Style PRO-Keds, ‘born for sport, shaped by the streets’

PRO-Keds, ‘born for sport, shaped by the streets’

Andrea Tuzio

PRO-Keds is one of the founding brands in the history of New York sneaker culture, a brand with a unique legacy and one of America’s longest-running companies that launched its sports line in 1949.

A real cult phenomenon that in the ’70s has crossed the boundaries of gyms and basketball courts to become a statement, a distinctive sign of style. 

As we were saying at the beginning, we are in 1949 and although the memory of the war is still engraved in the minds of everyone in the United States, a sense of optimism begins to make its way among the souls of people in cities, in meeting places and in companies. At the time, shoes for sports activities were not a priority but something was changing, there was a desire for novelty in the air. 

Starting from these common feelings, the PRO-Keds collection was born with the Royal model designed specifically for basketball, a sport that at that time reflected exactly the sentiment of the time because it was the sporting exemplification of the change of pace of the entire American culture. 

It was a true legend of the game to introduce the Royal and PRO-Keds collection to the world, we are talking about George Mikan, one of the pioneers of basketball and one of the most dominant players in NBA history. Mikan, with his iconic number 99 led his Minneapolis Lakers to win as many as five titles until 1960, when the franchise then moved to Los Angeles, where it remains today. Due to the dominance of the Lakers‘ player, the NBA was forced to double the size of the three-second area to keep Mikan as far as possible from the iron because of his predominance over the other long players in the league, famous was the writing displayed outside Madison Square Garden in New York, which presented the game scheduled for that day: “The New York Knickerbockers against George Mikan”, just to witness his power on the parquet.

In 1950 he was declared the best player in the history of basketball and is the only winner of 7 total rings in the 3 leagues that have written the history of American professional basketball (NBL 1947 Chicago Gears – 1948 Minneapolis Lakers, BAA 1949 Minneapolis Lakers, NBA 1950 and 1952-1954 Minneapolis Lakers).
From that point on, thanks in part to the Lakers’ number 99, these simple and minimal American sneakers became an absolute cult phenomenon.

During the 1970s then, PRO-Keds became synonymous with the sports shoe in america and some of the greatest players in basketball history would wear a pair: Nate “Tiny” Archibald, NBA champion with the Boston Celtics in 1981; Joseph Henry “Jo Jo” White, deceased in 2018, two-time NBA champion with Celtics (1974, 1976) and member of the Hall of Fame since 2015; Pete “Pistol” Maravich, perhaps the most incredible and spectacular player to have ever walked the court. The only player not present, because he died shortly before playing basketball and represented on that occasion by his two sons, when the NBA celebrated its first 50 years by voting the 50 best players of all time in relation to that period, during the All-Star Game in Cleveland in 1997, Maravich represented the pure love for the basketball and played a basketball that had never been seen before and that in some ways will never be seen again. “Pistol” left with the ball in his hands, just as he had grown up. 

Thanks to their timeless, simple and clean style, PRO-Keds sneakers managed to transcend their primary function of shoes for professional basketball players and became a uniform of New York street culture of the 70s and 80s. The first step, as we have seen, is marked by the Royal, but the real affirmation comes with the 69er, which becomes an authentic fashion phenomenon. Elegant and refined, they represent an era in which authenticity is what counts. PRO-Keds was born to question the mainstream choices of the time thanks to its timeless style.

Today, the brand is committed to maintaining the same authenticity that has made it a true cultural icon by offering updated versions of the models that have made the history of American basketball and sneaker culture. 

Written by Andrea Tuzio
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