This is A Visual Compendium of Sneakers by PopChartLab.

Here’s where it all started--the Chuck Taylor. Well, almost. Technically, the canvas and rubber "plimsoll" shoe had been around since the 1830s.

It’s remarkable that all of these shoes from the '60s, '70s, and '80s would be right at home on any foot today. Unlike clothing, which seems to run on a 20-ish year cycle, shoe designs have kept their cool across decades.

The '80s apparently brought a lot of color experimentation (and, of course, a lot of high tops, too).

And Air Jordans took the celebrity endorsement to new heights. Today, the Jordan brand is actually a separate line from Nike.

Now the 1996 Air Max More Uptempo may have been a miss (though it has a sort of postmodern flare)…

…but at least it was easier to keep clean than the Wu-Tang edition Jordans.

Today, sneakers are in an interesting, self-referential period. Just think about how Nike has been riffing on their Back to the Future designs.

And at the same time, the high top has been embraced to (literal?) new heights.

Infographic: The Ultimate History Of Sneaker Design

From Chuck Taylors to Air Jordans, almost 100 years of kicks are here in one awesomely illustrated print.

In my grade school, it was all about the Air Jordans—that was, until the first Reebok Pump hit. Suddenly, all of my suburban Chicago peers were torn between wearing the shoes of the hometown hero and greatest basketball player of all time, or having a satisfying, pressable button on their person at all moments of the day.

It’s a memory I’d long forgotten, before being reminded of that fateful year of 1989, so well documented on PopChartLab’s latest mega illustration, A Visual Compendium of Sneakers. It walks you through 134 sneaker designs over almost 100 years of shoe history—it has everything from the original mass-produced sneaker, the Converse All Star (1917), to the controversial Jeremy Scott x Adidas Wing (2013). And as your eyes scroll down the page into an increasingly satisfying manifestation of absurdity, you can see the evolution of technology into fashion accessory.

"Early shoe designs were rooted in their utility, especially in terms of their application to a given sport," explains William Prince, managing editor at PopChartLab. "But, over time (especially in the 1950s, when James Dean wore stylish kicks in Rebel Without a Cause), sneaker design became more concerned with fashion—how a shoe looked, how it complemented your outfit, what it said about your own personal brand of self-expression."

What I find most amazing, looking through almost a century of shoes, is how well these designs (and styles) have aged. Chuck Taylors aren’t the only sneakers on this print that we still see on the street today. The Adidas line from the '60s and '70s is alive and well. Heck, even New Balances from the 1980s remain domestically iconic. Sneakers have run on a sort of quarantined evolutionary track seemingly independent of the whims of popular fashion. Zoot suits may have given way to casual Fridays, but nothing on this page would look anachronistic on your feet at this very moment.

However, with the rise of new fabric technologies like Flyknit and a recent push for zero-drop heels, don’t be surprised if the sneakers of the next 10 years begin to look significantly different than the previous century.

A Visual Compendium of Sneakers is available as a print for $32.

Buy it here.

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17 Comments

  • peteykins

    I remember Tretorns and K-Swiss making a big impact in the early 80s. And, yeah, leaving out PF Flyers and Keds seems like a huge oversight.

  • Barron R.

    There is a typo on the first zoomed in slide. The Nike "Cortex," is actually called the Nike "Cortez." Other than that this is an amazing effort.
     

  • Daniel B.

    Your 1999 entry for the Jordan XIV "Wu-Tang" doesn't exist, I think you meant to put Nike Dunk High "Wu-Tang". Picture is right, label is wrong.

  • Daniel B.

    Your 1999 entry for the Jordan XIV "Wu-Tang" doesn't exist, I think you meant to put Nike Dunk High "Wu-Tang". Picture is right, label is wrong.

  • Joe Couto

    My 1'st star endorsed Tennis shoe besides Chuck Taylor's were Lou Brock's that came out in the 70's Can't remember maker but the soles were red with various 3 inch divots in various parts of the sole & they were cool.   

  • Miguel Girón

    dear friends!! great selection. But I miss those Reebok pump used by Dee Brown.
    and the Nilke Pegasus. Anyway as I said a great Selection. best regards from Spain.
    Miguel 

  • Julian Greene

    Yay! Exactly what I was going to say. I didn't even realize anything else existed until I was an adult.