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11 Comfy Facts About Keds

Keds have been alive longer than Betty White, Dick van Dyke, and Marshmallow Fluff. The brand turns 100 years old this year, and it’s already celebrating with Ciara-endorsed blowouts. But if the brand was being historically accurate, they probably should have invited some tennis stars and clowns to the party. On the occasion of Keds’s centennial, here’s how the brand got involved with a Beatles wedding and taught teenage girls to be popular back in the 1930s.

1. THEY WERE CREATED BY THE UNITED STATES RUBBER COMPANY.

Keds didn’t originate in the brain of a 1910s sneakerhead; they were created by a rubber corporation. United States Rubber Company created the shoes during its reign as the largest rubber manufacturer in America. The group was formed in 1892 after nine companies based in Naugatuck, Connecticut, decided to merge. It dominated the industry for several decades, until it lost power and was eventually bought by Michelin in 1989. By that point it was going by its new name, Uniroyal.

2. THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO BE CALLED PEDS.

The name Keds was actually a compromise. The company initially planned to call the shoes Peds, after the Latin word for foot, but another firm held the trademark. So Keds and Veds were proposed as alternatives; Keds won out because it had a stronger sound.

3. WOMEN WERE INSTRUMENTAL IN THEIR MARKETING.

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When Keds arrived in 1916, the women’s athletic shoe market was nonexistent. So ladies quickly flocked to these new “outing shoes” with flat rubber soles. But even after Keds were no longer considered revolutionary, women continued to fuel their popularity. In the 1940s through the 1960s, actresses like Katharine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, and Audrey Hepburn gave the shoes free publicity by wearing them. Years later, Jennifer Grey would revive them again with Dirty Dancing. No wonder Keds chose “Ladies first since 1916” as its centennial ad campaign.

4. CECIL B. DEMILLE’S BROTHER APPEARED IN EARLY ADS.

Director Cecil B. DeMille is still remembered today for his old Hollywood epics and help with the famous line, “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.” But he wasn’t the only DeMille in town. His older brother William was also a director, and apparently a big fan of athletic shoes. He endorsed Keds in a 1924 newspaper advertisement where he extolled their virtues on the tennis court. “I’ve worn these for 101 sets on my own cement court—and they’re easily good for 50 more,” he said in the ad. “That’s three times the amount of wear I generally get. I thought you would like to know about it.”

5. FEMALE TENNIS STARS GAVE THE SIGNATURE SHOE ITS NAME.

By Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-07879 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, Wikimedia Commons

The “classic” Keds shoe is now called the Champion, and you can thank 1920s tennis players for that. (Meaning the pros, not William C. DeMille.) After the company noticed lady tennis stars like Helen Wills wearing the sneakers on the court, Keds advertised the footwear as the shoe of champions. Apparently, that word had a nice ring to it and the signature sneaks were rebranded.

6. “KEDETTES” DEBUTED BY 1930.

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The fact that Keds did not have heels was a big part of their early draw. But eager to expand its offerings, the company unveiled a new line of “Kedettes” around 1930 that incorporated heels and wedges. As this vintage ad illustrates, Kedettes featured many spins on the oxford style—think moccasin oxfords, open-toed oxfords, and blucher oxfords. But they also had flats by 1959. While it’s unclear when exactly the line folded, the ads seem to have vanished around the 1960s.

7. KEDS STARTED AN ADVICE COLUMN FOR “GIRLS WHO WANT TO BE POPULAR.”

Also in the 1930s, Keds decided to get in on the advice column game. The company sponsored Nancy Dell’s Corner "for girls who want to be popular,” in which the titular Miss Dell answered letters from inquiring teenagers. Although the Keds ad copy didn’t appear until the bottom, Dell clearly promoted the shoes with her emphasis on “naturalness” and interest in sports. But this was mostly spun as a way to meet boys, and sometimes Dell got embarrassingly antiquated. In one of her queasier bits of advice, she cautioned, “Books are interesting but they don’t afford half the chance for laughing, noisy argument that a ‘net ball’ or a tricky basket shot does.”

8. THERE WAS A CLOWN MASCOT NAMED KEDSO.

In order to reach the 1950s kids glued to their new television sets, Keds created Kedso the animated clown. He appeared in commercials with a tiny top hat and sneakers, encouraging children to join him in singing the “Keds song.” He also hung out with a pair of live-action kids, as you’ll see in the clip above.

9. PRO KEDS DOMINATED THE EARLY 1970S BASKETBALL SCENE.

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Keds tried to position itself as the basketball shoe of choice just as the NBA was taking off in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Its line of Pro Keds (which had been around since 1949) landed serious attention after crucial endorsements from basketball icons like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He appeared in ads for the shoes alongside Jo Jo White, Nate Archibald, Bob Love, and Lou Hudson. The campaign turned the shoes into a hit, but the success didn’t last. Heavyweights like Nike and Adidas soon muscled Keds out of the basketball scene. Yet the shoes still maintained retro cred with people like Damon Dash, who rebooted the brand in 2005.

10. THE RAMONES WORE KEDS BEFORE THEY BECAME THE POSTER BOYS FOR CHUCK TAYLORS.

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Google “Ramones + Chuck Taylors” and you’ll find picture after picture of the punk band sporting those sneakers. The link is so strong that Converse execs keep framed photos of The Ramones in their offices. But the musicians actually wore Keds first. As Tommy Ramone told Spin, “Mostly, we wore Keds. It’s basically an urban legend that the Ramones always wore Chuck Taylors. On the cover of the first Ramones album from 1976 we’re all wearing a kind of Keds that’s almost like a woman’s shoe. On the cover of Punk magazine No. 3, there’s a John Holmstrom illustration of Joey wearing what look like Chuck Taylors. We got caricatured early on as wearing them. Later on, Dee Dee and Marky, who replaced me, they wore Chuck Taylors.”

11. YOKO ONO GOT MARRIED IN KEDS.

Simpson/Express/Getty Images

Yoko Ono has always been an unconventional lady, and that’s reflected in the outfit she chose for her 1969 wedding to John Lennon. Instead of a puffy ball gown, she selected a wide-brimmed hat, mini skirt, shirt, knee socks, and classic Keds. But she made at least one nod to tradition: It was all white.

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Helen Maybanks, (c) RSC
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Pop Culture
Royal Shakespeare Company Auctions Off Costumes Worn By Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Patrick Stewart, and More
Helen Maybanks, (c) RSC
Helen Maybanks, (c) RSC

The stages of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, England have been graced by some of the most celebrated performers of our day. Now, the legendary theater company is giving fans a chance to own the original costumes that helped bring their characters to life. On April 17, more than 50 costumes worn in RSC productions will hit eBay to raise money for the group's Stitch in Time campaign.

With this new campaign, the RSC aims to raise enough money to renovate the aging workshop where costume designers create all the handmade garments used in their shows. Following a play's run, the costumes are either rented out to other theaters or kept safe in the company's museum collections. Designers often make duplicates of the items, which means that the RSC is able to auction off some of their most valuable pieces to the public.

The eBay costume auction includes clothing worn by some of the most prolific actors to work with the company. Bidders will find Patrick Stewart's beige shorts from the 2006 production of Antony and Cleopatra, David Tennant's white tunic from 2013's Richard II, Ian McKellen's red, floor-length coat from 2007's King Lear, and Judi Dench's black doublet from 2016's Shakespeare Live! Costumes worn by Anita Dobson, Susannah York, and Simon Russell Beale will also be featured.

All proceeds from the auction go to restoring the RSC's costume workshop. Shakespeare fans have until April 27 to place their bids.

Patrick Stewart in Antony and Cleopatra.
Pascal Molliere, (c) RSC

Actors in stage play.
Manuel Harlan, (c) RSC

Actor in stage play.
Kwame Lestrade, (c) RSC
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PRNewsfoto/PolyU
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technology
This 3D Human Modeling App Could Revolutionize Online Clothes Shopping
PRNewsfoto/PolyU
PRNewsfoto/PolyU

A team of academics in Hong Kong have developed a 3D human modeling app that could drastically change the way we shop online. Dubbed 1Measure, this “one-click measure” tool allows users to record their body measurements in a matter of seconds by uploading two full-body photos.

After snapping images with both a front view and side view, the app uses artificial intelligence to create a 3D digital model of the user's body in under 10 seconds. Next to this image, over 50 size measurements are displayed, including everything from knee girth to shoulder slope. This information can be saved and accessed at a later date, and the app also lists your size in other countries, allowing you to shop for clothes around the world with ease.

This revolutionary technology was developed by associate professor Tracy P.Y. Mok and PhD graduate Dr. Zhu Shuaiyin of the Institute of Textiles and Clothing at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU).

Other current technologies are capable of carrying out similar modeling functions, but the PolyU team says these methods involve costly, bulky scanners, and their results are only approximate. The 1Measure app’s margin of error is 1 centimeter for users photographed in tight-fitting clothes, and 2 centimeters for those in loose-fitting clothes, according to its developers.

The app is particularly useful when it comes to online shopping. Dr. Zhu says the technology “frees us from the limitations imposed by taking body measurements physically, helping customers to select the right size in online clothing purchases.”

The app can also store multiple measurements at once and track any changes that the body undergoes, making it suitable for those with fitness goals.

1Measure is free to download and is currently available on the App Store in both English and Chinese.

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