As much of a staple in Southern California as a convertible and suntan lotion, athletic shoes are worn by the athlete and the couch potato.
Usually white, sometimes black or other colors, tops high or low, they go with shorts, jeans or kick-around slacks and are appropriate in almost any casual or semi-casual situation.
Athletic shoes got their start from the guy with a blimp named after him. In the 1860s, Charles Goodyear developed a mixture of sulfur and rubber to create a weather-proof sole material for shoes. These leather shoes with rubber soles kept feet dry when walking around wet, unpaved streets and sidewalks.
After World War I, the U.S. Rubber Co. predicted that because of rubber's traction, comfort and long wear, a rubberized shoe for children could be popular. Its brown canvas shoes with rubber soles were called "Keds," a name that combined the Latin word ped (foot) and the English word kids.
The soft cloth uppers became popular not just with children, but with adults who wanted a white canvas version that could be worn when playing tennis.
In the '30s, badminton player Jack Purcell introduced the wide bumper look on sneakers, and over time aficionados of various sports adapted the basic design of the athletic shoe to fit their needs. Runners wanted lighter uppers and more cushioned soles; basketball players liked high tops, and skateboarders desired more colors and designs to flash.
Athletic shoes picked up the nickname "sneakers" because a wearer could sneak up on somebody without making a noise, and that's about how they entered the mainstream of American dress.