According to the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong, the retail sales of sneakers in the city reached HK$436.6 billion (US$ 56.1 billion) last year. The dynamic Mong Kok shopping district has opened its arms to thousands of visitors every day, maps in hand as many try to locate “Sneakers Street” (on Fa Yuen Street) in this densely packed area.
Meanwhile, on Instagram, the popularsneaker-related hashtag #yeezy continues to run the show, with more than five million mentions. It started in 2009, when hip-hop artist Kanye West launched his sneaker collection with Louis Vuitton, then the Air Yeezy with Nike the same year, followed by the Air Yeezy 2 in 2012.
However, in 2015, he switched over to Adidas and introduced the Yeezy Boost 750 and 350, both unquestionably the most-wanted kicks among “sneakerheads” (avid collectors) that year – and they’re still highly sought after. The former was limited to 9,000 pairs worldwide and sold out in 10 minutes.
The first “sneakers” (though they weren’t named that yet) debuted in the 1860s. Made of leather and spikes, they were introduced as the first specialised running shoes by British company Thomas Dutton and Thorowgood.
In 1892, the US Rubber Company introduced a pair of rubber shoes with canvas tops called Keds. The company mass-produced them in 1916 and an advertising agent nicknamed them “sneakers” to suggest how quiet they were due to their rubber soles.
In 1917, the Converse Rubber Shoe Company introduced the prototype of the All Star; the famous name wasn’t adopted until basketball player Chuck Taylor became aligned with the brand.