For so many years, and still, to this day, people perceive only men to be interested in sneakers. But why? The exclusion of women from "OG" sneaker culture can be directly traced back to the culture's historical roots, particularly in sports and music.
Sports and sneaker culture are symbiotic. In 1917, Converse entered the basketball space and, five years later, hired basketball player Chuck Taylor. Then, Chuck became the first-ever brand-endorsed athlete with his own signature shoe-the Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Once a peak-performance basketball shoe, the Chuck Taylor All-Stars are now a staple lifestyle silhouette.
Sneaker culture rapidly grew throughout the 80s and 90s, and brand-endorsed athletes like Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant played a considerable role in intertwining sports and sneaker communities. However, with the historical shadow over females in sports, females were rarely offered sneaker deals. It was only in the late 90s that basketball legend Sherly Swoopes became the first female basketball player to land her own signature line with Nike.
Yet, following Sherly and other female ballers like Dawn Staley and Lisa Lesslie, not a single WNBA athlete received their own signature sneaker line until almost 20 years later. This lack of consistency among female brand-endorsed athletes, (sport-wide) was one of the many obstacles preventing women from gaining a legitimate foothold in the sneaker community.
Luckily, things are changing for the better with the rise of female-brand-endorsed athletes. Women in tennis are thriving. The now-retired legend Serena Williams is continuing to make moves with Nike, creating more collections through the Serea William Design Crew (SWDC).
Even 18-year-old tennis sensation Coco Gauff wore her own New Balance CG1s on the court. Seeing inspiring athletes such as Serena and Coco sport their own sneakers plays an incredible role in welcoming not only athletes, but also anyone who has a love for tennis to the sneaker community.
In addition to sports, music strongly influenced sneaker culture. Male hip-hop artists such as RUN DMC, Public Enemy and Wu-Tang Clan were idolised, and everyone interested in the electric music culture wanted to wear the same sneakers as their favourite rappers.
Female Icons like Aaliyah, Lauryn Hill and Mary Blige were also idolised and heavily influenced by streetwear culture. Although the "streetwear babe" look was loved and celebrated, the sneakers available for women and men were vastly different.
The feminine versions looked similar to the mens, but often with the addition of ultra-feminine platform midsoles, like the most outlandish yet highly popular buffalo sneakers that dominated 90s style.
Today & Future
Due to the fact that the idol-athletes and musicians who popularised sneakers were predominantly men, sneakers had become a designator of male social identity. Today, female athletes and musicians are being given similar opportunities to their male counterparts. After decades of women feeling like second best, the sneaker community is finally welcoming women.
Similarly, the interest and support for women's sports have increased exponentially, creating a shift in perception, respect, and attention for women in sports, music, and sneaker culture. Looking at the female athletes and musicians of the near future, who do we see being next in line for a collaborative sneaker. More importantly, who do we see playing an influential role in bringing the sports, music, and sneaker communities together.