Whatever Happened To Keds (And Red Ball Jets)?
Every little kid wanted the shoes that all the biggest athletes and most famous players wore. If our heroes wore them, they must be the best and we wanted them. No matter the cost (well, the cost mattered to dad), we just had to have them!
Air Jordan's? No. Nike? Nope. Adidas? Never heard of it. New Balance, Converse, Puma? No, no, and no.
It was Keds.
Kids wanting the shoes, the jersey, the card, and the candy bar associated with their favorite athlete isn't anything new. Yes, my young friends, even us 'old boys' wanted those same things our sports favorites had. And when it came to sneakers (yes we called them sneakers or tennis shoes back then), it was Keds. Or better yet, Pro-Keds.
And why not? All the greats wore them, from Olympians to tennis champions, and almost all the college and pro basketball players. And by the time I came along, there were Pro-Keds (they were introduced in 1949). Even better! Heck the entire Lakers NBA team was outfitted in Pro-Keds.
Now, of course, this was the Minneapolis Lakers and it was the 1950's. But still...the Lakers! Later on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Willis Reed and 'Pistol' Pete Maravich wore them. They were the best!
And so there I was, a little farm kid in southwest Minnesota, and I, along with virtually every kid across the country, just had to have Pro-Keds. They would never be beaten!
So whatever happened to Keds? And Pro Keds?
They're still around. Founded in 1916 by U.S. Rubber, the company has gone through a number of different owners over the past 105 years. Its hay day was basically from the 1920s through the 1960s and into the '70s. There was a resurgence in the 1980s when Jennifer Grey wore Keds in the smash hit movie 'Dirty Dancing'.
And you can check out Keds products right here in Sioux Falls at many of the shoe stores and shoe departments. While they may not be 'front and center anymore in athletic footwear, they are there!
But the same can't be said for the other sneaker we baby boomers all loved...Red Ball Jets. Us kids could 'run faster and jump higher in the popular sneaker, but only from 1951-71. The last pair was sold in '71. Gee, I wish I had them.
LOOK: See the iconic cars that debuted the year you were born