From their classic canvas look, to their elusive background, PF Flyers are American history and culture compressed into one shoe. We dug deep into their backstory and rounded up a bunch of little known facts on this patriotic brand of kicks.
In 1933 tire company and sneaker pioneer BFGoodrich patented the Posture Foundation insole—an insert that aided in evenly distributing weight on the foot, thus taking strain off the legs of the sneaker wearer. In 1937 BFGoodrich released their first pair of shoes with the revolutionary Posture Foundation technology. Since everyone figured “Posture Foundation” made for a terrible sneaker name, Goodrich marketers christened the shoe with the abbreviated moniker “PF,” adding the postscript “Flyers” for a little bonus.
The 1950s and 1960s gained mass popularity for PF Flyers, the shoes weren’t only popular on the basketball court, but also in day to day fashion. The shoes came in high-top, low-top, oxfords and moccasins. Converse, PF Flyers main competitor, bought the brand in 1972 but in the merger shuffle PF Flyers lost their popularity. The brand suffered heavily through the 70s, 80s, and 90s. In 1992 PF Flyers went dormant. In 2001, New Balance purchased the brand, resurrecting the PF Flyer in 2003.
They attracted the first mainstream sports endorsement – Bob Cousey (arguably the NBA’s first legitimate superstar) elected to wear PF Flyers over other contemporary sneaker brands. It was the first example of an athlete adding clout to a pair of sneakers, which was way before basketball stars held full-hour TV specials to announce where they were taking their talents. Ah, simpler times.
Adding to the list of things, Canadian badminton star Jack Purcell also chose to wear PF Flyers; the brand marketed a signature version in 1935. When Converse came to the party in the ‘70s, they redesigned the Purcell signature — and it remains the only PF shoe that Converse retains rights to.
PF Flyers began marketing matching skirt-and-shoe sets to women in the mid 1900s – under the assumption that this demographic favored “looks” over functionality.
PF Flyers were such a media cash cow that they went all in with comic books and accompanying animated TV shows (aka, ‘60s Netflix). The PF Magic Shoe Adventure Book now goes for around $60.
For certain outfits in the ‘50s, PF Flyers were actually standard-issue military footwear. Sort of makes you rethink how badass you feel in those high fashion “combat boots.”
PFs were dear to the hearts of some of baseball’s greats, like Ted Williams, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, and more.