Tennis shoes or just sneakers.
Call them what you like, but today it is impossible not to bump into anyone using them anywhere on the planet.
Sports shoes trade is estimated at US $ 85,000 million a year.
Only in one country, the United States, annual sales are estimated at around US $ 34,000 million.
And in 85% of cases, those who buy them do not use them for the purposes they were created.
But how is this product of the industrial revolution has become a symbol of the international fashion industry?
Contrary to what might be expected, in the beginning what is now known as sports shoes was a symbol of wealth, social status.
In the nineteenth century, the industrial age created an emerging middle class who suddenly had the resources and time to devote to leisure.
“This emerging middle class wanted to show the world that had time for recreation and sports shoes and were created as a symbol of ostentation for the middle class,” he told the BBC Elizabeth Semmelhack, curator of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.
In the early twentieth century, the production of sports shoes was already significant, but from the 30 production begins to take off en masse.
“In 30 years, governments around the world began to worry about the fact that the population was not healthy enough and this coincided with an increased interest in the perfection of the body.”
Thus, according Semmelhack, and at the end of that decade the use of sneakers began to democratize, at least in Europe and the United States.
And after the Second World War its use became more widespread. “They became footwear that children used and by then he had lost the cache to which he was associated.”
Today, sports shoes are a symbol of a globalized culture, using from Hollywood stars to Indians in the Amazon.
And the origins of this phenomenon date back to the 70, he told the BBC Matt Powell, an analyst with sporting issues in the consulting firm NPD Group.
“In the 70s, the hottest sport was tennis, and then everyone started using sneakers,” he said.
Then, he adds, also in the 70 “had an obsession with race and that later evolved until it became a very popular form of exercise throughout the world.”
And that other factors such as the influence of international sports stars are added.
In the 80s, basketball athletes emerged and gained strength as Michael Jordan, who actively promoted the use of sneakers.
And do not forget the connection between sport and the world of music.
In the mid-80s, the hip hop group Run DMC released their song “My Adidas”.
“Today there is a strong association between the world of music and sports. And this goes back to that song Run DMC. The kids wanted to emulate the likes of these.”
Phenomena like these, marked, according to Matt Powell, the beginning of the modern era of sneakers.
Less social barriers
And in a world where there are fewer obsession with formality, sports shoes are the footwear of choice for almost all occasions.
“We are at a moment in which it is acceptable to wear tennis shoes for occasions when it had not been for about 10 years,” said Powell.
“I work a lot in financial circles and, 10 years ago, going to meetings in suits and ties. Today, it is very common in these meetings wear jeans and sneakers.”
According to the researcher Giorgio Rielo, historian at the University of Warwick (UK), through clothing history it has been a point of distinction between social classes.
But social classes, he says, are less rigid nowadays.
Today there are a number of outfits that can be used interchangeably in different social classes and people of different social strata.
“Athletic shoes are part of that story,” says Rielo.
They may have emerged as a symbol of exclusivity of certain social classes.
But today it is difficult to find something whose use is so prevalent in all walks of life in every corner of the planet.