Canvas topped shoes have gone through many name changes including tennis shoes, speed shoes, peds and chucks. They come in various shapes from high tops (come over the ankle) to shoes and all manner of colours. Sneakers in the 21st century remain synonymous with polymer development and continue to incorporate ‘out of this world’ materials which prior to the Space Race would not exist. They are without doubt ions of modern society.
A dark side to this trade is not only the questionable labor issues which surround off shore manufacture in developing countries but the marketing direction which deliberately incorporated associations with the culture which surrounds recreational drugs. A poll of sporting goods stores revealed that many inner city youths bought pricey sneakers at least once per month. Marketing experts claimed it was these kids, often using drug earned money, which set the trends for sneaker gimmickry design and shoe distribution around the country. Some companies were accused of cashing in on the easy drug money picked up by inner city kids. This included using street slang as names for their wears. Some manufacturers have tried to quell negative publicity by putting some of their profits back into developing inner city recreational area.
In some US cities the appearance of a pair of black 'Chucks' suspended over power lines indicates the presence of drug dealers in the area. Sneakers are often referred to as 'drug' shoes or 'chronics" (after slang for a drug user). Adidas were accused of capitalising on the drug culture when they marketed the 'Hemp " range of shoes. Because of the controversy Adidas renamed the product as the 'Gazelle natural". This is not the first time the company have skirted with controversy over a name. One of their leather shoes was called "tobacco" which refereed to its colour and nothing to do with burnable burley.
Gang sneakers refer to street gangs (or Crips) in the US and their preference for certain styles, which then become their trademarks. In Chicago for example members wear 'Chucks' with the blue star changed to a different colour. Los Angeles gangs wear Nike Cortex, whereas gangs in Wisconsin wear either red or black laces in their black sneakers.
In Europe, soccer casuals wore expensive designer trainers, yet most were unemployed or on a low income. The presence of expensive clothing indicated a culture steeped on criminal activity.
In New York City jails, the department of correction forbids prisoners to wear Nike Air or similar sneakers because prisoners have been caught with hollowed out soles storing contraband. The Air chamber makes a useful place to plank razor blades and drugs. During their time in jail prisoners wear simple sneakers or sand shoes.
Many major companies have been accused of mass producing their footwear in sweatshops, using developing countries and employing cheap labour. Audits of factories in South East Asia where many sneakers are made have revealed unsafe work practices. Although some of these companies are reported to be working to improve their record this highly profitable industry has the attention of human rights groups who continue to campaign against poor working conditions.
Independent research also demonstrates the lack of data to support the notion that sports shoes are capable of protecting against injury through cushioning of impact. This is despite deceptive advertising, which often infers the opposite. Another downside is recent scientific research has called into question the efficacy of wearing sports shoes over prolonged periods of time.
Shelf stock in sports footwear has a very short life; some of the less successful promotional gimmicks include the Reebok Pump. One of the few sneaker ranges, which did not quite live up to the advertising blurb, was the high profile Reebok "Pumps". The pumping mechanism had only limited adjustment range. The shoe was heavy and the pressure chamber no more comfortable that other similar shoes. The shoe was uncomfortably stiff. Reebok had a great idea or so they thought when they named a new range of women's running shoes after a mythical demon, Incubus. Incubus was an impish cad who had sex with women when they were sleeping. The literal meaning of Incubus is to be oppressively burdenful. Not quite the image Reebok had. The company refused to withdraw the shoes but did down scale their promotion.
Asics is a Japanese company who has taken its name from the acronym for the Latin 'Anima Sana in Corpore Sano' which means 'a sound mind is a sound body'. All day long I dream of sex is not the acronym for Adidas but this company took it name from Adolf "Adi" Dassler a cobbler and co founder of the company (the three stripe logo was a stripe for each of his sons).
Nike (Greek Goddess of Victory) sell footwear using patented "Air" a process which uses pressurised gas encapsulated in polyurethane to offer cushioning. The idea of gas trapped within the sole of the shoe is not new and the secret of Dr Marten's shoes and boots. Gas trapped within Nike shoes is dense and not likely to escape into the atmosphere. Perhaps just as well because sulphur hexafluoride is thought to have damaging effects on the ozone.