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Last Updated on December 12, 2022
Are you a Keds or a Toms person? If you’re hesitating, or don’t have a particular favorite, this article is for you! In quick strokes, let me tell you all about how each brand was founded, what was their goal from the start, and what models have they created over the years.
Of course, there are plenty of product recommendations and links to follow if you are feeling like doing some shopping! Read on to finally know which brand is best!
Keds is an American brand that specializes in canvas shoes with rubber soles. The company was founded in 1916 when U.S. Rubber consolidated 30 different shoe brands into one. Originally, the name Peds was chosen, meaning feet in Latin, but it soon came to light that the name was already in use and it was changed to Keds. The company was acquired in 1979 by Stride Rite Corporation.
During their ownership, the rubber-soled shoes became known as sneakers because you could literally sneak around without making any noise thanks to their soft rubber sole. These sneakers became a huge success in by early 1920s, and were worn by everyone but most particularly by all types of athletes.
From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, Keds were everywhere. Girls from elementary school to adults housewives wore canvas sneakers, particularly after the brand’s presence in Dirt Dancing turned it into a sensation. Later on, other celebrities endorse the brand. Demi Moore voiced one of its ad campaigns for television and Mischa Barton became Keds’ face in a huge ad campaign during the 00s.
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Toms, aka TOMS, is a shoemaker brand based in Los Angeles, California. It was founded in 2006 by Blake Mycoskie after he decided to develop a company to sell a type of alpargata in the U.S., with the ultimate goal of providing a pair of free shoes to youth in developing countries for every pair sold. He got the idea after a trip to Argentina with his sister where he volunteered in a shoe-giving campaign for children.
Alpargatas are a very common traditional and comfortable shoe worn in Argentina and Uruguay. Traditionally they don’t have much arch support since their sole is made of braided jute and their upper part is made of soft cotton cloth but Toms took the design one step ahead making them with rubber soles and solving the main issue of traditional jute alpargatas which is that you can’t get them wet!
The original concept for the name of the company was actually “Shoes for Tomorrow Project” and it evolved to Toms. At first, Mycoskie commissioned an Argentinian shoemaker to make 250 pairs of shoes. But after an article in the Los Angeles Times, the company received orders for nine times their available stock!
Keds Triumph, was introduced in 1926 and to this day it still has good arch support and is sold at affordable prices.
Kedettes, a line of washable high-heeled shoes for women was launched in 1938.
PRO-Keds Men’s Royal Lo Leather Sneaker
Pro-Keds, a line designed for athletic performance came out in 1949. NBA stars and music icons like The Ramones transformed into a cult model. Nowadays there are still a lot of different designs based on it.
The Royal Tread, endorsed by George Mikan was designed for basketball players.
Double Decker Canvas $54.95 & Keds x Rifle Paper Co Slip-on
The basic slip-on comes in many forms at Keds. From the traditional double-decker to Keds x Rifle Paper Co. Chillax Slip-ons that look like a sneaker but lack proper lacing.
The Champion is still going strong and it comes in a lot of different colors. It is a great option for a quick walk around.
Keds has also broadened its horizons into sandals.
Alpargata Heritage Canvas $54.95
The Alpargata Alps, the original rubber sole alpargata created by Toms with its basic design.
Alpargata Rope Espadrille $39.99
The Espadrilles have a rope wrap midsole that reminisces the original jute soles of alpargatas.
Heels and Wedges are a classic on their own and also feature half-inch heels and braided rope soles.
Alpargata Boardwalk Slip-On $64.95
Toms has its own take on slip-ons, naturally.
Toms shoes also include a wide array of flats, sneakers, and platforms in a wide price range.
What makes the brands popular today?
Keds is still most known for its canvas shoes with rubber soles. Their original shoe design, the Champion, became the golden standard for canvas shoes after it was the first mass-marketed canvas top sneaker. The company’s peak popularity was by the end of the 80s and the 90s, notably after Jennifer Grey wore a pair of Keds in the iconic movie Dirty Dancing, opposite Patrick Swayze. They have since transformed into one of the most widely appreciated comfort shoes and a go-to for women of all ages.
One of their most striking characteristics is that Keds campaigns focus on nos ascribing characteristics to their users, leaving the use of their canvas shoes open to women from paths of life. As a result, they are used by athletes, actresses, First Ladies, and celebrities alike.
One of its most important campaigns in 2015 “Ladies First since 1916” featured Taylor Swift who happens to wear the brand on a regular basis. For newer generations, the stamp of approval comes from media famous stars like EmRata and Kendal Jenner who have made Keds cool with the new kids. The brand has also done a fair share of collaborations with Kate Spade New York, Madewell, Alice + Olivia, and Loomstate.
Toms reached its huge popularity by making their wares available in big department stores and appealing to their customers’ need for comfort. The shoe that started it all was the Alp, the trademark model that resembles an Alpargata slip-on. The company relied heavily on the sales of this model and this really affected its sales during COVID because the alpargata was not as trendy as more sport-oriented models.
The brand is also very purpose-driven and has a ton of policies to help those in need. Its policy One for One mandated that a pair of shoes be given away for every pair sold, and it was in place until early 2021. This model has inspired similar policies in a bunch of other companies like Warby Parker and Ruby Cup.
Currently, Toms is helping fund access to mental health resources for millions of people in need. The brand is also investing ⅓ of its profits in grassroots goods, like cash grants and partnerships with several organizations that aim to drive sustainable change. The company is also focused on being transparent, publishing a yearly report for everyone to see how it is working to achieve its goals.
The Winner is…
The best option is without a doubt Keds. The brand has a rich history and has been worn by Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Ariana Grande, and Taylor Swift, as well as influential political figures of the U.S.
I love their aesthetic, the beautiful collaborations they come up with every year, and how they have managed to maintain their brand DNA through the decades! They are very comfy and they also look good with anything you wear!
My favorite pair of sneakers is actually a Rifle Paper Co. x Keds collaboration canvas shoe. They are very easy to wear, already 5 years old and it doesn’t show. The colors are vivid, the print looks crisp and the sole hasn’t worn out no matter how much I use them! Nothing beats Keds, I absolutely recommend it!