Friday, March 27, 2015

Feature Friday: Converse Shoes

I think it's safe to say that most people owned at least one pair of these shoes at some point in their lifetime. Its classic, yet simple, style remains popular today.

Today's Feature Friday will walk you through the history of this famous brand!

The Converse Rubber Corporation opened in 1908 in Malden, Massachusetts. At the time, they only sold galoshes and other work related rubber shoes on a seasonal basis.

They eventually decided that they wanted to be open all season long, which resulted in their line of athletic shoes.

Basketball was extremely popular at the time and Converse saw the need to develop a shoe that people could wear while playing the sport.  After lots of research and development, the very first version of the All Star basketball shoe was produced in 1917. 

The All Star shoe originally came in natural brown colors with black trim. In the 1920's, they were made in all black canvas or leather versions. It was to be the first mass produced basketball shoe in North America. 

The shoe consisted of a very thick rubber sole, and a ankle covering canvas (or sometimes leather) upper. However, they didn't gain popularity until a man named Charles ‘Chuck’ H. Taylor came along.

Taylor was a basketball player for the Akron Firestones. He liked what he saw in the All Star shoe and saw its potential for the sport of basketball. He joined the company in 1921 and later became the coach for the Converse All-Stars, the company's industrial league basketball team.

Throughout his career with Converse, he traveled all across the United States hosting basketball clinics and promoting the new shoe. His salesmanship and marketing skills were very successful with the public. Because of this success, as well as his input in the design of the All Star shoe, his name “Chuck Taylor” was added to the ankle patch in 1932.

The white high top model was released shortly after, designed for the 1936 Olympics. It included a patriotic red and blue trim which became very popular along with all black canvas and leather models of the All Star. 

Today you can still buy either the bright optical white model or an off-white un-dyed model called unbleached or natural white. 

During World War II, Taylor served as a captain in the Air Force and coached regional basketball teams, which was considered an important morale booster for the troops. The All Star “Chuck Taylor” were used when GI's did their exercises and became the official sneaker of the United States Armed Forces.

The low cut version of the shoe, which is seen more frequently today, was introduced in 1957. Taylor passed away in 1969 but his shoe continued to live on. The 1970's saw an increasing popularity of sneakers among everyone, not just basketball players. Many companies began to emerge and Converse had a lot more competition on their hands.
The 80's and 90's saw an increasing popularity with rock musicians, and younger generations who wore them for their distinctive looks, colors, and comfort. They were also a great alternative to the high priced, high performance shoes made by Nike and other companies. They were considered a leisure shoe and now were purchased because they were fashionable. 

Converse responded by manufacturing chucks in hundreds of different variations that included prints, patterns, unusual colors, and special models for different age groups.

During the 90's, ownership and management of the Converse Company changed several times. These changes and bad business decisions, along with their loss of market share, took its toll on the company. As a result, they filed for bankruptcy in 2001. But the brand was too well established to abandon, and new ownership took over, closing all North American manufacturing and moving the manufacture of Converse athletic shoes from the USA to Asia. The brand was reestablished successfully and the company was eventually purchased by its rival, Nike.

As the decades pass, these simple but timeless sneakers are rediscovered and adapted by millions of people in each new generation who like their look and feel on their feet. (I personally noticed many teenagers wearing them in the mall the other day!) 

The brand itself is now over 100 years old but is still going strong! And since 1949, the basic design of the shoe has not changed. The distinctive high top and low cut oxford models are the classic American sneaker, and a favorite shoe for people of every age all around the world.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Feature Friday: High Heels

“I don’t know who invented the high heel but women owe him a lot." - Marilyn Monroe

Today's Feature Friday focuses on the one accessory every woman has in her closet: a pair of high heels.

As it turns out, the high heel wasn't actually invented as much as it "evolved" thanks to Venetian prostitutes, British Queens, and French designers.

Women’s platform shoes, or chopines, are thought to have originated with prostitutes in Venice. The shoes reached heights up to 18 inches. See them HERE.

The origin of high heels is debated. Some believe they either evolved from chopines or arrived from men's equestrian footwear in the Near East.

The first documented wearer of European high heels is Queen Elizabeth I. She was painted wearing a pair, and in “Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d,” clothing historian Janet Arnold includes a list of the queen’s clothes from 1595, with “a payre of spanyshe lether shoes with highe heels and arches.”

Early shoes, like the ones pictured below, often used straps called “latchets” with lace or ribbon ties — an early form of shoelaces.
Men’s and women’s shoe styles were very similar until about 1660. After that, men’s shoes tended to be more practical, while women’s shoes became more ornate, with silks, brocades, braids and velvet.

King Louis XIV of France started many fashion trends, including red heels and soles.

From his early 20s until he was at least 63 years old, Louis XIV had his heels covered in red Morocco leather or painted that color.

The Pompadour heel, named after Madame de Pompadour (a mistress of King Louis XV) came about in 1750. These heels were curved and very difficult to walk in. However, that didn't stop the shoe from becoming popular as it spread from Paris across Europe. See them HERE.

The stiletto was first introduced in 1953 by Christian Dior. Shoe designer Roger Vivier, who worked for Dior, is credited for its invention. He used plastic to create a strong, slender shell which he called "the needle."


Friday, March 13, 2015

Feature Friday: Bandanas

Bandanas. Another item, like overalls, worn by men and women of all ages. Every different color and pattern to choose from. Many different ways to wear it. An accessory that will always stand the test of time. 

So how did they come about? How long have they been around? Where did the word "bandana" come from? 

Today's Feature Friday focuses on the history of bandanas!

The word "bandana" is believed to come from the Hindi word, 'bāṅdhnū' meaning a tied, bound cloth. Surprisingly, these handy pieces of cloth have been around for over 200 years.

The bandana first came into renown in the Old West, where the cloth was used as a neckerchief, pulled up to cover the mouth and nose as protection against the dust and dirt of the as-yet uncivilized frontier. Unfortunately, this led to outlaws using the bandana to cover their faces during robberies and crime, and the bandana quickly became associated with the wrong side of the law.

Ironically, bandanas were also once used as a "tool for political struggle" thanks to President George Washington and specifically his wife, Martha. 

In 1775, Martha went north to meet her husband for Christmas, he was commanding the Continental Army at the time. While there she met with John Hewson, a print maker recommended by Benjamin Franklin for his skills & defiance in regard to a ban on textile printing by the British.

Hewson copied the drawings of militia flags & cannons that Martha shared with him and some time later, they received a parcel from Philadelphia containing a drawing of the General on horseback.

By the summer of 1776, patriots were cheering that very image of Washington on America’s very first bandana (photo on left). Many followed George Washington’s example by being portrayed as heroes on bandanas in pursuing their political ends.

Sometimes referred to as, “ little banners,” they increasingly became a means of economically promoting a range of issues. After all, they had the additional attraction of being an extremely versatile item of clothing, ranging from a handkerchief, a mask, a headscarf, a neckerchief, a means of carrying a bundle of goods, a bandage or a sling.

These were the years preceding industrialization – the bandanas were hand-loomed squares of fabric printed with images to value & save. Bandanas would pay homage to war or sporting heroes; demonstrate support for electoral candidates; & encourage patriotism through both World Wars.

Bandanas continued to move beyond politics by promoting special events from world fairs, commemorated anniversaries such as the Declaration of Independence, & acted as records of both the landscape & legendary characters of the Wild West.

The 1900's saw bandanas promoting movies like Snow White and sports teams like The Yankees.

By the late 60's, bandanas were frequently worn by teenagers, sometimes on the head, but also tied around the leg. In the 80's and 90's, they were also sported by bikers, and musicians.

Today, the bandana is far from representing a political point or achievement. It's a creative accessory to fashion that adds a little flare. 


Friday, March 6, 2015

Feature Friday: Overalls!

Overalls. A style worn by both men and women. Sported by adults, teens, and kids.

The very first overalls, originally referred to as "slops," were created in the 1700's. They were worn by working men and considered a symbol of low class.

The material was not denim, but instead a tough cloth. They were built for durability and not for comfort and were not fitted well at all. Men usually wore them over another pair of pants.

Around the 1850's, overalls became more convenient for the workday. These changes included pockets for tools, including rulers and pens and different colors. White for painters, blue for farmers and pinstripes for railroad workers. Shortly after, manufacturers started using denim to make overalls.

Women began wearing overalls by the 1900's.  Actress Helen Holmes wore a pair in a 1914 silent film. Rosie the Riveter also wore overalls on her "We can do it" posters during World War II. She represented the millions of overalls-wearing women in the wartime factories.

Children could wear overalls by the 1900's when OshKosh B'Gosh began selling them in children's sizes so kids could dress like their dads. Once these kid-size overalls were featured in catalogs, sales skyrocketed. They remain popular today.

It wasn't until the 1960's when overalls became a fashion statement. Retailers began producing them in high-end fabrics and a large number of colors. Plaid and patterned overalls also showed up in boutiques. 

In the 1990's, many popular hip hop artists wore overalls with one strap unbuttoned, which started a trend that made its way through American high schools.
You don't see as many people wearing overalls as they were in the 90's but you can still easily buy them in stores in many different colors and prints. 

Do you have a pair of overalls?