12 Glorious Moments in the American History of PF Flyers
From their classic canvas look with the old school logo, to the fact that the dude in The Sandlot totally outran Beast just by strapping these bad boys on, PF Flyers are American history and culture compressed into shoe form. We dug deep into their backstory and rounded up a bunch of little known facts on this patriotic brand of kicks.
These shoes (and others) owe their existence to sulfur
In the 1800s, natural rubber was about as useful to industry as wet sand (and had a similar consistency). It wasn’t until inventors added sulfur to it -- in a process called vulcanization -- that a solid, malleable material was formed. It’s this rubber that was eventually used for shoes. But first…
BF Goodrich kicked off the PF Flyers craze
Thanks to useable rubber, tire and industrial rubber companies like BF Goodrich came into being in the late 1800s. But right around the turn of the century, the folks behind the tires delved into the footwear game when they realized that fancy rubber paired with breathable canvas made for a serious(ly comfortable) shoe. But how’d they come up with the PF? Well…
Their first patent was granted in 1933
In 1933, BF Goodrich submitted a patent for a brand new shoe sole dubbed “Posture Foundation.” The rubber base’s triangular wedge shifted weight to the outside of the foot, thus taking strain off the leg muscles. Besides giving these puppies their acronym, “Posture Foundation” set the shoes apart in the market, particularly within sports, as it allowed athletes to wear them with ease for longer periods of time.
They attracted the first mainstream sports endorsement
Bob Cousey (arguably the NBA’s first legitimate superstar) elected to wear PF Flyers over other contemporary sneaker brands. It was the first example of an athlete adding clout to a pair of sneakers, which was way before basketball stars held full-hour TV specials to announce where they were taking their talents. Ah, simpler times.
A Canadian badminton star designed a signature line
Adding to the list of things Canada just has to steal from America, Canadian badminton star Jack Purcell also chose to wear PF Flyers; the brand marketed a signature version in 1935. When Converse came to the party in the ‘70s (more on that later), they redesigned the Purcell signature -- and it remains the only PF shoe that Converse retains rights to.
Women were once able to coordinate entire outfits with their PF Flyers
Totally predating ironic overall sets and stylish rainboot/umbrella combos, PF Flyers marketed matching skirt-and-shoe sets to women in the mid 1900s – under the assumption that this demographic favored looks over functionality.
Their ‘60s popularity led to a comic book and a TV show
PF Flyers were such a media cash cow that they went all in with comic books and accompanying animated TV shows (aka, ‘60s Netflix). The PF Magic Shoe Adventure Book now goes for around $60.
They were standard issue in the US Army
PFs didn’t stop at mere civilians. For certain outfits in the ‘50s, PF Flyers were actually standard-issue military footwear. Sort of makes you rethink how badass you feel in those high fashion “combat boots.”
They’re quintessentially “baseball” as well
As if basketball and badminton weren’t enough, PFs were dear to the hearts of some of baseball’s greats, like Ted Williams, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, and more.
Converse and New Balance are both former parent companies
Beyond early-1900s fame, the most well-known periods in PF Flyers’ history were in 1972 when Converse purchased the company after Goodrich retired, and in 2001 when New Balance snatched up the name.
They were once a monopoly
How popular were these things? Well shortly after that ’72 Converse purchase, the US Supreme Court deemed that the market ownership commanded by Converse and its new acquisition constituted a legitimate economic monopoly in the US. They probably had like 15 hotels on both Boardwalk and Park Place, too.
They are legitimate trendsetters
As if being owned by the now super-trendy New Balance wasn’t enough, today, PF Flyers work with some of the world’s biggest fashion authorities -- from huge names like Todd Snyder to Brooklyn indie designer Ouigi Theodore. So find your style and snag a pair from the Made in the USA Collection before the government decides they’re too close to taking over the world again.