If you are well and truly informed about the entirety of sneaker culture, it’s functionally impossible to talk about the history of sneakers as a pop culture and fashion phenomenon without talking about Pro-Keds.Although the first Keds branded shoes, produced by the US Rubber Company, date all the way back to 1916, the Pro-Keds line begins its story in 1949. The canvas/vulcanized rubber ‘Royal’ was typical of the era’s basic construction techniques, but Pro-Keds were geared specifically for athletic performance, and proved to be an instant success with the major basketball names of the day, especially George Mikan of the Minneapolis Lakers, the sport’s preeminent big man.Pro-Keds would come to be synonymous with basketball. A fixture on both pro and college courts, and worn by stars like Nate Archibald, ‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich, and Jo Jo White, Pro-Keds reputation was further solidified in the public eye.While Pro-Keds were on top of the basketball world, they were also building a reputation on the streets. The shoe’s understated good looks made them a style icon for New York’s embryonic hip-hop scene. Historically speaking, Pro-Keds were the first streetwear “must have” shoe of the modern era.For 2016, coincidentally the centenary of the original Keds, the Pro-Keds line has undergone a global re-launch. The silhouette that started it all, the Royal, has been reissued in both its classic form and with contemporary style tweaks. To that end, Cordura nylon and camouflage patterned versions of the shoe accompany the original.
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