The Sneaker

The original sneakers were made of rubber and plain brown canvas

The original sneakers were made of rubber and plain brown canvas.

Until there were sneakers, which means until about 1917, a person's footsteps always made a click or a clomp or a tap or a squeak. Before sneakers, the quietest shoes you could wear were Indian moccasins or Eskimo mukluks, but even they produced a muted thud on impact. Sneakers were the world's first silent shoe. If you spun around fast on a basketball court, they would produce a high-pitched squeal, but essentially they provided stealth and surefootedness. They made it possible for a person to move like a cat.

Sneakers owe their existence to the ingenuity of the Connecticut manufacturer Charles Goodyear. Mr. Goodyear ran into a bit of trouble back in 1839 while trying to make rubber coated mailbags for the U.S. government: the rubber turned sticky in hot weather and brittle in cold. When he retreated to the laboratory to work on the problem, one of the things Goodyear did was mix rubber with sulfur and then subject it to high temperatures. The result was what he called vulcanized rubber; it stayed elastic in all kinds of weather and could be bonded to other materials. According to some accounts, Goodyear's achievement was purely accidental. If so, it was one of the most fortunate accidents in the history of American manufacturing. In the 1840's, Goodyear came up with the first vulcanized rubber galoshes; in the 1870s, he made canvas-and -rubber tennis shoes that were an early version of sneakers. Actual sneakers, however, were invented by the conglomerate that bought Goodyear's shoe company in 1892 -- U.S. Rubber.

Finding a name was no simple matter. U.S. Rubber's first choice was Peds, but the name was unavailable. Three years later, the company narrowed the alternatives to Veds and Keds, neither of which meant anything at all. The nod finally went to Keds, because U.S. Rubber decided that K was the strongest letter in the alphabet (other U.S. rubber products have been named kraylastic, kraylon, Koylon, and Kedettes). In any case, the original high top Keds were made of rubber and plain brown canvas, and they extended to just above the ankle. They were not the least bit stylish: they wrapped the foot in a plain a package as you could ever hope to find. But the package worked, and its construction hasn't changed in the last 50 years. Nor have all the high-tech Reeboks, Nikes, and Adidas managed to displace it in the marketplace. Twenty million sneakers are sold in the United States every year, the best seller these days being the Converse All Star.

The classic American sneaker is still made from rubber and canvas.

The classic American sneaker is still made from rubber and canvas.

Kids in the inner cities call sneakers "limousines for the feet", which puts it rather well. Sneakers are supremely comfortable and still the cheapest shoe you can buy. Since 1917, they have been essential footgear for generations of American children. Norman Rockwell's paintings are full of them (which tells you plenty), and they have appeared in those rigorously all-American commercials for Coke, Levis, McDonald's, and Pepsi. They are the footwear of choice for skate boarders and freestyle bikers. Bruce Springsteen wears them; Bill Cosby wears them. Woody Allen has even worn them with black tie. One out of ten Americans [definitely a higher number these days, Ed.] wears sneakers every day. And in England, where sneakers are known as plimsolls and brothel creepers, the fashion conscious Princess of Wales wears them, too.

John Berendt
Esquire Magazine, May, 1987

If you have an article or other information about Chuck Taylors to submit to this website, please contact us at mail@chucksconnection.com.

To order a pair of classic Chuck Taylor sneakers, click on the shoe you want:

Chuck Talk ChucksConnection Home About chucks articles
Chucks Life Photo Gallery Films Television shows shoe report on future Converse All Star Chuck Taylor sneaker models
Buy black Converse All Star Chuck Taylor high tops
Buy monochrome black Converse All Star Chuck Taylor high tops
Buy navy blue Converse All Star Chuck Taylor high tops
Buy pink Converse All Star Chuck Taylor high tops
Buy red Converse All Star Chuck Taylor high tops
Buy optical white Converse All Star Chuck Taylor high tops
Buy natural white Converse All Star Chuck Taylor high tops
Buy charcoal grey Converse All Star Chuck Taylor high tops
Buy chocolate brown Converse All Star Chuck Taylor high tops
Black
Monochrome Black
Navy Blue
Pink
Red
Optical White
Natural White
Charcoal
Chocolate
Buy Black Low Cut Oxfords
Buy monochrome black low cut oxfords
Buy Navy Blue Low Cut Oxfords
Buy pink low cut chucks
Buy Red Low Cut Oxfords
Buy Optical White Low Cut Oxfords
Buy Natural White Low Cut Oxfords
To order a pair of core color high top or low cut chucks, click on the image of the shoe you want.
To see the complete selection of seasonal Chuck Taylor high tops, low cut, or youth and infant models currently available, click on the image links.
Click on the image links to purchase flat athletic, fat or retro, novelty shoelaces like multi-color weave, narrow, graphic print, and reversible, or knee high shoelaces for your chucks. You can also order socks, tee-shirts or baseball caps to wear with your chucks, totebags to carry your gear, or books about chucks.
Buy Converse All Star Chuck Taylor High Tops
Buy Converse All Star Chuck Taylor Low Cut Oxfords
Buy Converse All Star Chuck Taylor High Tops for Kids
Buy Classic Flat Athletic Shoelaces for Chucks
Buy Wide Shoelaces for Chucks
Buy Print, Narrow, Reversible Shoelaces for Chucks
Buy shoelaces for knee high chucks
Bjuy socks for your chucks
Buy tee shirts
Buy ChucksConnection baseball caps
Buy totebags
Buy books about chucks
High Tops
Low Cut
Oxfords
Youth and Infant
Flat Athletic
Shoelaces
Fat or Retro
Shoelaces
Print Shoelaces
Knee High
Shoelaces
Socks
T-Shirts
Baseball Caps
Totebags
Books