History of Brooks
Brooks Sports Inc., then known as Brooks Shoe Manufacturing Co. Inc., was founded by John Brooks Goldenberg in Philadelphia in 1914, right after his purchase of the bathing shoe and ballet slipper business, Quaker Shoe Company. The company also sold ice skates, cleats, orthopedic footwear for children, and gym shoes. They are also known for inventing the rubber brakes for roller skates.
The brand did not particularly distinguish itself until the 70’s during the height of the running and jogging craze in the U.S. Their first runner, the Villanova, captured the attention of the running world in 1975 because of its revolutionary material—the EVA foam. It was the first footwear to feature the groundbreaking midsole material and was the silhouette that kickstarted the company’s focus on running. Brooks Sports Inc. quickly followed it up with The Vantage, which was hailed by the running guide, Runner’s World, as their top choice for best running footwear.
Heritage Brooks Sneakers
Brooks Sports Inc. has made running their niche and in fact, is the leading brand when it comes to running shoes in the specialty market. However, in 2014, to mark their 100 years in business, they launched the Brooks Heritage Collection which brought back their iconic running footwear as lifestyle sneakers. For three years, they introduced model after model that sneaker fans could not get enough of, all of which came from their 70s, 80s, and 90s releases.
The whole collection focused on celebrating the brand’s rich past by emphasizing authenticity but at the same time, representing the brand in a modern way. Many elements and characteristics of these Brooks sneakers including colorways were meticulously replicated down to stitch-for-stitch detail except for the technology used which were updated. The line ended on June 1 of 2017 after a highly successful three-year run.
1. The Vantage
The Vantage sneakers were the first runners released by Brooks Sports Inc. and the ones that put the brand on the running world map. The Brooks sneakers were considered groundbreaking at the time because of two shoe innovations the silhouette contained—the Varus Wedge and the EVA soles.
The Vantage’s Varus Wedge launched the concept of stability shoes and acknowledged the need to control pronation. The technology gave the Vantage enhanced foot and heel protection while lowering the risk of tendon and muscle fatigue. The EVA, meanwhile, was a soft and bouncy foam that added comfort to the footwear. The Vantage was the second of Brooks sneakers to feature the material right after the Villanova which pioneered its use in shoes.
The Vantage was so comfortable and highly functional as a runner that in Runner’s World’s third annual survey in 1977, the shoes came out on top. The 2014 reissue of the silhouette, which along with the Vanguard launched the Heritage Collection, featured most of the historical details of the original from the EVA midsole down to the Varus Wedge. The shoes also contained nubuck leather on the heel caps, eyelets, and toe guards, breathable mesh uppers, and handbag-grade leather on the heel tabs and Chevrons.
2. The Vanguard
In 1976, the brand introduced the Vanguard. The model perfectly captured the essence of the time with its iconic T-toe design, rich aesthetics, and clean lines. The shoes had a lightweight and low-cut profile, uppers made of real pigskin, gum rubber soles, and the iconic Brooks Octopi outsoles that gave the low-tops excellent traction. The shoes also featured a no-nonsense style that would not look out of place in an indie rock bar or club.
The Vanguard’s reissue in 2014 featured much of the same details as the original such as the EVA sheet for the midsole cushioning and the suction cup pattern (Octopi), but other details were tweaked. A softer rubber replaced the gum rubber of the original (for long-wearing comfort), and the pigskin uppers were replaced with ripstop nylon mesh except for the T-toecap which remained made of pigskin suede and the heel tabs and Brooks Chevrons which used pebbled leather.
These Brooks sneakers launched in both men’s and women’s versions.
3. The Chariot
The Brooks Chariot silhouette is one of the most popular in all of Brooks’ archives. The sneakers introduced a more dynamic form of motion-control innovation. The shoes, launched in 1982, featured a midsole with an angled wedge made of high-density foam. They also contained a triple-layer of cushioned insoles for a very comfortable ride.
These Brooks shoes so impressed running enthusiasts that Runner’s World called it “The best running shoes ever made” by the Brooks brand and also as “the most worn shoe in the industry.”
The 2014 reissue of the Brooks Chariot kept the Diagonal Rollbars of the original along with the tri-layer insoles and reflective hits on the uppers, but contemporary details were added as well. The Chevron logo had been remade in leather in rich colors that paid tribute to the leading teams and schools of the 80s.
The Chariot already had a massive selection of colorways to choose from, but the brand further added to it with the release of a special edition called the Coffeehouse Collection. The models in this collection bring to mind everyone’s caffeinated drink with colorways such as Latte, Mocha, Red Bean, and Green Bean.
4. The Beast 1
The Brooks Beast 1 was introduced in 1993 and carried the trademark minimalism of the 90s when it came to the shoes’ colorways. It was Brooks’ first full stability shoe and according to Brooks Heritage Global Director Shane Downey, “a pillar of the brand.” The Brooks shoes carried molded TPU heel counters and logos, pebbled leather uppers, compression-molded EVA midsoles, two-color lugged outsoles, and air mesh quarters and vamps.
A future-inspired Galactic Runner Pack was also released a few months after the silhouette’s reissue. The models in this pack came dressed in metallic leather colors and neoprene tongues, heels, side panels, and toes.
The Beast 1 may have made a return in December 2015 as lifestyle sneakers under the Heritage line, but the Beast silhouette still lives on as part of Brooks’ performance line with the Beast 14.
5. The Regent
The Brooks Regent was launched by Brooks Sports Inc. in 1993, and the shoes quickly became a titan in the running world. The Brooks shoes featured stylized TPU chevrons on their uppers, visible heel cushioning reminiscent of the Brooks Fusion, a detailed logo, and kinetic wedges.
The Regent was initially reintroduced in 2015 in just four colorways—white/teal/purple, alloy/risk red/black, black/blue/yellow, and white/pink/ultramarine—but the colorways later expanded to more than 10. The low-tops’ uppers contained a combination of mesh, suede leather, textile, and synthetic materials which made for a nice and interesting contrasting look.
A Brooks Regent collaboration with the athletic-apparel label, Fairplay, marked the end of the Heritage Collection.
6. The Fusion
Initially introduced in 1992, the Brooks Fusion appeared with an early 21st-century design. The sporty and cutting-edge sneakers featured a multi-color look and transparent heel windows which showed the excellent heel cushioning technology inside.
When Brooks brought back the silhouette in 2015, four colorways were released. Two of the colorways contained multi-colored uppers while the other two featured tonal ones with speckled soles. The low-top Brooks shoes featured a combination of suede, mesh, and leather for the uppers, padded tongues and collars, removable molded foam insoles, breathable fabric linings, and EVA midsoles.
7. The Doherty
While Brooks Sports Inc. may now be known as the leading shoe company when it comes to runners, they once produced shoes for other sports before they finally focused on the running industry. One of those they manufactured were the performance sneakers, Doherty, for the sport of tennis.
The Doherty was named after the Doherty brothers, sibling tennis legends Reginald and Laurence, who dominated the sport from 1897 to 1906. The two held the record for most double titles won—eight, to be exact—at Wimbledon. Laurence was the first foreigner to win the U.S singles title in 1903 and held 13 single men’s titles while Reginald took four.
The shoes were brought back in 2017 for the Brooks Grand Slam Collection under their Heritage line. The Brooks sneakers feature a mix of suede and mesh uppers and all-rubber outsoles. The clean and sleek lines represent tennis standards very well.
8. The Renshaw
Another tennis-inspired heritage silhouette is the Brooks Renshaw. These iconic Brooks sneakers were also named after two famous brothers who were just as well-known as the Dohertys in the world of tennis. Ernest Renshaw and William Renshaw were twins who became legends in lawn tennis by revolutionizing the sport. They developed the overarm service and the smash which was then known as the ‘Renshaw Smash.’
William won the Wimbledon title from the years 1881 to 1886 and another in 1889. Ernest won in 1888, and together they won the All-England doubles seven times.
The Renshaw shoes were reintroduced in 2017, along with the Doherty, as part of the Grand Slam Collection of the Heritage line. It took the Heritage team around 16 months to research and design the retro sneakers to get the authentic look just right. The Brooks sneakers came out wrapped in all-leather uppers, gum outsoles, and a simple yet refined aesthetic that brings to mind the words “country club.”
Brooks Lifestyle Shoe Collaborations
When Brooks Sports Inc. launched their Heritage Collection in 2014, they not only reissued some of their iconic footwear but released collaborations with well-known boutique retailers and designers as well. Some of these collaborations are listed below.
1. 24 Kilates x Brooks
24 Kilates was established in Barcelona in 2005 with the intent to promote streetwear. They focused on developing urban culture through innovative and creative approaches that gained them international fame and success.
a. 24 Kilates x Brooks Beast “La Bestia” - In June of 2016, Spain’s 24 Kilates together with Brooks launched the “La Bestia,” a fear-inspired take on the Beast. The Brooks shoes perfectly captured the horror genre with bloody red and pitch-black uppers made of decadent suede and silky mesh. A beast representation adorns the tongue of the shoes and 3M detailing reinforces the dark theme.
2. Alumni of NY x Brooks
Alumni of NY started in 2013, offering premium products that catered to New York City’s sneaker culture. With their rich grasp of the city’s shoe culture, they can provide all the needs of even the most distinguishing sneaker connoisseur.
a. Alumni x Brooks Regent “The Great Mistake” - On March 4, 2017, “The Great Mistake” was released worldwide. The modern silhouette looks far back for its inspiration, more than a century ago, to 1898 when Brooklyn along with Manhattan and several counties formed together to create New York City. One of the general population’s biggest fears about the move, which they called “The Great Mistake,” was that they would lose their identity and independence.
The low-top sneakers were decked out in muted, earthy hues that bring to mind the popular tones of the late 19th century. The sneakers are dressed in canvas with nubuck and suede overlays while mismatched color blocks across the left and right side of the shoes represent Manhattan and Brooklyn. Maps of the two neighborhoods can also be seen on the insoles while dual brandings are glimpsed on the heels and tongues.
3. Anwar Carrots x Brooks
Anwar Carrots is a designer who established Peas and Carrots International, which is a Los Angeles streetwear brand and creative collective.
a. Anwar Carrots x Brooks Beast “Runaway” - The popular 90s runner was given a new premium look courtesy of designer, Anwar Carrots, back in December of 2016. The “Runaway” was largely inspired by Anwar’s momentous experience while touring with a musician. The uppers of the sneakers are decked with Anwar’s signature bright orange with contrasting hits of blue suede and white mesh on the toe caps and midsoles. Orange outsoles and white laces bring the colors perfectly together.
4. Atmos x Mila Owens x Brooks
Atmos is a Japanese sneaker and streetwear boutique founded in 2000 by Hidefumi Hommyo. Originally a mini retail store in Tokyo’s Ura-Harajuku area, it is now an international brand with an outlet in New York City. The brand is also a collaborator of many highly-coveted sneakers.
Mila Owen, meanwhile, is a famous minimalist womenswear brand that offers quality basics and is also based in Tokyo, Japan.
a. Atmos x Mila Owen x Brooks Chariot - On February 14, 2015, a limited edition of a Brooks heritage sneaker was released by two well-known Japanese brands, Mila Owen and Atmos. The canvas for this particular collaboration is the Chariot which was given a beautiful green/grey hue and accented with tan details and navy linings. The whole thing is pulled off by perforated leather and suede uppers for a completely deluxe look.
5. BAIT x Brooks
BAIT is a brick and online retailer of high-tiered footwear, apparel, and collectibles. They have collaborated with some of the hottest and iconic brands in the world. For Brooks, they have helped create new versions of the Regent, Chariot, and Fusion silhouettes.
a. BAIT x Brooks Chariot “Centennial” - On November 22 of 2014, the Brooks brand released its first collaboration with the Washington retail institution, BAIT. The Brooks sneakers featured a vibrant color scheme of navy, red, and green, and brought a luxurious finish to the retro silhouette via the high-grade pigskin suede and leather uppers. Tonal debossing on the heels, retro logos on the tongues, and off-white bone soles completed the look.
The low-tops also come with two sets of flat laces and two sets waxed rope options. They retailed for $120.
b. BAIT x Brooks Fusion “Oyster” - BAIT came back out in June 2015 for a fresh new take on the Brooks Fusion. Dubbed the “Oyster,” these Brooks sneakers drew inspiration from the high-end leather that adorns luxury cars and bags. The micro-perforated uppers are colored a neutral beige while laces and stitching are given a black color to provide a minimal contrast.
The Brooks sneakers were released in very limited editions and only 99 pairs have gone up for sale.
c. BAIT x Brooks Regent “Rabbit Foot” - On September 12 of 2015, the Brooks brand released their third collaboration with BAIT, this time on the Regent silhouette. The lifestyle sneakers featured multiple gray tones on the uppers along with hits of pink. The shoes were decked out in premium materials such as nubuck, pigskin suede, and box leather and subtle debossed branding could be seen on the heels, insoles, and tongues. This “Rabbit Foot” Regent edition also contains added heel counters and collar panels.
The Brooks sneakers were released in all BAIT stores and retailed for $130 each pair.
d. BAIT x Brooks Regent “Inferno” - Due to the smash success of the retailer’s tie-up with the Brooks brand on the “Rabbit Foot,” they’ve come back for round two on the Regent. The “Inferno” Brooks sneakers and BAIT collab come in red-hot premium tonal uppers made of leather, nubuck, and pigskin suede. The Brooks sneakers feature an eye-catching gradient effect while a stark white midsole adds an interesting contrast.
The shoes were released in April of 2016 in very limited numbers of 125 units priced at $155 each.
6. Casual Industrees x Brooks
The Casual Industrees company was started by two brothers, Dan and Brendan Reid, in 1999. They first started off by designing and selling hooded sweatshirts. From selling sweatshirts off the back of a car in a parking lot, the company has now grown to supply Zumiez stores nationwide along with Nordstrom and a few local shops.
a. Casual Industrees x Brooks Fusion “1999” - Keeping it all in the same city is Brooks’ latest collab with fellow Seattle-based business, Casual Industrees. Together, the two came out with a new iteration of the Fusion silhouette in July 2016. Called the “1999,” the shoes’ blue, grey, and teal hues pays tribute to the airplanes manufactured in the area while the white terry cloth collars represented the sky. The "1999" embossed on the sneakers’ heels refer to the year Casual Industrees started.
7. Concepts x Brooks
Concepts was founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts to cater to lifestyle consumers. They are considered to be one of the founding fathers of retail with their marketing strategy copied by other premium retailers around the world. More than just sales, the company is also known for delving into creative design endeavors, and this can be seen through their collaborative efforts with various footwear manufacturers.
a. Concepts x Brooks Chariot "Merlot" - Concepts resurrected the Chariot 32 years after its release with the launch of the “Merlot” model in September 2014. The shoes are given new life and a whole new look with stunning suede uppers in colors that feature the transition of merlot grapes into wine. The heels sport a navy blue hue, the middle part has a lighter blue color while the toe box features a red shade.
b. Concepts x Brooks Beast 1 “Voodoo” - The Beast 1 got a freewheeling 60’s makeover with the launch of the “Voodoo” edition last October 2015. The shoes’ colors take inspiration from the psychedelic art and music found in Brooks’ Seattle roots during this period and the exclusive packaging the sneakers come in pays tribute to legendary rock and roll musician, Jimi Hendrix. Trippy insoles, reflective 3M overlays, and a rich combination of nylon, suede, and mesh uppers keep these kicks looking as retro as possible.
8. Fairplay x Brooks
Fairplay is an LA-based brand that specializes in functional and intricately-designed athletic gear for men.
a. Fairplay x Brooks Regent “Battle of Los Angeles” - These modern iteration of the Regent silhouette are based on the Great Los Angeles Air Raid of 1942. After the US entered World War II, air raid sirens sounded across the County of Los Angeles. Reports had it that it that a meteorological balloon was released in the middle of the night and so spooked officials that a blackout was ordered. The 37th Coast Artillery Brigade began firing at the unidentified object for around an hour.
The shoes are decked out in all black in mixtures of suede and leather, hinting of the darkness that covered Los Angeles more than 50 years ago. Speckled outsoles and 3M embellishments add further accents to evoke the stars and the night sky.
9. Frapbois x Brooks
Frapbois is a well-known clothing brand that originated in Tokyo’s Daikanyama District. They are best known for their flattering, feminine cuts and their willingness to be at the forefront of setting trends and trying new designs.
a. Frapbois x Brooks Chariot - This 2017 iteration of the Chariot brings the love of color to the Chariot silhouette. The new rendition of the Chariot spells fresh and fun with the polka-dotted uppers, and the Crayola-hues of yellow, green, red, purple, and blue at the heels. The low-top sneakers are covered in leather while mesh and suede cover the toes and sides.
10. Hanon x Brooks
Hanon was founded by two brothers, Edward and Brian Toft, during the 1980s. They first sold skateboarding and street apparel but later on transitioned to retailing deadstock and hard-to-find sneakers as well.
a. Hanon x Brooks Chariot “Scotch Bonnet” - The 1982 classic came back in 2015 for a fiery new look. Taking cues from the scotch bonnet pepper, the Chariot was draped all over in rich pig suede and luxe leather. Hot red accents on the tongues and toe overlays give the shoes a pop amidst the granite grey that covers most of the uppers. Full reflective 3M backtabs and leather collar linings in rich green complete these footwear.
The “Scotch Bonnet” also comes with three sets of contrasting laces and a custom-made dust bag.
11. Mita x Brooks
Mita Sneakers is a Tokyo-based boutique that initially only stocked Japanese footwear. However, they have since become one of the hottest shops in the area and now carry fine sneaker brands from Asics to Nike. Their collaborations with these known athletic brands are also some of the most sought-after items in sneakerheads’ collections.
a. Mita x Brooks Beast 1 “Enchantment” - On October 2015, Japanese sneaker retailer Mita produced a revamped Beast based on fairytale monsters and aptly called it “Enchantment.” The Enchantment version features running elements such as molded TPU heel counters and compression-molded EVA midsoles. Brown pigskin suede, tonal rope laces, and pebbled leather detailing complete the enthralling look.
12. Pink Dolphin x Brooks
Pink Dolphin is a clothing line that defines and embodies exclusivity. They use two logos which epitomize the characteristics that define the brand—uniqueness, simplicity, purity, color, and freshness.
a. Pink Dolphin x Brooks Regent “Tsunami” - On November 2016, Pink Dolphin unveiled its Japanese art-inspired take on the Brooks Regent silhouette. Titled “Tsunami,” the limited-edition Brooks sneakers featured a mixture of pastel colors which pay tribute to the works of Japanese painter, Hokusai. The uppers of these lifestyle kicks are covered in premium soft leather, suede, and canvas. Crashing waves can be seen painted on the heels.
13. Shoe Gallery x Brooks
Shoe Gallery was established by Abram Waserstein in Miami during the year 1979. From a relatively successful shoe business, the company has grown into a one-stop shop for some of the best lifestyle apparel, accessory, and footwear brands.
a. Shoe Gallery x Brooks Regent “84 Fins” - Paying tribute to Shoe Gallery’s hometown team, the Miami Dolphins, is this April 2016 iteration of the Brooks Regent. The “84 Fins” celebrates the 1984 team that went on to the Super Bowl and made a big impact on the city. These low-top Brooks sneakers are dressed in the team's colors, in fade accents of orange and teal placed over the dark blue and distressed denim hues of the uppers. Evoking more of the football spirit are the football field graphics on the insoles.
14. Sneakersnstuff x Brooks
Sneakersnstuff is a retail store known for carrying select items that are hard to come by. It was founded in 1999 by Peter Jansson and Erik Fagerlind. They have also come up with numerous covetable collaborations with well-known apparel and footwear brands.
a. Sneakersnstuff x Brooks Regent “American Dream” - The creation of the “American Dream” is influenced by the movie, “The Emigrants,” which was about a time in Sweden when people left in droves to find a better life in America.
The uppers of these casual low-tops are dressed in striped fabric made to resemble clothes worn by the emigrants in the film. The insoles feature imagery that the Swedish people might have seen as they moved from port to port. Stylized TPU chevrons, visible heel cushioning, and leather uppers tie the whole look together.
15. UBIQ x Brooks
UBIQ is a renowned premium apparel and sneaker boutique store in Philadelphia. They are also known for collaborating with brands and hosting parties with celebrated artists such as “The Godfather of Street Arts,” Ron English.
a. UBIQ x Brooks Chariot “Liberty” - On December of 2014, Ubiq released the “Liberty,” the boutique brand’s contemporary take on the Chariot. The Brooks sneakers are inspired by Philadelphia, Ubiq’s hometown, and the city’s pioneering attitude. The low-top lifestyle kicks are covered with a premium tonal dark brown leather and given gold accents and burgundy leather linings. Black-striped white midsoles and gum outsoles lent an interesting touch along with gold Liberty charms on the laces.
b. Ubiq x Brooks Fusion “Reserve” - The “Reserve” is Ubiq’s follow-up to the “Liberty” collab that was launched a year before. The shoes’ inspiration is the more than 150 wineries in UBIQ’s Philadelphia hometown, and it shows in the lush and rich tones of the footwear. Deep red and navy tones in suede and nubuck cover the uppers of the sneakers while stark white midsoles and off-white accents on the toebox areas finish off the look. Custom cork insoles further evoke the wine-making culture while 3M applications add a hint of flash.
Brooks Shoes Trivia
We’ve gathered a few little-known facts about the brand that we think you’d find interesting.
1. The Brooks archive was virtually nonexistent due to the purchase and re-purchase of the company. Most of the business’ history was lost or destroyed in moving boxes and cleared caches. To come up with the Heritage collection, Shane Downey, the global director of the line, and his team had to research everything and recreate them from scratch. They were only given a stack of catalogs to work with, and they spent the next six years building from that.
2. All Brooks shoes, except for the Heritage line and their walking footwear, meet vegan standards.
3. Brooks Sports, Inc. is also intent on reducing their carbon footprint one step at a time. They only use soy-based inks, their shoe boxes are 100% recycled paperboards, and the stuffing inside their packagings have been reduced. Their main office building in Seattle utilizes 75% less energy than other typical commercial buildings, and they capture and recycle 50% stormwater on the site.
4. Brooks Sports, Inc. is now owned by Berkshire Hathaway, a conglomerate run by Warren Buffet.
5. The EVA foam, which is widely used today in many footwear’s midsoles to provide shock absorption, was first used in the Brooks Villanova. The brand pioneered its use in the 70s.
6. As early as the 1970s, Brooks Sports, Inc. has already conceived of the idea of stability shoes through the Brooks Vantage’s Varus Wedge technology which protected the heels and feet while reducing the risk of tendon fatigue.
Common Q & A
We’ve compiled a short list of questions about some common questions people have about sneakers and our answer to them.
Q: Does the type of surface I walk on have any effect on the wear on my Brooks sneakers?
A: Yes. Surfaces such as pavements are often harder on the soles than soft ground or indoor floors are. The way you also walk is a big factor. Your gait can also determine which areas of your shoes wear out faster than the others.
Q: I spend a lot of time walking or standing up on hard concrete floors. Do you have any suggestions on how I can choose which Brooks shoes might be best for me?
A: If you’ll be standing up or walking for long hours on hard concrete floors, you would need to look for a model which would provide lots of comfort and good arch support. Simply avoid shoes with thin soles as they won’t be able to absorb much shock.
Q: I only wear my Brooks casual kicks strictly for leisure activities. How do I make them last longer?
A: The type of fabric that covers your shoes plays a major role in how long they will last. Leather lasts longer than other types of material because it can breathe easily and is stronger. However, with care you can keep your sneakers in tip-top shape for a long time no matter what kind of fabric its uppers are made of.
After wearing your Brooks shoes under the rain, make sure you dry them completely before storing them otherwise, rot can set in.
Keep your sneakers clean. After a full day of walking, your sneakers might have encountered mud, stains, and other dirt. Wipe your shoes off with a damp cloth or lightly brush them. Air dry completely.
You might have this one pair of sneakers you like wearing day in and day out because it’s too comfortable or too stylish and it would be awful not to. However, it would be worse for your shoes. Shoes need to breathe and be aired thoroughly before each use.
Keep your Brooks sneakers fresh by sprinkling a bit of baking soda in them to draw out all the moisture as well as remove any lingering odor.
5 best Brooks sneakers
- Brooks Vanguard Heritage
- Brooks Chariot Heritage
- Brooks Fusion
- Brooks Regent
- Brooks Beast 1
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