Every Way We've Been Wearing Sneakers Since 1950

A stylish historical retrospective

Our love affair with sneakers doesn’t show signs of slowing, but sometimes we feel our styling getting a little stale. That’s when we look to the past for inspiration from stylish gals dating all the way back to 1950. See how they did it.

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Fun fact: Keds debuted in 1916, making this year its centennial. But it took a post-war fashion liberation to really kick off America's love affair with the sporty shoe.

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On the set of Clash by Night, Marilyn Monroe forwent her typically ultra-glam style in favor of an ensemble almost identical to her male costar--a short-sleeved button-down; loose, cuffed jeans; and simple Keds. History was being made.

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By the '70s, denim had become a total staple, allowing for even more room for sneaker style to shine.

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The ultimate '70s babe, Farrah Fawcett (seen here on the set of Charlie's Angels) epitomized the decade's aesthetic in bell-bottom jeans and a pair of red, white and blue Nike Cortez--plus perfectly feathered bangs, of course.

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Sneakers in the '80s served a few different purposes. On one hand, the decade saw the advent of personal style, as women started unabashedly letting their sartorial freak flags fly. This impeccably cool duo in patchwork overalls (and the gal on the left in black Vans) embodies the attitude of dressing for yourself.

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20th Century Fox


Then on the other hand, there were those ubiquitous, sensible white Reeboks. Favored by commuting working women, they were a means to an end before it was officially time for heels. (Oh hey, Melanie Griffith.)

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Pivoting out of the maximalism of the '80s came early '90s grunge. Enter: Elle Macpherson in a Superman tee, sunglasses at night (you can do that if you're a supermodel) and red Adidas Gazelles.

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Rachel Green, fashion icon. Girl rocked a number of copyable outfits on Friends, but we might be most partial to this quintessentially '90s getup of cutoff denim overalls, a striped shirt peeking out from underneath and a pair of slightly stained white sneaks.

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Oh how the decade changed. By the approaching millennium, a more futuristic tone was felt throughout fashion--making Britney Spears' white platforms somewhat make sense.

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The shell top Adidas Superstar came out in 1969, became popular for men in the '80s, when they were favored by Run DMC, and became indispensable for ladies in the early 2000s, when the sublimely cool Missy Elliott paired her all-white version with--what else?--a baby-pink velour sweatsuit and coordinating fuzzy hat.

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Before she was the Bad Gal Riri we all know and worship, Rihanna was just another early 2000s girl with a penchant for aggressively low-rise jeans, cropped halter tops, body chains and bright pink Converse.

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A few years later, wedge sneakers, made popular by Isabel Marant, began to reign supreme, as did giant fur vests and, oh yes, leggings as pants.

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A couple years after that, we saw the dawn of the street-style star. Here, blogger Susie Lau does her peacocking best to combine as many fabrics, colors and trends as she can, including our favorite part of the ensemble, a cool pair of silver Nike Air Max.

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Perhaps in defiance of the previous year's excess, 2015 was all about the decidedly unpretentious normcore look. Think basic shoes your dad might have worn styled with monochromatic basics like baggy black pants, bomber jackets and unisex T-shirts.

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This also took form in a preppy normcore revolution as well, with the rise of the squeaky-clean Adidas Stan Smiths paired with "mom" jeans.

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As for now? We're in kind of a hybrid of the past two years. Current sneaker trends tend toward subtle, elevated basics. Even if you don't own a pair of those coveted Adidas Yeezys, you can't help but pine for a sleek, sporty, monochromatic ensemble.

sarah stiefvater
Sarah Stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...
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