Kicks by Nicholas Smith


Nicholas Smith

Nicholas K. Smith carries us through the twentieth century, introducing us to the sneaker’s surprisingly influential, enduring, and evolving legacy.

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A cultural history of sneakers, tracing the footprint of one of our most iconic fashions across sports, business, pop culture, and American identity

When the athletic shoe graduated from the beaches and croquet courts of the wealthy elite to streetwear ubiquity, its journey through the heart of American life was just getting started. In this rollicking narrative, Nicholas K. Smith carries us through the long twentieth century as sneakers became the totem of subcultures from California skateboarders to New York rappers, the cause of gang violence and riots, the heart of a global economic controversy, the lynchpin in a quest to turn big sports into big business, and the muse of high fashion. Studded with larger-than-life mavericks and unexpected visionaries—from genius rubber inventor, Charles Goodyear, to road-warrior huckster Chuck Taylor, to the feuding brothers who founded Adidas and Puma, to the track coach who changed the sport by pouring rubber in his wife's waffle iron—Kicks introduces us to the sneaker's surprisingly influential, enduring, and evolving legacy.

Advance Galley Reviews

Who would have thought that someone would write a book about sneakers? Who would have thought I would choose to read it? Who would have thought that I would really like it? Kicks: The Great American Story of Sneakers by Nicholas Smith is a fascinating look at how a pair of shoes turns into a statement of fashion and identity and how far the impact of the industry on American culture extends. Read my complete review at Reviewed for Penguin First to Read program.

Who on Earth would have expected the history of sneakers to be so interesting? I was surprised by that. Little things like what I've recently seen advertised as a "new idea" to keep your shoes clean are basically what the first sneakers were...rubber boots that went over regular shoes.

I thoroughly enjoyed Kicks. The way Nicholas Smith presents the histories of each brand of shoe. I had so much fun guessing which brand was being created next. As a child in the 70’s and 80’s, raising boys in the 90’s, and a daughter in the early 2000’s the history of the sneaker, as we called them, was like being wrapped into paper and being placed in a box next to my favorite Freestyle Reebok — comforting and formative at the same time. Even the notes at the end continued to teach and remind me of what these shoes meant to my family. We had large debates on what shoe brand was better for your feet. We, each kid, had our own favorite and style wasn’t always the reason to buy the shoe, it was the fit around our heels, the box being wide enough etc... so Smith’s book brought back so many memories. It even inspired a lot of commercial searching on YouTube. My kids spent the weekend, now as adults, listening to their mother ask them, “do you remember, such a such a shoe... commercial or design?” After every page I read. It was probably annoying to them, but fun for me. If you love a good history book, love sneakers and want a quick read this book is for you.

I love reading micro-histories. I really enjoyed the way the author was able to weave a narrative that also included glimpses of American life at different stages of the sneaker's history. I always enjoy reading about product development and found the digressions and expansions to be really engaging. It was a great read and I look forward to reading more from the author.

A fun, broad history of all things sneaker, and that necessarily includes some significant history of sports, especially in the U.S. I learned a lot, and I also wove together stories that I had known separately, such that their connection was made clear. I'm not by any means a shoe aficionado (this man clearly owns more shoes than I do), but on some of the history of sports stories I knew there was more to it and part of me wanted him to go into more detail. But his storytelling is disciplined, staying close to the shoe theme and wandering too far from it, and the book is better for it. I would characterize it as more of a wide story rather than a deep one, full of interesting trivia and characters. I think the weakest point of the book is in the first 20 pages or so, so if it feels a little rough right out of the gate, stick with it. It'll get better. I got a copy to review from First to Read.

I really enjoyed this book. So much so that I may purchase it when it is released. See, I love shoes, so learning about them is something I enjoy. Author has done a good job of telling the history of the sneaker, not just the evolution of style but the lives of the people who prompted the evolution to begin with. Smith has an easy to read voice in this book and I would be interested in checking out his other works. If you like shoes, history, or even pop culture, this is a good read.

An interesting history. I haven't spent much time thinking about it but I found the book making me google and learn new things. Thanks for the opportunity!

"How one runs probably is more important than what is one one's feet, but what is on one's feet may affect how one runs." I received a copy of this book from in exchange for an honest review. This was an interesting dive into the world of American sports shoes. This book talks about the rise of Nike and how shoes meant for sports turned into athleisure wear and how celebrity endorsements shaped shoe sales. The book briefly touches on issues of class such as kids being killed for their Air Jordans (and how Jordan wasn't initially on board with Nike) and goes back to the early days of sneaker sales. This book gives some context as to why it's so hard to break into the shoe world now and the importance of branding as many popular shoe companies began. It's a fairly easy read that you learn a few things from.

I first would like to address Frank Ocean being called a rapper. He is not. He is an R&B singer. As for the rest of Kicks, it was excellent storytelling by Nicholas Smith. It is an original work and it was well researched. I am not a Sneakerhead and I don't understand the culture. I have a son and I won't pay over $100 for sneakers but that probably will change as he gets older. I actually Googled the chicken and waffles sneakers. I used to wear Reeboks and then I started liking New Balance. I never followed trends. I just buy what I like. My current sneakers are Vans. This book is worth a read.

Kicks: The Great American Story of Sneakers by Nicholas Smith Loads of fun to read! Great look into how most of today's major sneaker companies like Nike, Adidas, Puma and such rose to prominence. Learn a bit of the history of sneakers and business history while reading. That said, this book goes well beyond the history and into the culture of the popularity of, dare I say it, “Sneakers” (a word from my era). If you have any interest in sports history (especially running or basketball) as well as their stars, engineering and evolution of shoe design and sports marketing or even if you don’t, I’d recommend reading this book. Great book!

This was an interesting cultural history of sneakers. I'm not a sneaker connoisseur, the Adidas Superstar has been my favorite sneaker as long as I can remember (gotta have the shell toe!) I expect that the book might be slightly redundant for someone who is super into sneakers and can list brands and details from memory. There was a lot that I didn't know, and this gave me a better understanding of the athletic shoe business from before I was born; and reminded me of some big sneaker events I can remember in my lifetime that may have been turning points in our culture. I enjoy a Book that delves into the history of ubiquitous items I see every day.


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