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How Your Favorite Sneakers Got Their Names

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We all know that Nike is named after the Greek goddess of victory, and the origin of "Air Jordan" is hardly obscure, but where did some other famous shoes and brands get their names? Here are the explanations for a few favorites:

1. Converse Chuck Taylor All Star

Nearly everyone's walked around with his name on their feet at some point, but who the heck is Chuck Taylor? Converse first introduced the All Star in 1917, but the company had a tough time moving many units of its fledgling basketball shoe against stiff competition from Spalding and several tire companies that were trying to horn in on the market for rubber-soled athletic kicks. Converse needed a charismatic salesman with some serious basketball street cred, and former Indiana high school hoops star Chuck Taylor needed a job. In 1921, he joined Converse and started making sneaker history.

Taylor used his basketball experience to suggest several improvements to the original All Star design, including a patch to protect the shoe's ankle. By 1923, the patch included a replica of Taylor's signature. For the next 40 years, Taylor traveled around the country selling All Stars out of the back of his Cadillac and putting on basketball clinics to help educate players on the game and show why they should wear All Stars when they took the court.

Interestingly, although Taylor's name was on nearly every pair of Chucks that ever left the factory, he didn't get a cut of the profits or any sort of commission. Instead, he was on salary the entire time he worked for Converse. The company has sold over 600 million pairs of Chucks, so even a few cents per pair would have amounted to a handsome fortune.

2. Reebok

The English shoemaker was originally part of J.W. Foster & Sons, a British business that dates back to 1895. In 1958, though, two of the Fosters decided to start an offshoot athletic shoe company. Their search for a name led them to thumb through a dictionary Joe Foster had won in a footrace as a boy. They decided that the rhebok, a speedy African antelope, was the perfect inspiration for their company. Wait, then why is the company's name spelled "Reebok" instead of the correct "Rhebok?" The dictionary young Joe Foster won was a South African edition, so it had the Afrikaans spelling rather than the English one.

3. Adidas

Many people believe that "Adidas" is an acronym for "All Day I Dream About Soccer," but the real origins of the name are decidedly less sporty. "Adidas" is a portmanteau of the name of Adi Dassler, the German businessman who started the company in 1949. Before starting Adidas, Dassler had been in the shoe business with his brother Rudi, and together the brothers made the shoes Jesse Owens wore for his triumph at the 1936 Olympics. In 1948, though, Adi and Rudi split to go take on their own projects. Adi's Adidas obviously flourished, but Rudi didn't do too badly for himself by starting a little shoe company he called Puma.

4. Keds

U.S. Rubber introduced the first shoes known as "sneakers" in 1917; because the shoes had rubber soles they allowed the wearer to sneak around quietly. The company had a great idea for what to call their canvas-topped creations, too: Peds, the Latin word for "feet." The only hitch was that someone already owned the rights to the name "Peds." To get around this little inconvenience, U.S. Rubber just slightly tweaked the name to "Keds."

5. Puma Clyde

The subtle suede Puma Clyde is another classic shoe with origins modern wearers might have missed. In 1973, Walt Frazier, the flamboyant and fashionable point guard of the New York Knicks, wanted his Puma basketball shoes to fit a little differently. Frazier thought he'd be more comfortable in a wider shoe and asked Puma if they could design him one. Puma was glad to give the dapper Frazier a hand, and he quickly signed on to endorse the revamped kicks. To tie the product even closer to Frazier's famously cool public persona, Puma gave the shoe Frazier's nickname, "Clyde," a moniker a Knicks trainer bestowed upon Frazier to honor his tendency to dress like famous bank robber Clyde Barrow.

6. PF Flyers

PF Flyers played a crucial role in one of the funniest sports movie scenes ever: the climax of The Sandlot, where they're revered for their ability to make you "run faster and jump higher." What does the "PF" stand for, though? Nothing magical, just "Posture Foundation." The Posture Foundation insole was invented in 1933 to help make athletic shoes more comfortable, and in 1937 BF Goodrich started making PF Flyers that could help athletes "play at full speed longer."

PF Flyers hold another important spot in sneaker history. In the 1950s they became the first shoe company to collaborate with a professional athlete on shoe designs when they built a series of sneakers to legendary Celtics guard Bob Cousy's specifications while Cousy appeared in PF Flyers ads.


The ASICS we know now are descendants of the Onitsuka Company's designs that first came out in Japan in 1949. As Onitsuka grew and merged with other companies, it needed a new name. In 1977 it became the ASICS Corporation; the name is an acronym for the Latin phrase anima sana in corpore sano, or "a healthy soul in a healthy body."

8. Brooks

Brooks Running

As a loyal customer who buys a new pair of Brooks running shoes several times a year, I was pretty surprised to learn there was never a Mr. Brooks involved with the company. Actually, it was Morris Goldenberg who founded the company in Philadelphia in 1914. He decided not to go with his own name, and instead picked an Anglicized version of his wife's maiden name, Bruchs.

9. adidas Stan Smith


Sneakerheads instantly recognize the adidas Stan Smith as a footwear icon, but they may not know that Stan Smith himself was a real tennis player who had a pretty nice career. Smith, a Californian, was a three-time tennis All American at USC and picked up the NCAA men's singles title in 1968. He then enjoyed a nice pro career in which he won Wimbledon in 1972 and the US Open in 1971. In 1971, adidas approached Smith about endorsing a tennis shoe that had originally been worn by Frenchman Robert Haillet during the 1960s. Thus, Haillet lost his chance at sneaker immortality while Smith will be on our feet for years to come.

This post originally appeared in 2009.

All images courtesy of Getty Images unless otherwise stated. 

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
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Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.


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