Sunday, July 09, 2017

DVs: Green and Gold old timers

DVs & KT-26s sounds like jargoneeze from computer geeks than two traditional Australian icons, but that’s what they are. As Michaels Caine is famed for saying, “not a lot of people know that.” The Dunlop Volley started life as a tennis shoe, by now it has become an Australian icon every bit the match of ugg boots and the humble thongs. The secret of the DV is their soft sole, which gives excellent grip on all surfaces, even greasy rocks. If you do not believe me take a look at your friendly roof tiler, DVs are popular with the roof walkers because the sole patterns give excellent traction. DVs are also preferred and recommended by many walking clubs in the Blue Mountains. Canyon walking presents many challenges to the foot and DVs appear to match 4-wheel drive footwear types.

DVs, to the uninitiated. are lightweight canvas topped sports shoes, comparatively cheap as these things go, retailing under 50 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 which are 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. 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. A household name during the nation's sporting 'Golden Era', post war they became associated with many of the sporting legends of the time 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 Quist these were an excellent example of matching sport with shoe design. By the eighties the fad for fashion trainers, with airbags and springs, heavily endorsed by sporting personalities, saw a meteoric rise in multinationals such as Nike and Reebok. The popularity of Sneakerisation remained until the turn of the century. 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.

In the 21st century, the humble Dunlop has had a complete turnaround as retro fashion enjoys resurgence among the youth market. Their popularity is due in no short measure due to skateboarders (sk8r’s), thrashers need tough, lightweight footwear with excellent grip and protection. And that is precisely the quality mark of the Dunlop Volley and K26. 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 invested in technology making models like KT26 (1976) which were tough, hardwearing, excellent quality and good value. They were without doubt not only the best running shoes of their time but crossed over in other outdoor leisure activities such as trekking as well as teenage fashion. Not high fashion, but a rite of passage, the first pair of trainers, kids were bought. With cantilever soles made of black rubber these 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 has shown negligible growth over the last four years. Dunlop now has a 14% 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. So be assured the new Volley shoes are made to the same design used in the 1950s but today are made from out-of-this-world materials (aka synthetic polymers).

The Sports Factor ABC

Reviewed 29/02/2016

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