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The first Nike shoes were made in a waffle iron. The running field near the Oregon home of the runner and trainer Bill Bowerman was making a transition Nike Air Max 90 Mujer Negro from cinder to an artificial surface, and he wanted a sole without spikes that would give him, and his trainees, needed traction as they ran on it. The three-dimensional lattice of the iron offered an answer, at least as far as the shoes’ soles went. As for the rest of the design, at least at first? It was utilitarian: made by runners, for runners, and concerned mostly with making their wearers lighter, and thus faster, on their feet.
That Nike is now one of the biggest and most recognizable brands in the world is largely the doing of Bowerman’s partner, the man who recently announced his retirement from the company: Phil Knight. Knight transformed Nike, not overnight but close to it, into a global powerhouse, known both for its successes and its controversies. In the process, however, he did something else: He turned athletic Ralph Lauren Dresses footwear into fashion.
It’s because of Knight that, for example, Kanye West has a signature shoe, the Yeezy Boost. And Nike Air Max 2017 Donna that, last January, Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel and Raf Simons of Dior sent signature sneakers down their runways. And that, last September, Alice Temperley styled her runway looks with sneakers. And that Mo’ne Davis, she of Little League World Series fame, has released a line of fashion sneakers for girls ($75 a pair). Knight knew, early on, what we take for granted today: that even the most practical of footwear—even the shoes we wear for such dull reasons as performance and, worse, comfort—can also function as fashion. He wasn’t in the shoe business, Knight insisted. He was in the entertainment business.
Sneakers started as luxury items. The first rubber-soled athletic shoes debuted in the U.S. in the 1890s—products, Nike Air Max Classic BW Mens because the treads were the point, of the U.S Rubber Company. Rubber, at that time, was expensive, and leisure Asics Gel Quantum 360 Dames time was rare; the combination meant that the innovative shoes were worn, for the most part, only by elites. The sneaker market grew, however, in the early 20th century—particularly after World War I, whose effects had led to a national emphasis on fitness and athleticism. As the nation's first gym rats came onto the scene, shoe companies began mass-producing shoes to fit their needs.
In response to that democratization came one of the earliest nods toward shoes-as-fashion. In 1921, to set its version of the newly popular shoes apart from those of its competitors, one company recruited a basketball player—both to improve their shoe’s design and then put his name on the final product.