You call yourself a tennis fan, but did you ever stop to think about where the tennis shoes
originated? Why are they called tennis shoes in the first place, and who made the first pair? Well, this article plans to give you a history of tennis by focusing on sneakers we call tennis shoes. Let’s get to know why this fantastic athletic shoe was invented.
The First Tennis Shoe
The first pair of tennis shoes had canvas uppers and rubber soles. Designed and manufactured in the early 19th century, the shoes were meant for the British Navy when on their slippery decks. When the shoes came into the market in 1892, they were known as plimsolls.
The shoes were then given the name sneakers because they had no sound when walking. They also did not have a right or a left shoe. This design remained until the late 1960s when different tennis shoe designs became popular as other companies made their versions. In the 60s, tennis became a popular past time for socialites who spent times in the most glamourous spots of London’s attractive neighborhoods, and its popularity still holds to this day.
This makes the tennis shoe the original sneaker and athletic shoe in history. But one thing is sure; the original pair is a far cry from what we have today. Todays’ tennis shoes are made for the tennis player, and other shoes are made to accommodate other sportsmen like the runners.
The United States Rubber Company started making their tennis shoe brand in 1916. The shoe was rubber-soled canvas shoes known as Keds. The following year, the Converse Rubber Company had its version known as the All-Star shoe.
Nevertheless, the style encountered minimal changes. It was not until the 1960s when many designers started to improve the athletic shoe standard through experimentation. The leading designer during this time was Bill Bowerman.
Bill was the University of Oregon coach. He planned to design a tennis shoe that was lightweight by using nylon instead of canvas to offer the player more traction. He wanted to create a shoe that had a soft inner sole to cater to the runner’s comfort.
Through these improvements, Bill created a company that is today known as Nike. He named the company after the Greek goddess of victory. Companies like Puma and Adidas then started to develop their improved version of the tennis shoe with regards to the player’s needs.
Eventually, tennis stars became involved in the design and manufacture process, making the humble tennis shoe gain momentum. Today, the tennis shoe has an entirely different feel and look following its deviation from the original version.
The Name Tennis
The rubber soles shoe, commonly referred to as the tennis shoe, was named by the British Navy. The British fleet sailors needed shoes that did not slip or slide on the wet surfaces to wear on the deck. This was in the 1800s.
Wealthy aristocrats then started wearing the shoes to play the most popular sport at the time, tennis. This birthed the name of tennis shoes. In 1839, vulcanized rubber was used to make the soles of the tennis shoes by Charles Goodyear, making them more resistant to heat and stable. This birthed the first athletic shoe until the Keds were introduced in 1900, and later the All-Star in 1917. Adidas made their version in 1931, but by 1930, they introduced leather for the upper instead of canvas.
Adidas sparked the growth of experimentation with material for the shoes. True to their form, in 1970, Adidas had a tennis shoe with a mesh upper, suede on the toe, and a polyurethane outsole, making the shoe more breathable, durable, and comfortable.
In 1980, Nike birthed the new Nike Air Trainer 1 with more lateral support, a heel lift, and a
strap to secure the foot during side to side movement. Companies then started to develop more supportive, stable, and comfortable shoes for the player.
Why Tennis Shoes
We call them tennis shoes because the wealthy started to play tennis in these shoes. There was a need for shoes that wouldn’t damage the tennis court and still provide comfort. This is what these shoes offered. Now all other athletic shoes originate from the tennis shoe.
The desire to improve the first tennis shoe birthed Adidas, Nike, and Puma. Thanks to the
aristocrats who made these heavy rubber-soled shoes famous because they liked to play tennis, we now have the sneaker we call tennis shoes today.