Sneaker is a synonym for the athletic shoes, which are used in sports and for physical exercises. The footwear called sneakers are distinguished with a flexible sole made of rubber or any synthetic material, with an upper part made from leather or canvas. The word sneaker is more popular in northern United States. In Britain, they are commonly called trainers. They are also known as kicks, runners and takkies in various parts of the world.
It is interesting to note the difference in names for the shoes. While the names runners and trainers give you a general idea of the purpose of the footwear, the word sneakers can perplex many. The word sneak itself means to move stealthily. Originated from the archaic English word ‘snican’, it assumed the current meaning near the 15th century or so. People who often sneaked upon others, especially with bad intentions, were called sneaks.
The history of rubber-soled shoes traces back to 19th century. The rubber-soled shoes became popular in America after the invention of vulcanization and the industrial revolution. The first person to acquire a patent for the item was Humphrey O’Sullivan in 1899. The shoes were earlier called plimsolls. It became widely available, and the people who used to ‘sneak’ regularly started to use them. It included those with bad and good intentions alike.
Henry Nelson McKinney, an advertising agent who used to work for N. W. Ayer & Son, is often credited with the formation of the word sneakers. McKinney used the term in an advertisement in 1917, owing to the fact that the rubber sole made the shoe stealthy compared to others. However, the word was already well in use in the preceding century, as per many evidence. In 1887, the Boston Journal of Education used the word ‘sneakers’, referring it to be the name given to tennis shoes by young players. The name was probably originated due to the lack of sound the rubber soles produced on ground, compared to the considerable noise made by leather-soled shoes. The department store Jordan Marsh used the term sneakers in an advertisement for its rubber-soled shoes in 1889 as well. It has been said that the prisoners used to call warders sneaks since they wore rubber-soled shoes.
Sneakers are very popular now, not just with sportsmen. People wear it casually, during jogging and other physical exercises. Adidas, Puma, Reebok and Nike are some of the major brands of the sneakers.
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