Saturday, May 06, 2006

Sneaking in some history

John Petkovic, Cleveland Plain Dealer

These days, a pair of blingin' sneakers fetches $250 -- if your feet demand a designer logo or a microprocessor chip that does all sorts of weird things. And to think, way back when, Chuck Taylor was happy just running around in rubber and cloth. You've come a long way, sneaker:

Converse All Star: Yo, give it up for the godfather of street fashion. All the way from Indiana . . . Chuck Taylor -- a man who got tired of playing with sore feet and asked the Converse Rubber Shoe Co. to do something about it. In 1923, the Akron Firestones player became the first hoopster to endorse a shoe. Decades later, "Chucks" come in dozens of colors and designs, and punk rockers wear them more than players do.

Pro-Keds Royal: Made famous in 1949 by the NBA's first great, George Mikan, it became the street-smart shoe with '70s B-Boys.

Puma Clyde: Ex-Cavalier Walt Frazier turned low-top suede into going-out style with his 1968 shoe.

Nike Blazer: Elegant and simple, George "The Ice Man" Gervin's sneakers embodied '70s casual cool.

Converse All Star Pro: Dr. J wore the 1979 shoe while dunking a ball. In the '80s, techno-heads wore while dribbling on ecstasy.

Vans Slip-On: Cali skaters were already digging this checkered shoe by the mid- '70s. Dude, by '82, Jeff Spicoli turned it into a wicked fashion statement in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

Nike Air Jordan: "Michael Jordan changed fashion and basketball," says R&B guy Usher. It started with the release of this 1985 shoe, which fetched five times what other shoes sold for and kicked off upscale sneaker fashion.

Adidas Superstar: In '86, Run-DMC summoned fans to hold up their sneakers while rapping "My Adidas." The ode -- "Got a pair that I wear when I'm playin' ball / With the heel inside make me 10 feet tall"-- turned the shell-toe Superstar into the ultimate in playa footwear.

Converse Weapon: Larry Bird and Magic Johnson paved the way for The Weapon, this 1986 funky-colored high-top, geared toward street-smart fashion hounds and ballers alike. Yikes, the ad campaign featured rappin' basketball players.

Nike Air Alpha Force: "Charles Barkleys" became a street-smart icon -- in spite or because of that oh-so- '80s Velcro strap? By '88, Public Enemy penned an ode to the baller and helped turn the shoe into a rapper's delight.

The Reebok Pump: Every bull market is fraught with irrational exuberance. This '90s shoe, armed with, yep, an air pump, was it.

Prada Sport: With Adidas attracting pop-star endorsements and Euro fashionistas digging Pumas, Prada figured if you can't beat 'em, join 'em -- with a $250 sneaker.

Nike Zoom Generation: LeBron James in 2003 one-upped sneaker bling with this shoe, which boasts a reflective back to pay homage to his Hummer.

Adidas 1: This 21st century "smart" shoe is equipped with a microprocessor capable of making 5 million calculations per second to adjust heel cushioning. The perfect $250 gift -- for "The Six Million Dollar Man."

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