Madonna was getting all Material Girl and Flashdance personified the iconic combination of sports and fashion. Lycra and Spandex were freshly minted and celebrities such as Jane Fonda became evangelists for the new movement. Whilst the Freestyle was definitely a party for ladies alone, Reebok designers had caught a glimpse of the enormous potential of an idea known as multi-sports footwear. Introducing the hyphen laden Ex-O-Fit high top model for men in 1983 was a start, but it wasn’t until the Workout Plus was designed in 1984 that a seminal vision of the ‘Fitness’ regime was applied to footwear.
Soft all-white leather shoes for men would eventually harden to create a muscular category that defined the latter half of the ‘80s. Cross Training was the testosterone-laced riposte to the feminine Freestyle entourage, with a design direction that demanded technical hyperbole expressed in the form of wild midfoot straps, squat forefoot lugs and soles with kinetic capabilities.
As oneupmanship between brands upped the ante and drove footwear design to new realms by the end of the ‘80s, one startling fact from this era remains. Whilst we think of the decade as a pastel explosion and a riot of visual conflict, the definitive footwear would turn out to be Reebok’s virginal all-white leather sneakers. In fact, it wasn’t even leather as the footwear industry knew it. Nike was particularly infuriated (and notoriously jealous) that Reebok was using what they were marketing as super-soft ‘garment’ leather on their footwear.
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