Throwback Thursday – LA Gear Lit Up Sneaker & Pop Culture in the 90’s

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I mean as far as the 90’s were concerned LA Gear personified a movement in fashion that was highly driven by color…  and light.  That’s right… LA Gear… and don’t you dare act like you ain’t want a pair…

Mom, LA Gear Please!

Let me think… What’s better than having a cool pair of shoes a kid?  Or as an adult even…  Uh, duh…  Having shoes that flicker hues of vibrant light as you swag your way through life. LA Gear gave us that in all it’s stylish, hightop glory.

It was the ultimate fashion statement for the prepubescent youth searching for just the right piece of flare to jump start their social maturation…  It had kids all over the country asking their parent’s for the “light-up shoes“. It was a hightop masterpiece of leather and man-made synthetics with all the makings of a world-wide fashion phenomenon. Well, almost. Let’s’ get into the history.

History

  • L.A. Gear was founded by Robert Greenberg in 1979, to market and rent roller skates in Venice Beach.  In the mid-1980s, L.A. Gear expanded into athletic footwear and almost instantly became popular.
  • Two pairs of shoelaces were typically offered with these shoes, one almost always white and the other a different color.
  • As the 1990s began L.A. Gear’s popularity continued to rise as more and more people began to buy their shoes. Although the original lines were typically featured in high-end department stores such as Macy’s, as the decade turned L.A. Gear shoes became easier and easier to find in other stores- in fact, discount retailer Caldor began carrying L.A. Gear shoes designed specifically for the store and its clientele.
  • By 1993 L.A. Gear’s popularity was beginning to wane. Within a year the company began restricting access to the shoes, returning to higher-end department stores and such to market the brand. By doing this L.A. Gear hoped to gain a more upscale clientele for their shoes. However, in doing so the company was so desperate to sell the remaining inventory that L.A. Gear shoes began showing up at flea markets, swap meets, and supermarkets.
  • In 1994, L.A. Gear abandoned their men’s performance footwear line and began marketing the lifestyle brands for women and children more aggressively. They also tried to acquire the Rykä brand of women’s shoes, but the deal failed as Ryka, which was struggling as much as L.A. Gear was, continued its downward decline.
  • In 1995 Wal-Mart and L.A. Gear agreed to a three-year contract where the shoe company would design lower-valued and specific-to-store shoes for Wal-Mart. Since Wal-Mart was such a large retailer L.A. Gear felt they could not pass up an opportunity that lucrative (despite an apparent contradiction in strategy), but the venture failed as sales for L.A. Gear shoes at Wal-Mart had declined.
  • The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1998, in the process greatly reducing the lines of shoes it was selling.
  • In 2004 L.A. Gear again went through a relaunch, this time with an emphasis on men’s performance footwear as the Catapult line was reintroduced. Los Angeles Laker rookie Luke Walton was signed on as the brand’s spokesman, but his contract eventually ran out and he never appeared in any advertising for the brand. (Ron Artest also was endorsed by L.A. Gear for a brief period of time in 2004 and 2005 in conjunction with his “Tru Warrier” persona, but the company dropped him as spokesman following the infamous Pacers–Pistons brawl.) L.A. Gear primarily marketed fashion athletic shoes for women and continues to do so to this day, although a recent relaunch of the brand has result in the de-emphasis of these lines (with L.A. Gear discontinuing the new Catapult line for men altogether).
  • LA Gear rereleased its Stardust women’s fashion line in 2009 and later released a new version of the popular L.A. Lights. LA Gear also joined the rocker bottom shoe craze that year by releasing the Walk N Tone sneaker line for women.

Endorsements

  • One of the original athletes to endorse L.A. Gear shoes was NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who ended a long association with Adidas to sign with the upstart company toward the end of his playing career.
  • San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana signed an endorsement deal with L.A. Gear in 1990 and quickly became the company’s feature athlete.
  • Hockey star Wayne Gretzky was also signed as an endorser while he was still playing with the Los Angeles Kings, and eventually would have his own line of street hockey shoes before his endorsement contract expired.
  • Two of the most notable celebrities to endorse the shoes were Michael Jackson, who promoted shoes for both men and women, and Paula Abdul, who was signed away from Reebok in 1991 and whose shoe became one of the biggest sellers of the early 1990s.

Welp, there’s yet another Throwback Thursday sliced…  Happy surfin’ and as always enjoy Throwback!

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  • Phantom5

    Yeah man.. LA Gear was super tight when I was younger. I honestly would rock some now if I had a pair.

  • Christina

    LA Gear shoes were so cool! I will never forget my first pair of light up shoes. I thought I was the coolest kid on the block! It’s crazy how much shoes have change over time. Heelys Roller Shoes seem to be the new LA Gear… I wonder what’s next?
    http://www.become.com/resource-center/infographic/shoes.html