All about Keds
Mar 1, 2017 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
Recently I went shoe shopping – something that admittedly can feel overwhelming for me. It was especially true in this case as I was looking for some good kicks to wear on my trip to the Czech Republic and London. My list of requirements was a bit lengthy. I wanted comfort, the ability to easily to slip on and off (thanks to the security lines), and a stylish profile. Oh, and of course, I needed all this solved within one day of shopping. I walked into the shoe store feeling concerned, but tried to retain some sense of optimism. Then I saw them… a pair of gray Keds. They looked awesome, were supportive to my feet, and I envisioned making memories with them in Europe. When I put the lid back on the box I figured out why I felt a deep connection to these shoes – they’re vintage! I had no idea Keds originated in the early 1900s. Let’s learn all about Keds, shall we?
Keds started out in 1916, the latest business venture of the US Rubber company. The brand is the result of a series of mergers (thirty to be exact!) and the name the marketing department originally recommended was Peds. The suggestion took its inspiration from the Latin word for feet. In a twist of fate Peds was already trademarked, so the name was switched to Keds (with Veds coming in as a close second). I would like to have been in the board room for that brainstorming session!
Their shoes, rubber-soled naturally, were known as sneakers. Many attribute Keds as the first sneakers. They were given this nickname because the soft sole allowed the wearer to sneak around. In addition to making everyone super stealthy, the grip of the sole and flexibility of the shoe made Keds a popular choice for athletes. In these days Keds were found starring in the Olympics, on the tennis courts, and across college campuses nationwide.
Did you know Yoko Ono got married in Keds? Check out some more fun facts about Keds here.
The 1920s through 50s were decades of great innovation for the company. In 1926 the Keds Triumph shoe debuted to big fanfare. The Triumph is what most of you will recognize as the quintessential Keds shoe. It’s probably what immediately comes to mind when you think of the brand – a mid-rise shoe with laces. Simple and sweet. But while the original appeal of Keds was its lack of heels, times were changing and Keds adapted. In the early days of WWII Keds debuted a line called the Kedettes, washable high-heeled shoes for women. Functional and fun – a classic combo. While there isn’t great evidence on how long Kedettes were available, based on advertising archives they tapered off by the early 1960s. This era also saw the debut of the Pro-Keds line, a high-top shoe designed specifically for the basketball court. Sneakers, basketball shoes, high heels – was there nothing Keds couldn’t offer the eager consumer?
As you can see the Keds brand has a diverse history (thanks to its product offerings variety), but I’d like to focus in on perhaps its greatest achievement. Consider what was happening culturally in 1916. This is the time of women fighting for what we now consider basic rights: voting and being able to wear comfortable clothes.
With this bleak picture in mind, now think of the athletic landscape available to a woman in those days. You’re probably thinking what landscape?? And you’d be right to scoff a bit. If you need a recap check out our article on the history of women’s fitness. Now that we’ve stepped back in time to the early 1900s, let’s think about how incredible it would be to have a shoe built specifically for the female athlete! Keds made that far-fetched dream possible. Their shoes made sports comfortable and accessible for women. No small feat when you think of it – empowering a generation of women to embrace physical fitness! Keds were the shoe of choice for the female Art Deco era tennis champion and the execs took note. By the end of the Jazz Age, Keds tennis shoes were renamed the “Champions” as an homage to amazing ladies who didn’t just lunch, but triumphed!
Tell me dear readers, now that we’ve learned all about Keds do you think shoes can start a revolution for a whole gender? Excited to hear your thoughts in the comments below…