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A Campus In Style: Signature Sneakers Evolve

By Jamil Larkins
On October 4, 2012

Sneakers have been a part of our growing athletic and fashion culture for the last 50 years. Long gone are the days of the classically flimsy Chuck Taylor Converse sneaker, as 2012 has brought some of the highest performance technology and materials to our feet. The intersection of style, sports, fashion and hip-hop has always gone hand in hand. Leading the way through the history of sneaker culture are celebrity artists and athletes who have earned their own signature sneakers and corresponding advertising campaigns.
It all really started in the mid-1980s. 1986 was the year that legendary rap group Run-DMC signed their famous deal with Adidas. The iconic shell toes became a signature of their wardrobe, spawning the song "My Adidas." Along with being arguably the first mainstream hip hop act, Run-DMC became role models for urban life. These Adidas sneakers became staples of hip-hop and break dancing culture throughout the 1980s. This deal that Russell Simmons and Lyor Cohen made with Adidas was the first of its kind.
As far as athletes in the 1980s go, tennis legend Andre Agassi often gets looked over for his impact in sneaker culture. Agassi was a heavy influence in the skate and urban culture of the 1980s. His neon Nike Tech Challenge line and his mullet hairstyle paved the way for young rebels all over the country. Bo Jackson, NFL star running back, also got a foot in the game during the 80s with his own Nike sneaker and "Bo Knows" national campaign.
However, 1985 was the year which changed the game. Michael Jordan's first deal with Nike changed the culture forever. One of the most popular athletes ever has easily the most popular sneaker line in history. With over 20 signature models, Jordan followed up his rookie Nike deal, creating his very own Jordan Brand. These sneakers are in just as high demand now than they were when he was still dominating the NBA.
Throughout the 1990s, we saw superstar athletes such as Ken Griffey Jr., Deion Sanders, Penny Hardaway and Charles Barkley sign Nike deals and put out successful signature lines. Into the 2000s, we saw rappers and musicians take a bigger role in the sneaker game. Both Jay-Z and 50 Cent struck Reebok deals, putting out signature casual sneakers. Kanye West took the rap sneaker throne when he and Nike put out the Air Yeezy sneaker. Fans lined up and camped out for the limited release, which was duplicated in 2012 with the release of the Air Yeezy 2.
The signature sneaker is one of the cementations of superstardom in athletics today. With LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan still leading the way in sneaker sales, there will soon be room for the next big athlete or musician to make his or her way with an awesome and timeless shoe.

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