In 1892, the US Rubber Company began producing rubber for the soles of shoes, and by 1916 those rubber-soled canvas shoes became known as Keds, thanks to Charles Goodyear, the man behind the tyre industry.
Goodyear patented ‘vulcanisation’, a method of bonding rubber to cloth, and the sneaker industry as we know it was born.
In 1916, Goodyear and US Rubber merged to create the ultimate footwear franchise, Keds. US Rubber had over 30 individual brand names using their special process, which they consolidated under one label, Keds.
Keds marketed all forms of footwear for kids and adults, all with the constant selling point of “canvas, rubber-soled footwear” for the active person. Keds were perfect for kids, and through the decades, Keds were the only thing on kids’ feet.
During the early years of sneakers, styles were limited to a low-top and a high-top, in either black or white. During the 50s, Keds released a line of high-top sneakers called Pro-Keds, remarkably similar to the Converse All-Star, which was the first attempt at pro-sport emulation.
At the time, All-Stars were still considered basketball shoes only, but with a pair of Pro-Keds you could look like the big leagues no matter where you played. Keds cornered the market until the late 50s when competitors like PF Flyers, Red Ball Jets, and Jeepers battled it out for the sneaker king title.
When running shoes entered the market in the 70s, Keds lost its winning stride. The company was bought by Stride Rite Corporation, and Keds changed their image. No longer shoes for speed, they were now shoes for comfort, and the classic ‘Champion’ became a must in every girls’ closet.