What happens when you find a pair of Keds with a 1916 box logo in your son’s closet? Well, if you are anything like me (and love the history of retail)- you get inspired. So today we are diving into how Keds came to be and what they are up to now. Let’s get started…
In 1892 the US Rubber Company introduced the very first rubber-soled shoe, which single handedly changed footwear forever. Why? Because it created a little thing we all still live in called sneakers. Prior to that soles were really only made of leather and wood, which is why rubber had such an impact on the industry.
Over the next twenty years the company worked hard to keep up with demand and accumulated over 30 various shoe names along the way. Knowing they needed to consolidate their footwear into one company, US Rubber looked into purchasing the name Peds (meaning feet in Latin), but it had already been trademarked. Therefore, “Keds” was founded in 1916, specializing in canvas–topped, rubber-soled sneakers.
The “Champion” silhouette was released first, followed by the “Keddette” (which was washable), and then Pro-Keds for athletes. In between all of this, Hollywood stars such as Marilyn Monroe and NBA greats such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were wearing Keds; embracing the clean, classic style of the brand.
In 1979 Stride Rite purchased Keds for $18M and throughout the 80’s and 90’s young girls (like me) lived in the brand’s signature sneaker. TV shows such as Saved By the Bell and Full House had lead actresses influencing all of us, but a personal favorite of mine would have to be Dirty Dancing. Jennifer Grey wearing denim shorts, a coral leotard, and a white pair of Keds (as she practiced her routine) is an unforgettable moment in pop culture.
In 2012 Stride Rite Corporation was acquired by Wolverine World Wide for $1.32B, and Keds announced Taylor Swift as it’s brand ambassador. Which couldn’t have been smarter at the time, as it introduced an entirely new generation to the 1916 footwear brand.
Since then, Keds celebrated their 100th anniversary with a “Ladies First Since 1916” campaign launch- which featured inspirational women such as Taylor Swift and Allison Williams. In addition, Keds has had collaborations with Disney, MLB, Madewell, Rifle Paper Co, and most recently Kate Spade New York. All of which makes perfect sense, as it capitalizes on what’s driving much of retail right now… limited edition collections, licensing, and lifestyle partnerships.
So to the team at Keds- I couldn’t be happier that I stumbled upon your 1916 logo and dug into the history of your brand. Balancing the past and present isn’t always easy, but your site definitely caters to both (which I love). Here’s to you being around for another 100 years and best of luck, always.
The below imagery captures the classic Keds logo and the 1916 box detail that inspired this post. The product is surrounded by additional heritage pieces from my son's closet- all of which I will never get rid of!