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From the running track to the runway: a brief history of sneakers

By Marjorie van Elven


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Long gone are the times when people would only wear sneakers to practice sports. Now they are the footwear of choice for millions of people around the world. The international sneaker market grew 40 percent between 2004 and 2016, according to Forbes. Nike’s revenue alone reached 35.4 billion US dollars (26.6 billion pounds) last year and the secondary sneaker market is estimated to be worth more than 1 billion US dollars (753 million pounds) according to the Financial Times.

We may also have to say goodbye to the days when sneakers (or trainers, depending on where you live) were considered to be casual footwear, as more and more luxury fashion houses are including them as staple items in their seasonal collections. The strategy is proving successful: last year, fashion research platform Lyst tracked the more than 1 million searches made by its 80 million users worldwide and found out that more consumers searched for luxury sneakers than for luxury handbags. Gucci and Balenciaga were tied with sportswear brands like Nike and Adidas on Lyst’s list of Top 10 most searched sneakers in 2017.

In the timeline below, FashionUnited presents a brief history of how sneakers went from sports attire to a fashionista’s must-have. Click on the arrows to navigate through the timeline.

Sneakers: redefining luxury?

In a world where comfort has become cool, social media algorithms influence sales and pop artists like Kanye West promote sneakers as a symbol of status, it should come as no surprise that luxury fashion houses are turning their eyes to sneaker culture. Some of them are collaborating with sneaker brands for capsule collections, while others are launching their very own styles.

It can even be said that sneakers are helping to disrupt and redefine luxury, as traditional fashion houses turn to casual clothing, streetwear and athleisure. Luxury is turning to everyday items such as T-shirts, rather than investment pieces for special occasions.

In the gallery below, you can see some of the latest sneaker creations and collaborations by luxury fashion houses. Click through the slideshow to view all pictures.

Picture credits: Courtesy of Nike; Courtesy of Prada; Converse Comme des Garçons: courtesy of Nike newsroom, courtesy of Valentino, courtesy of Balenciaga, Nike Ricardo Tisci: courtesy of Nike newsroom, courtesy of Fendi, Courtesy of Chanel

history of sneakers
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