public opinion changed and the wearing of sandals was viewed with great suspicion and associated with cheats.

Eventually once it was recognized the sole of the sandal increased ground traction and propelled the leg forward with greater efficiency most athletes adopted the running sandal. The sole of the sandal needed to be securely attached to the foot and this necessitated leather thong wrapped to the ankle and sometimes above.

References Guhl E Koner W 1994 The greeks:their life and customs London:Senate
Hanna A 1985 Design in strude: Explorations in shoe design Industrial Design Jan/Feb pp40-45.

Reviewed 2/03/2019

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Olympics: Peter Norman and Cathy Freeman : barefoot protest

The Mexico City Olympics were staged against a surreal and tumultuous 1968. Social change and general unrest at the continuation of the Vietnam War and race riots and student protests formed a tragic backdrop for the assassinations of Malcom X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. A planned boycott by black athletes failed but the atmosphere was charged with protest as the Games were televised and broadcast live to the US. The Black athletes were determined to show solidarity and wore no shoes around the Village and when Tommie Smith (Gold) and John Carlos (Bronze) took their place on the winner's podium with Australian, Peter Norman (silver) for the 200m. Smith and Carlos, closed their eyes, bowed their heads, before raising a black-gloved fist during the playing of the 'Star-Spangled Banner.' The raised fist and glove referred to defiance in the weight of racial servitude and the shoeless stance was a symbol of humanity and statement of poverty. Smith wore a scarf around his neck as mark of 'Black Pride'. The dignified brave barefoot protest was met with outrage from officialdom and Smith and Carlos were expelled from the Olympics. Both athletes kept their socks on. To this day the simple action of two barefoot men has become an iconic milestone in the history of civil rights. Muhammad Ali described it as 'the single most courageous act of the century'.

On the way to the winner’s podium Carlos realized he had left his gloves in the Olympic Village. Peter Norman, suggested Carlos wear Smith's left-handed glove, this being the reason behind him raising his left hand. In the years immediately following the Games Smith and Carlos were largely ostracized by the U.S. sporting establishment. When Peter Norman was asked about his support for the Smith and Carlos' cause, he replied he was protesting against the Australian government's White Australia policy. Norman's actions resulted in a reprimand and his absence from the following Olympic Games in Munich (despite easily making the qualifying time). Years later at the Sydney Olympics 2000 he was not given an invitation to join other Australian medallists at the opening ceremony. . Smith and Carlos acted as pallbearers at his funeral in 2006.

On September 25, 2000, Day ten of the XXVII Olympiad, the Australian athlete Cathy Freeman captured the hearts of the biggest crowd ever to attend an athletics event when, after winning gold in the 400m performed her lap of honour, barefoot. She carried with her both Aboriginal and Australian flags to thunderous applause. Cathy walked barefoot to the edge of the stands where she tossed the two-sided flag into the adoring crowd. Previously the Aboriginal athlete had been criticised by officials at 1994 Commonwealth Games, when she took her victory lap, carrying both the Aboriginal and Australian flags. The theme of the Sydney Olympics was Reconciliation and Cathy became an indelible Australian hero.

Monday, October 16, 2017

History of blue chip trainers

Once Saturday was established as a work free day, working class families were keen to enjoy the new train systems and took every opportunity to leave the city and visit the seaside, particularly in the summertime. Working boots were discarded as day trippers wanted shoes for walking through sand and paddling in the sea. At first, cheap cotton canvas topped shoes had a sole made from leather, jute or rope but these were flimsy and wore out quickly, usually within a day. After the discovery of rubber vulcanisation (the addition of sulphur and heat makes a more durable and non-sticky rubber compound), which was attributed to Howard and Goodyear in the mid-19th century, but had similarly been discovered in the UK by Thomas Handcock. A major court case ensued and Goodyear was granted the patent in the US; and Hancock became the patent holder in the UK. Henceforth there was fierce rivalry between the two countries to produce rubber based products.

The New Liverpool Rubber Company (UK) developed a lightweight shoe which combined a cotton canvas top with a rubber sole. These were still insubstantial and better off people wore white croquet shoes made from kangaroo skin, and too expensive for the working class. By 1876, seaside promenaders sported the latest canvas topped rubber soled shoes called plimsolls (1876). A rubber band was wrapped around the seam joining the upper to the sole making the new shoes more robust. The similarity to the new load lines painted on boats meant the shoes were called plimsolls. White plimsolls wore well, kept the feet cool in the summer and dried quickly after a paddle in the sea. The canvas could be painted with chalk white which give the outward impression from a distance these were expensive white croquet shoes and really gained popularity during the Gilded Age. Examples can be found in many museums across the world but rarely do these attract the interest private collectors and therefore difficult to value.

The simple plimsoll was quickly adapted to popular sports another working class pastime encouraged by the ruling class at this time. Keeping workers and their families amused in their leisure time was important especially at a politically volatile time in history. In the UK, Lawn Tennis players (circa 1860) wore low cut plimsolls with patented sole patterns to improve grip and prevent destroying the lawns. In the US, sneakers or high-top canvas plimsolls (used to protect the ankles), were introduced to the new team games of baseball (1846) and basketball (1891). When it was realised ‘tennis shoes’ shoes softened the landing of a long jumper they became ingratiated into athletics, and when it was discovered the treads prevented slipping on wet surfaces they were modified for yachting. As each recreational sport adopted the plimsoll (now generally regarded as the tennis shoe) it was adapted to the specific needs of the game. The addition of a simple rubber strip at the end of the shoe stopped the big toe nail appearing through the canvas. Gradually the anatomy of the modern sport shoe (or trainer) began to emerge. Even the British Army, issued plimsolls to their serving men and a pair of gym shoes were found in the kit of Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated Antarctic Expedition of 1911.

The rubber industry boomed and was very competitive. The popularity of cycling meant many companies started producing bicycle tyres and by the time it waned, development of the car industry brought with it a need for car tyres made from rubber. The United States Rubber Company bought out their smaller rivals, many of which were already exporting sport shoes globally. By the beginning of the 1890s there were two types of canvas topped rubber soled sport shoes, those which sat below the ankle were called ‘tennis shoes’; and hi-top sneakers, designed for basketball were called sneakers. Irving Watkinson is credited with designing the first pair basketball sneakers for Dr. James Naismith who invented the game. An iconic feature of the first hi top sneakers was the addition of a rubber ball logo at the lateral ankle of the shoe and the Colchester Company were so proud of them they had them on display at the 1892 Chicago World’s Fair. In the same year, the company was bought over by the United States Rubber Co., and it took almost 20 years before Spalding introduced their basketball shoes in 1907, others followed. However, it was the Converse Rubber Corporation’s version called The All-Star shoe (1917) which would become the evergreen iconic basketball shoe, we all recognise today. In reality these were a reinvention of the original Colchester sneaker which you can still buy replicas for $85 (US). A pair of the originals would be of course, be worth considerably more to a collector. In 1916 the United States Rubber Co., introduced their own tennis shoes called Keds.

After the Great War, the market for sneakers grew exponentially it was realised the fitness levels of the working class was low. Sports and athletics increasingly became a way to demonstrate Christian Muscularity or moral fibre and patriotism in the new movement of Physical Culture which swept the West. Athletic shoes increasingly were used for leisure and outdoor activities and when physical education lessons were made compulsory in schools, children had to wear plimsolls. I well remember at school the class was divided between those families who could afford tennis shoes from those with gym shoes (sand shoes). Going barefoot was not an option.

Between the wars, the new Olympic Competition was a fashion catwalk, and covered relentlessly in the media as a focal point for international trade. Shoe manufactures quickly modified their footwear to the specific needs of popular sports. After his return from World War I, Adolf "Adi" Dassler started making sports shoes in his mother’s kitchen, he and his brother then went on to establish Adidas. In America, the market for sneakers grew steadily as young boys lined up to buy white hi top sneakers endorsed by sporting heroes like Chuck Taylor for $1.00 (or $20 today). The famous basketball player wore Converse All-Stars and they became so popular they were called, Chuck Taylor All-Stars, or ‘Chucks.’ Chuck Taylor's name was added to the signature circle patch and ventilation eyelets were added in 1932. The classic black All-Star retailed until the 40s. By WWII, Chuck Taylor sneakers were the "official" sneaker of the U.S. armed forces.

International tennis and badminton had become major draw cards and customised tennis shoes began to appear circa 1936. A French brand, Spring Court, marketed the first canvas tennis shoe featuring signature eight ventilation channels on a vulcanised natural rubber sole. Jack Purcell (Canadian badminton champion) adapted tennis shoes to his sport which was played on hard wooden floors. At the same time, Australia starts to have a major influence when one of its famous son’s and international double tennis champion, Adrian Quist, convinced Dunlop Australia in 1939 to make a plain white tennis shoe with patterned herringbone sole. The added grip on the lawn surface made the Volley OC (Orthopaedically Correct) an instant success. Production continued until the 1970s with almost no change except the addition of the iconic green and gold stripe to the heel in the 1970s. Dunlop Volleys were standard issue by the Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force. Through the ensuing years other brands of tennis shoes appeared, but the essential design remained unchanged until the late 1960s, when a huge variety of tennis shoe designs emerged. To that effect, Adrian Quist is the godfather of the modern low-cut trainer and I have always advocated we should celebrate this with a Dunlop Volley Day (DVD).

Like the T shirt, service issue plimsolls (often in various colours) became popular souvenirs after the War and were highly prized by the youth of the time. Tennis shoes were ideal for the dance floor and dancing to quick tempo Swing and Jive. The appeal of American sneakers was confirmed when James Dean was photographed wearing Jack Purcell’s and Elvis Presley appeared in low cut tennis shoes. Chucks and Keds became a by-word for teenage rebellion. Fashion crossover (i.e. moving from sport to recreational wear) not only ensured lasting popularity but also the value-added benefit now of retro fashion, because they have never gone out of fashion in almost a century. People still buy them to wear and the originals in their boxes, to collect.

By the 50s man-made fibres became incorporated and sneakers merged into trainers. Now more durable, flexible and hard wearing, cellular foams were added to increased fit and comfort. When designers began incorporating a two-colour finish (colourways), signature sole patterns and brand decals and dashes a completely new fashion was created. These were first seen at the Melbourne Olympics worn by the athletes from behind the Iron Curtain. Competitors were often filmed ambling about minutes before competition wearing their trainers then later as if by magic, won medals in their heats. Contrasting colours were used to highlight reinforced areas on the shoe which gave them distinctive characteristic and coincidentally head turning appeal. Trainers were now fashionable shoes in their own right, with Ath-Leisure footwear equally at home on the track as they were trucking asphalt. Film and television coverage of sporting events was a marketing bonanza for sport shoe manufacturers, who recognised the need to have their product instantly recognised. Adidas three stripes trademark back in 1949 set the bar for branding thereafter. Collectors pay big bucks for these original pathfinders.

Two other things ensured the allure of sport shoes would last for ever. The first was celebrity endorsements and sneakers sponsorships into college and professional sports; the other came as an aftermath of the Space Race. In the beginning those sneaker designs affiliated to particular sporting celebrities ended with their retiral from sport. The same model was then passed onto a new endorser rather than be discontinued, or a new one created. This created collector interests. Once we had walked on the moon and with a surplus of new synthetic polymers, what better use to make of them than to incorporate the out of this world material into sport shoes. It was during this time in the early 80s, sport shoes become blue chip investments with a constant barrage of designer styles and signature shoes. While previous generations of males might collect cars from their youth, Generation X preferred shoes. This is not entirely male centric and females too, collect sneakers. The ultimate in secular consumerism maybe driven in part by the overall desire to acquire modern objet d’art at affordable prices. Collectors appreciate one-off's, limited editions and exclusives.

The shelf life of a trendy trainer is short (3 months) and companies like Nike and adidas are forever introducing new lines. To add incentive, companies offer "quick hit" or hype shoes which is a clever marketing ploy involving the sale of a small number of limited edition shoes as a special offer in selected outlets for a limited period of time only. With minimum advertising these events are hurriedly communicated through networks, websites and SMSs. Sneakerheads range from casual fans of sneaker fashion to those who buy and sell shoes like blue chip investments. Fanatics endure the elements and camp overnight for their next purchase of limited edition. The shoes can cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars depending on their cachet. Some wear them, and have multiple pairs (in case one gets scuffed); whereas others keep them ‘fresh’ in their boxes, or ‘deadstock’ them in a bank vault, or on display and always unworn. Shoe collectors often determine what will sell and companies are obliged to follow. Collectors have enormous closets full of trainers designed by sneakerhead artists who, themselves become celebrities. Experts believe the drive for the sneaker phenomena relates to a mix of popular culture, nostalgia, technology and investment. Sneaker Freakers have many dedicated web sites, movies, books, songs and even radio shows dedicated to sneaker culture. Experts believe the drive for the sneaker phenomena relates to a mix of popular culture, nostalgia, technology and investment.

Currently the American market for deadstock sneakers is estimated at $1 billion, with the thriving resell community net millions of dollars a year by selling rare kicks for profit. By far Michael Jordan shoes (Js) are considered to be the most expensive at auction. Recently a pair of his shoes was sold for $190,373. The previous record for a pair of game-used sneakers was again, Jordan’s worn during the "Flu Game," and sold for $104,765 in 2013.

Recently, in Perth WA, The Art Gallery of Western Australia hosted a most successful Sneaker Exhibition entitled The Rise of Sneaker Culture. This is a traveling exhibition organised by the American Federation of Arts and the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto. Feature was local collector, Dr Lee Ingram, a lecturer from Curtin University who has collected 830 pairs of sneakers.