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la-gear-czf-old-skool-purple-1These days when I see young kids HAPPILY rocking no named crisp white plimsolls from Primark, it makes me laugh (in a good way) because there was a time when if you weren’t sporting a designer/name branded pair of kicks, you would have been better off going bare-footed – in fact you’d probably get cursed out slightly less going to school in your socks.

I certainly wasn’t one of those kids who always had the latest trainers, and as much as it all seems like a minor now, when you are 10 or even 16, it can seem like the end of the world when your friends have them and you don’t.

Back in the day one brand I remember which had most kids in a spin (albeit for a short period of time) was LA GEAR. Although LA GEAR made it’s debut in 1979, it wasn’t until the late 80s when it became one of the most popular sports shoes on the market.
The first version of the shoes I remember consisted of a ripple effect on the side (almost like fish gills). Each pair was white or black with an additional one or two colours and double (two different colours, one usually white) laces which were meant to be weaved up in a intricate way to create a patterned effect (they even came with a small printed guide of how to lace them properly). They also had a staple mini tag with the words ‘LA GEAR’ on it, which was a sign of authenticity. I remember some peeps used it as a key ring (as did my younger brother who got a pair for his birthday), and others who were desperate to showcase their seal of approval wherever they went, left it attached! Even though they came in styles for women and for men, most of the designs generally looked quite feminine, but it was the 80s, so no one really quibbled about this factor, or more to the point even picked up on it.


The thing that helped these shoes become the must-have fashion item almost overnight was when it started using celebrity endorsers. Way before Jay-Z and Fiddy Cent got with Reebok, but a little after Michael Jordan kicked butt with Nike and Run DMC did their thing with Adidas, LA Gear recruited the likes of Belinda Carlisle, Paula Abdul… and the dream name for any major brand aimed at young people in the 80s, Michael Jackson!

Jacko’s LA Gears were a lot cuter than the originals, especially the black with silver studs and buckles as seen in the ad above. More of the designs in the MJ range can be seen in the print advert below, which I always loved seeing. I especially like the number plates on stuck to the wall behind them.


In fairness Paula Abdul’s (called Sunblossoms, below) weren’t bad either, although a bit prissy for a tom boy like me.


  • Paula Abdul left her deal with Reebok in 1991 to sign up with LA GEAR and her shoe became one of the biggest sellers of the early 1990s.
  • It wasn’t only musicians who endorsed the shoe, sports superstars such as legendary basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wayne Gretzky (Hockey) and Hakeem Olajuwon (Basketball), have also held contracts with the company.


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