In 1916 Keds, a footwear brand was founded by the U.S. Rubber Company. By 1924, the brand was so popular that many winning athletes were patrons of Keds shoes. Outside its famous rubber-soled canvas shoes, the company decided to branch out by creating Pro Keds in 1949. Pro Keds was created to manufacture “more serious” form footwear, specifically for basketball players.
The first Pro Keds footwear was tagged as the Classic Royal, also known as the “Royal Tread.” This basketball shoe is made of canvass, and was available in low and hi-tops. Royal is famous for its characteristic blue and red power stripe which flanks the toe.
In 1950, the Royal was donned by the Minneapolis Lakers, which was the first team to score the NBA Championship five times in a row. The team was headlined by basketball great George Mikan.
As time progressed, new designs were created for football, track and field, tennis, and baseball. To meet the demands of these athletes, Pro Keds developed exclusive cushioning technology and shock-absorbent support for their footwear.
By the 1970’s, Pro Keds’ Classic Royal was the industry leader in basketball footwear. In fact, many famous NBA players were known to wear Royal shoes during their athletic career heydays. Some of these athletes include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lou Hudsonsix, Jo White, Willis Reed, Nate “Tiny” Archibald, Pete “Pistol” Maravich, Bob Lanier, and Bob Love.
By the end of the 70’s, Pro Keds represented the biggest names in basketball and many other sports. It also became the footwear of choice of the hip hop community in New York City because of its reputation as the “only sneaker with style”. By 1979, the Stride Ride Corporation acquired Keds and their sister brand, Pro Keds.
In 1981, “Sugar” Ray Leonard, a professional boxer, became the newest face of the brand. The brand remained the industry leader until the mid-1980’s when the faced a drop in popularity with the emergence of worthy competitors.
By the 1990’s, Pro Keds slowly rose from the ruins and sneaked its way to the international scene. In Japan, the Court King, a tennis shoe, was revitalized with the use of special materials, limited edition prints, and vivid toe cap hues. A lot of die-hard sneaker collectors went gaga over this limited edition Court King styles.
In 2005, after two decades of being dormant in America, the Stride Rite Corporation coordinated with distributor and manufacturer Tom Nastos and hip hop mogul Damon Dash, to re-launch and jumpstart the historic Pro Keds brand.
Since the revival of the footwear brand, the company has managed to launch innovative sneaker themes. Like the shoes they’ve manufactured before, Pro Keds continues to create shoes with unique and fresh designs. Perhaps their most innovative venture is their scented sneakers, which came in lifesaver, watermelon, and coconut scents. The fragrant footwear came in corresponding hues to match their scents. Pro Keds had also released retro shoes inspired by pioneering video games such as Centipede, Pac Man, Galaga, and Asteroids. Now, limited collection Pro Keds shoes have been the favorites of stylish contemporary artists and athletes.
Because of their unique designs, fans who grew up wearing Pro Keds, along with new patrons, continue to clamor for these stylish and comfortable sneakers.
One of Pro Keds many clientele include Andre 3000 of the Grammy-winning hip hop duo, Outkast. Other non-athlete Pro Keds fans include DJ Bobbito Garcia, DJ Afrika Bambaataa, and Crazy Legs of the Rock Steady Crew.
In 2007, Pro Keds sparked up another collaborative effort with Jeffrey NY to produce a limited edition footwear line. The label’s New York and Atlanta shops, Fred Segal’s LA, and 12 Nordstrom Stores carried the exquisite sneaker collection, which is mostly composed of deep suede footwear in warm hues.
Despite its hiatus during the 1980’s, the new and revitalized Pro Keds promises that it’s here to stay for good.