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Last Updated on July 18, 2022
Vans and Converse may be natural enemies vying for the top spot when it comes to rubber-soled sneakers, but the truth is Keds was there making waves way before they became famous.
You might not have heard of Keds, but the brand is like a super ninja of canvas shoes, hiding in plain sight and conquering hearts one pair at a time.
Well, their combination of minimalist design and accessible pricing is a definite winning point, and their steady stream of winning collabs has certainly gained them a loyal following too.
So, how do they fare when compared to the king of high and low tops aka Converse?
We’re going to find out!
Read on for a rundown of the best collaborations and the most important points of comparison between the two brands.
The Origins of Keds
It all began in 1916 when the U. S. Rubber Company was founded in Connecticut. Soon enough, the different rubber manufacturers that formed it were producing rubber-soled shoes. At first, their idea was to consolidate 30 different shoe brands under one American brand: Peds (feet in Latin). But someone had already taken the name, so they went with Keds.
Keds were popular by 1920, being worn by Olympic soccer players, tennis champions, and athletes in general. In 1949 George Mikan endorsed a new line of Keds geared towards basketball players and athletic performance.
Keds Most Memorable Collaborations
Rifle Paper Co
In 2020, Keds launched a collaboration with the stationery brand Rifle Paper Co. The collab included 13 styles for women and 2 styles for children, all featuring artistic flowery prints on the cotton canvas based on the Rifle hand-painted designs from its founder Anna Bond.
Regarding the sneaker models, the collection featured the Champion, Kickstart, and Double Deck Slip-On, as well as new and old silhouettes paired with embellishment techniques (like embroidery). You can still get yours through Amazon!
My favorites are these two pairs:
Kickstart Strawberries Champion
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Taylor Swift x Keds
Taylor Swift X Keds collection came out in 2013 and reimagined the classic Keds Champion sneaker in 12 novel and fresh prints.
The colors are bright and bold, just like what you would expect from the talented singer. The sneakers also included either a silver heart charm featuring Taylor’s favorite number (13) or a guitar pick with the Taylor logo.
Keds x Kate Spade
That same year also saw the Keds x Kate Spade holiday collection. Featuring festive designs with bold patterns and shimmering materials, the styles included gold & pink glitter, gold dots, and animal prints in disco hues.
This collaboration is still available, with different style variations added every holiday, making these sneakers the perfect holiday choice for women who would rather wear comfortable party sneakers instead of high heels and still sport a chick silhouette.
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How Converse Came to Be
Marquis Mills Converse founded the Converse Rubber Shoe Company in 1908 in Malden, Massachusetts. In 1912, Charles “Chuck” Taylor joined the brand as a salesman.
His ideas as a salesman, together with his experience as an ex semi-pro basketball player, served to create the re-styled Converse shoe with the circular All-Star logo on the ankle that would, later on, become a fashion icon.
Due to how popular the shoe was with basketball players in general, Converse became the official shoe of the Olympic Games from 1936 to 1968. By 1950, they were also the most worn show for high school and university students.
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Converse Models that Made History
The technology to make rubber soles for sneakers was first used to make an all rubber type of shoe called galoshes. It soon evolved into the original high tops and the non-skid athletic shoes that were designed with athletes in mind.
Thanks to Charles Taylor, the Chucks were born. These sneakers were made with better materials, arch support, and an eye on improving performance for basketball players.
The One Star model was born out of Converse trying to stay popular during the 70s. It was not a success and they went back to the original style soon enough.
During the 80s, Chucks became super popular after appearing in Back to the Future as the shoe of choice of one Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox).
They would later become the favorite sneakers of Kurt Cobain, making them the only grunge-approved casual footwear. Check out the Best 90s Converse from the 90s.
Converse is no stranger to amazing collaborations. There are a ton worth mentioning, like that time Converse made their very own Andy Warhol’s Campbell soup shoe with a printed upper (selling for a whopping $95).
Or when they paired up with high fashion brand Missoni for intricately stitched sneakers that were dyed in yellows and earth tones designed to evoke the North African coastlines (this collection was a bit pricier, going for $200).
In September 2009 Comme des Garçons revisited the Chuck Taylor All-Star Converse from the 50s. Designed by Rei Kawakubo, the high-tops carried the signature heart design of the brand and were available in black and white, low or high tops. And in 2010, Debbie Harry produced shoes inspired by The Beatles, The Doors, ACDC, and Pink Floyd.
The Brands Today
How has each brand faired over the years? What are their pros and cons? Their best attributes and their lowest? Let’s find out!
Brand Recognition and Status 7/10
Style/Aesthetic (Shape, Designs, Stitching, etc.) 8/10
The Fit and Support (length, width, ankle support, etc.) 6/10 They are super light!
Heel Height 0/10 They are very flat.
Color Choice Options 10/10
Most Versatile for Matching Outfits 9/10
Sustainability Practices 5/10
The Rundown: I low-key love Keds. I have a bunch of models from the brand and I find them super easy to combine, but their range doesn’t extend far from the jeans and t-shirt combination. They are a recognizable brand, with a unique aesthetic and lots of styles to choose from, especially considering the range of their collabs. Their shoes are not super supportive and the fit (when not wide) can be a bit tight. They are super flexible though! And made with very good materials.
Read: Keds Cali Slip-On Review: An Innovative Shoe with a Sleek Personality
Brand Recognition and Status 10/10
Style/Aesthetic (Shape, Designs, Stitching, etc.) 9/10
The Fit and Support (length, width, ankle support, etc.) 7/10 Very balanced and with superior arch support.
Heel Height 0/10 They are very flat.
Color Choice Options 9/10
Most Versatile for Matching Outfits 8/10
Sustainability Practices 5/10
The Rundown: I am not a huge fan of Converse. They are not my cup of tea, but I recognize that being as famous as they are, they allow for quite a range of combinations, from formal wear and skirts to street style. Wearing Converse is also a message in itself about your style. They have a unique aesthetic and are so iconic that their sneakers are instantly recognized all over the globe. They are also made with top-quality materials and offer good support (but not a lot).
And the Winner is…
Keds’ popularity might have suffered a bit over the years as they fell out of favor with the in-crowd, but they have steadily built a following from the sidelines, gaining momentum in the shadows to finally strike back and regain their cool.
Converse, on the other hand, has managed to become a huge fashion icon, worn by famous celebrities and stars, gaining a reputation fed by the occasional pair of low-tops grazing this or that red carpet. In that sense, there is no doubt that Converse is much more well-known and popular on a global scale.
Things have definitely started to look up for Keds in recent years, with huge endorsements like the Taylor Swift collaboration or the Kate Spade ongoing holiday collabs that prove the perfect solution to heel-hating ladies that some comfortable bling on their shoes.
Is this enough to gain the brand global recognition? It might be, considering they are aiming for a different target audience that focuses on young women.
Which brand won each category?
Brand Recognition and Status: Converse
Style/Aesthetic (Shape, Designs, Stitching, etc.): Converse
The Fit and Support (length, width, ankle support, etc.): Converse
Heel Height: Both
Color Choice Options: Keds
Most Versatile for Matching Outfits: Keds
Sustainability Practices: Draw
So, despite recognizing that Converse might be the better brand (despite it being a very close tie!), I have to say, I’m much more of a Keds fan! The brand simply offers better prints to my taste. I absolutely love their Rifle Paper collaborations and I’m itching to get myself one of those Kate Spade glittery sneakers for Xmas.
If you are thinking about it, Converse might be the better investment though. They can definitely take much more mileage than your regular Keds and their rubber toe caps protect your toes much more. They manage to remain comfortable while also offering great support and being trendy.
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