Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Australia's evergreen sneakers: DVs and KT26s

From their inception in the late 30s, Dunlop sport shoes represented the thinking sportsperson’s footwear and had no equal for two decades between the 50s to the 70s. They became synonymous with Australian sport and a household name during the nation's sporting 'Golden Era'. Post war, Dunlop sport shoes were associated with many of the sporting legends of the time including: Adrian Quist, Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, Tony Roche, John Newcombe, Evonne Goolagong, Margaret Court, Peter Thomson, Greg Norman and more lately Mark Philippoussis.

In the days before hard courts the Dunlop Volley was perfect for grass court competition. Devised by Adrian Quist, these were an excellent example of matching sport with shoe design. By the eighties however the fad for fashion trainers, with airbags and springs, heavily endorsed by sporting personalities, saw a meteoric rise in multinationals such as Nike, adidas and Reebok. Sneakerisation with designer sports shoes took hold and has remained there ever since.

Despite this, the old Australian icon has kept going by its loyal band of fans to become an evergreen and far outselling any of its trendy rivals. Cream rises to the top and in the 21st century, the humble Dunlop Volley. has had a complete turnaround as retro fashion enjoys resurgence among the youth market. Their popularity is due in no short measure due to the needs of sk8’s, and thrashers who require tough, lightweight footwear with excellent grip and protection. And that is precisely the quality mark of the Dunlop Volley and KT26. The post grunge and nouveaux punk generation of urban dwellers well suits the Dunlop.

In the 70s, rather than follow the fashion fads of their rivals, Dunlop invested in technology making models like KT26 (1976) which were tough, hard wearing, excellent quality and good value. They were without doubt not only the best running shoes of their time but crossed over into other outdoor leisure activities such as trekking as well as teenage fashion. Not high fashion, but a rite of passage kind of fashion, i.e. the first pair of trainers kids are bought as they enter early teenage years .

The cantilever soles made of black rubber were guaranteed to leave marks on any school gymnasium. A fabulous source of frustration to authority and the “Kilroy was here attitude” appealed to the adolescent. Shoes with literally indestructible soles, and uppers that attracted teenagers meant these were good valued purchases for parents too. Now the same properties, minus bells and whistles are needed for extreme sport and this has introduced them to a new legion of fans. Ironically the new surfies rejected the hi tech outlets preferred by the major sports shoe retailers in preference for niche surfie shops or discount outlets. Now of course there is a major industry supported by global consumers.

Despite Australians buying more designer trainers than any other western country sale have shown negligible growth over the last four years. Dunlop has a significant market share in dollar terms and in volume terms the brand is the clear market leader. Dunlop Volley is the top-selling athletic shoe (sold over 24 million pairs since 1939), and the number-two brand is Dunlop, KT26. But if you have not laid eyes on Dunlop’s since your youth, don’t be surprised to find the green-and-gold has been replaced with a red-and-black design. But, be assured the new Volley shoes are made to the same design used in the 1950s, although they now incorporate out of these world materials (synthetic polymers).

DVs are popular with the roof tillers and recommended by many walking clubs in the Blue Mountains, in Australia. Canyon walking presents many challenges to the foot and DVs appear to match 4 wheel drive footwear types. The soles give excellent traction provided the pattern on the sole lasts. New shoes are recommended. The edges of DVs grip well on slopes if used correctly, and cause less damage underfoot compared to heavier boots. DVs, to the uninitiated. are lightweight canvas topped sports shoes, comparatively cheap as these things go, retailing under 30 dollars. The soles have been improved over the years and give sure grip but DVs do wear quickly. So be prepared to buy two pairs a year. This compares favourably with brand leader equivalents sometimes 4 or 5 times more costly.

The Dunlop KT-26s is an up-market version of the tennis shoe. Stronger then DVs, the upper is made from leather with reinforced heel cups which provides much needed padding, and stronger carbon rubber soles give better cushioning with a tread traction superior on dry surfaces but not so good on very wet rocks and logs. KT-26s are ideal for general walking with the cheaper DVs more indicated in the conditions of canyon walking. As with all sports shoes these are rarely available in half sizes and it is very important to have shoes that fit and feel comfortable. Try the paper template trick. Draw an outline of your foot weightbearing on a piece paper then cut it out and slip into the shoe. If the paper crumples, the shoe is too small.

No comments: