When it comes to unique footwear of the 1980s, nothing beats the popular LA Gear sneaker. The brand itself was first established back in 1983, and it quickly became a very popular shoe among kids and teenagers.
LA Gear shoes featured a pretty wild style that coincided with the popular fads of the 1980s. They were bright, colorful, as well as comfortable, and it is one of the shoe companies we think of when we look back at footwear of the 80s.
When we reflect on shoe companies of the 1980s, it’s hard to ignore the impact that LA Gear had. At its peak their shoes were everywhere, and the name was synonymous with the fashion of the era.
LA Gear History
LA Gear was established by Robert Greenberg back in 1983. But the history of the shoe dates back to the 70s. Robert Greenberg started out as a hairdresser back in the 70s who made his money selling wigs as well as electric tweezers.
After the film Xanadu was released, he had the great idea of purchasing a small joint in which he was able to rent out roller skates to the public.
However, by the end of the 1970s, the popularity of roller skating was starting to dwindle, so he moved into the shoelace industry. From there he expanded into women’s clothing, until eventually he created his first pair of tennis shoes.
The Birth of LA Gear
Greenberg started marketing his LA Gear brand as a workout shoe designed especially for women. At the time, Jazzercise and other workout routines aimed towards women were quickly becoming popular.
There was a need for a trendy shoe specifically designed for women, so with the help of a very aggressive approach to marketing, Robert Greenberg quickly built a name for himself in the fashion industry.
In order to keep the LA Gear brand shoe one of the most popular shoes of the 1980s, he made sure to include plenty of flashy and shiny accessories, while also ensuring to use nothing but the brightest and most colorful designs possible.
This would of course allow LA Gear to capitalize on the popularity of the bright neon fashion trends of the time.
But it wasn’t just women who wanted to wear LA Gear shoes, so Greenberg also set out to provide a number of lines that were popular for boys. Within no time, the company was only steps behind both Nike and Reebok when it came to sales, and LA Gear would finish the 1980s as one of the most popular shoe brands in America.
The Fall of LA Gear
By the end of the 1980s, LA Gear was becoming a dominating force in the athletic shoe industry. The company had managed to become a direct competitor to some of the biggest names in athletic sportswear.
In order to ensure that the brand remained visible, Greenberg reached out to stores like Sears and JC Penney in order to help market the shoes.
However, this push to be at the top in such a short period of time was also the company’s downfall. In 1991, the company signed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for his professional endorsement.
However Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was at the end of his basketball career, and was not very popular or well known by the younger market who frequently purchased and wore LA Gear shoes.
The company also spent half of an entire year’s sales in order to obtain an official endorsement by Michael Jackson. The goal was to release a special line simultaneously with his Greatest Hits album.
Ultimately, the album was never released, and neither were the shoes. This costly mistake eventually led to the end of the LA Gear brand for men and boys. The company continued to produce shoes for women for several more years, but eventually declared bankruptcy in 1998.
Is LA Gear Still Popular?
LA Gear is one of those shoe brands that took the 1980s by storm, however unfortunately due to some poor business decisions has all but fizzled out. There are still many of the retro designs on sale on sites like Ebay, and many kids from the 1980s still rock the retro brand.
A few years after LA Gear went bankrupt the brand did relaunch but on a much more smaller scale. In 2022 the brand is still making shoes, but at the moment it is primarily for the Australian market.
The bright colors and styles of LA Gear shoes were perfectly 1980s, and it’s no surprise that the shoe flourished during the time. Almost everyone in the 80s owned a pair of LA Gear sneakers, and it is a shoe company we will always remember from the greatest decade of fashion ever.