Like, the 1934 school year – that old. Still very much in the midst of the 20th century Great Depression, here we have some early ancestors of today’s peak sneaker era of Air Jordans and Yeezys.
Not the earliest athletic shoes, mind you. Rubber-soled athletically-minded shoes go back to the late 1800s in England, where they were known as “plimsolls” and Victorians with enough leisure time to pursue tennis and running sports quickly took to them. The popular name in America for tennis shoes became “sneakers” because of how quiet the wearer’s steps would be.
Versions designed specifically for basketball were available by 1907. On these pages, we also have slippers and sandals, generally with the ladies in mind. There’s a canvas work shoe that would pass muster today, and some simple lace-up oxfords that also are classic. But it’s those boy’s Gym and “Playground” shoes that stand out, with their high tops in multiple color schemes. Very little padding around the ankle (which is why I preferred low-top shoes as a kid) but still shoes for which the copywriter proclaimed “Any Indian would throw away his moccasins for the comfort of these ‘NEWMATIK’ insole shoes with their sure-grip, tire-tread, heavy ribbed soles.” Once again Native Americans aren’t given enough credit.
And the prices! Every pair under a dollar. Gives you pause, next time you consider a pair of high-end Nike Air Jordans.