Last month I wrote about ballet shoes, which are shoes from my childhood. This month, I thought I would write about LA Gear sneakers, another shoe that had a big impact on me as a child (well, more accurately I was a tween at that time).
I recently bought a few pairs of LA Gear shoes. Yes, they still make them! It reminded me of the first pair of LA Gear sneakers I ever owned. I believe the year was 1990 and I got the sneakers while on holiday in Hong Kong. My first pair of LA Gear sneakers came with 3 pairs of different coloured shoelaces – pale pink, light green and white. In the shoe box, there were also instructions with diagrams on how to lace up the sneakers with two pairs of shoelaces. I spent the plane ride home from Hong Kong puzzling over the diagrams, trying to figure out how to lace up my shoes. Back then, each pair of LA Gear sneakers also came with a plastic tag, similar to a dogtag. The tag was white with pink edges and had the LA Gear logo on it. I kept the tag from my shoes long after I had outgrown the shoes.
LA Gear is an American shoe company founded by Robert Greenberg, who later founded Skechers. As the name suggests, LA Gear started in Los Angeles, California, specifically in Venice Beach. LA Gear’s signature style were white high top sneakers tied with two pairs of shoelaces in different colours. LA Gear appealed a lot to women and LA Gear had great succes with women’s aerobic shoes. As a brand, LA Gear was huge in the late 1980s to early 1990s. At one time, it was the top sneaker company behind only Nike and Reebok. Celebrities like Paula Abdul and Michael Jackson endorsed LA Gear shoes.
After its heyday, LA Gear sneakers seemed to fade into obscurity from the mid 1990s. LA Gear filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1998. Its journey since then has been long and complex. For over a decade, I never saw any LA Gear shoes, and I had almost forgotten about them until I saw them for sale a few years ago. In some ways, I almost think it would have been better if LA Gear had folded as a company. Then, its fans could keep the memories of its glorydays alive, instead of seeing it now – a shadow of its former self. For the past 14 years, LA Gear has just been limping along trying to avoid bankruptcy. From one of the top sneaker brands that made exclusive, expensive and fun shoes that people wanted, the current LA Gear shoes are just average, and it makes me sad.