We’ve been very partial to old school, hi-top sneakers these days, and none are more classic than Red Ball Jets, which started as a popular on-court basketball sneaker in 1951. Back then, the red ball logo on the heels was an unofficial marker of “cool kids” who took pride in wearing a shoe reminiscent of sports and speed. Greaser, beatnik, or ivy leaguer, Red Ball Jets were on your feet. The nostalgic shoe is considered to be the precursor of Nike Air Jordans as well as the casual footwear fad we’re still in the thralls of. In that era, canvas shoes were all the rage because of their appeal as both a comfortable and trendy option for active youth.
Now, Red Ball Jets are being reintroduced 51 years after they ceased production. Uniroyal, the rubber sole manufacturer who owns Keds, bought the rights of the brand back in 1971 and never produced another pair since then—leaving the brand to become a collectors’ item. Nate McGinnis, an avid sneaker collector and fan who has worked in the shoe industry for over 15 years, decided to reinvent the brand. His goal is to give new life to one of the pioneers of the vulcanized rubber sneakers’ industry.
The 2022 shoe is a contemporary approach to the original 1951 style—while still maintaining the essence boomers will recognize. The high-top 51’s stay true to the classic-retro outer design but are crafted with a more durable canvas material upper and a vulcanized rubber sneaker sole that is more comfortable than its past versions, thanks to the addition of performance-driven cushioned insoles with an antimicrobial treatment.