It was 1986 when British Knights made their way into the fashion industry. While other shoemakers were focused on producing higher-end shoes with the help of endorsements from professional basketball players, British Knights focused on the emerging hip-hop culture and providing affordable designer shoes for inner-city youth.
If you grew up in the 1980s, chances are you owned a pair of British Knight shoes. Even if you weren’t a part of the underground hip-hop community, the shoe styles of British Knights had mainstream appeal.
The shoes were stylish and comfortable, and compared to their more popular counterparts, they were quite affordable as well. The underground nature of the brand made them “cool to wear”, and it is why the company was able to get a sizable piece of the competitive shoe market during the 1980s.
The History Of British Knights Shoes
The story of the British Knights dates back to 1939 when the company first opened its doors under the name Jack Schwartz Shoes. For more than 35 years, the company was family-run and focused mostly on boat shoes. They were very popular when it came to boating footwear. But it wasn’t until 1972 that their first basketball shoes were released.
Known simply as Pro Players, the first pair of basketball shoes were introduced to the world in 1972 but were marketed under the original Jack Schwartz Shoes company name. They would continue to sell these Pro Players until 1983 when the company formed the British Knights brand.
From Boats to Basketball
With the help of Larry Schwartz, the company’s direction was altered entirely. He provided the company with a youthful new look at the future of shoes, and sought to re-create the brand into an athletic footwear company. He didn’t just want to make another pair of regular running shoes, rather he wanted something that was fashionable.
Larry Schwartz also enjoyed the emerging hip-hop culture. The culture itself saw a shift in paradigm when it came to fashion, so he guided the development of the British Knights shoes towards those more creative and stylish designs.
Setting the company apart from the major players in the game such as Nike and Reebok, British Knights focus on the hip-hop culture, as well as inner-city kids ultimately led to its success.
British Knights In The 80s
From the day their first pair of shoes were released to the public, British Knights were an instant success. The company took advantage of the emerging hip-hop culture and embraced the new and unique styles of the mid-1980s. Unlike their competitors, by focusing on variation, the company was able to release new collections multiple times per year.
While brands like Adidas, Nike, and Reebok only released one or 2 different styles of shoes per year, British Knights focused on releasing at least 3 complete collections of footwear every single year.
As a result, if you saw a style that you liked you had better purchase it, otherwise you would never have another opportunity to do so. By releasing shoes in this manner, they created an entirely new industry that drove demand for the British Knights brand through the roof.
Ultimately, the rise of the British Knights was a result of the popularity of the brand with boys and men between the ages of 15 and 24. They were a hit with both the urban and suburban communities, and this led them to be one of the most popular shoe brands of the 1980s.
And, as a result of their popularity, British Knights held a 3% control over the sneaker market by the end of 1988. The following year, the company made more than $136 million.
Are British Knights Shoes Still Popular?
Even though British Knights shoes are still being made today, they are nowhere near as popular as they once were in the 1980s. Shoe juggernauts like Nike, Reebok, and Adidas grew their market share beyond the 1980s while the styles of British Knights shoes fell out of popularity.
Regardless British Knights will always be a shoe that most 80s kids will remember as being stylish and hip. And today, they are still remembered as one of the most popular brands of the 1980s.