Post war youth wanted to celebrate and throw off the old image of dancing locked together in the embrace of the waltz and tango. Instead they jitterbugged to the sounds of the big band sounds. By the fifties jive was established and the frankest portrayal of sex yet performed.
During the 50s American Bandstand and Dick Clark introduced dance craze, after dance craze to the eager youth of America.
Teenagers no longer needed the dress as their forebears did but instead needed to be free to Rock'n Roll. No surprise then when athletic shoes were adopted for the purpose. The humble sneaker, or canvas topped, rubber soled shoe was escalated to the fashion icon of rebellious youth and remarkably has remained there, to this very day.
Sneakers are perhaps the most lasting design of all sport shoes. Not only did they spawn sports shoes they also form the basis of all leisure shoes. The word sneaker was first used in 1875 and referred to an early croquet shoe which was developed in the US. By the 1950's sneakers had become the preferred footwear of teenagers and the symbol of rebellion. Because they were cheap, the shoes were worn by students around the world.
In North America, cheerleaders wore sweaters, short skirts, ankle socks with canvas topped shoes (or keds).
Dancing was very much part of the emerging youth culture and the spasmodic body contact interspersed with vigorous gyrations more reminiscent of the Kama Sutra than the Ballroom Gazette necessitated freedom of movement. Sneakers were the footwear of choice (keds for girls and chucks for boys). The sole pattern of Keds was circles and squares.
There was even a hand jive for anyone unable to get on to the crowded dance floors.
Kids flocked to the new 'Teen movies" including Elvis Presley in Jailhouse wearing sneakers and saddle shoes (a close relative).
The fashion was officially sanctioned when James Dean was photographed wearing his Levis jeans and white sneakers.
Twenty years on Lennon wore white Spring Court sandshoes with his tailored white suits.
Forty years later, contemporary Rappers continue to extol the virtues of youths' favourite shoes.