Tuesday, February 27, 2018

History of trainers: Dunlop Volleys from sport to fashion

The word sneaker was first used in 1875 and referred to an early croquet shoe, which was developed in the US. The modern sneaker made its appearance in 1917, with brown canvas tops with black rubber soles began to be sold. At first the National India Rubber Company called them Peds but as they name was already registered for another product, the "P" became a "K" (for "kids"), and Keds started to sell like hot cakes.

By the early 20s, (All Star) Converse ‘Chucks’ were originally designed to be an elite shoe for the professional basketball league. Charles "Chuck" Taylor proved so popular a sports personality the shoes were named after him and his team the All Stars. Girls wore Keds and boys wore Chucks.

Towards the end of the 30s, Australian tennis player Adrian Quist was riding high as a World Doubles Champion (with John Bromwich). The pair won titles in Australian, U.S. and, Wimbledon. Whilst in America, Quist went sailing and was intrigued the way boatmen could cross wet surfaces without slipping. He discovered their shoes had treds which improved their sure footedness. Eventually he convinced Dunlop (Australia) to put treds on the soles of a canvas topped tennis shoes . The Dunlop Volley was introduced in 1939 and kids outside America unable to buy baseball boots, or looking for alternatives to hi tops, snapped up the new Dunlop Volleys. DVs sold in their millions.

The secret of DVs was the pattern of the treds. At first the sole was ridged then relaced with circles and squares before much later a distinctive herring bone pattern prevailed. The rougher surfaces of the tennis shoe sole increased traction with the ground and helped stabilize the player. This support was critical on soft surfaces like wet grass especially when a player had to bear weight on one foot while turning. DVs became the tennis shoe of choice and outsold their rivals up until the 1970s.

In the 1950s sneakers became associated with a new teenage leisure market. The cross over from sport to fashion was complete as post war teenagers daily wore cheap, hardwearing footwear, suitable for dancing, leisure and sport. This was encouraged with many High Schools adopting a colour specific canvas topped rubber soled shoes for gym. Different colourways encouraged individuality and the cycle was complete when popular film and pop stars were shown in teen magazines wearing their canvas topped rubber shoes. In the fifties older sisters wore stilettos and their younger siblings preferred keds.

The popularity of sports and the introduction of the keep fit boom in the 70s meant the design and range of sport shoes required to reflect a raft of changing mores. DVs remained popular for tennis with new tred patterns introduced e.g. circles and squares in the 60s; later trendy herringbone patterns, in the seventies: and eventually grids of squares in the 80s.

In 1971, Evonne Goolagong won Wimbledon, at the age of 21, wearing Dunlop Volleys. The zenith for DVs as the premier tennis shoe peaked in the 70s, when it lost its market lead with the tennis fraternity. New designer sport shoes took over with prominent manufactures logos and fashion dashes distinctive to specific makers. This coincided with the introduction of professional sport and sponsorship. To keep demand new giants in sportswear like; Adidas, Puma and Nike produced sport shoes as well as fashion ranges of sports shoes and this remains a major industry worldwide. Ironically perhaps Dunlop Volleys continues to be popular today but is no longer the giant it once was.

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