The History of K-Swiss

K-Swiss is known to have one of the most iconic sneakers of all time. Whether they are worn on-court or off-court, these shoes have always proven to be show stoppers. Additionally, K-Swiss is also a brand that’s at Tennis Express. However, how they came to be is even more interesting. K-Swiss was founded by two brothers from Switzerland, Art and Ernie Brunner who came to the U.S. in 1966. Once they had moved to the U.S., they became interested in tennis and were inspired to start their own shoe company. Their company started in Los Angeles, California importing patent leather shoes from a Swiss Kuenzuli shoe manufacturer and decided to name their company K-Swiss. The K is for Kalifornia.

Their Inspiration

The two brothers were avid skiers and got the inspiration for their first shoes from their leather ski boots. Their goal was to support the aggressive side-to-side movements in tennis and their sturdy ski boots had an answer for them.  So, they focused primarily on the cushioning of the soles and creating a firm upper. Then by 1966, the first all-leather tennis shoe was born. The K-Swiss Classic became an instant success after they presented the shoe at Wimbledon.

Upscale customers and tennis players took to the K-Swiss Classic immediately, causing them to grow in popularity in the United States. The style of these shoes were entirely white with the exception of the Swiss flag on the heel. This style gave them a preppy, timeless appearance.  K-Swiss enjoyed their growing popularity and many of their products were widely visible across the west coast.

Inspiration for the K-Swiss BrothersGrowing Popularity

By the 1970s their popularity grew in Japan which lead to them having their shoes produced in South Asia. Thanks to the lower costs in South Asia, K-Swiss products became even more accessible in Asian markets. K-Swiss and their shoes were widely known for their durability and reliability and were worn by athletes. While the company stayed small, their steady presence allowed them to secure a stable niche in the footwear industry. During this time the athletic wear was mostly for track and courts. However, things began to change in the 1980s.


During the 1980s more competition arose. Other companies such as Nike, Asics, adidas, and Reebok joined in with sweatshirts and basketball shoes. The athletic niche suddenly became more than sports and working out. They suddenly became a fashion statement. The designs went from generic to flashy slowly pushing the classic K-Swiss products down the totem pole. As the decade went on the sales had slowed but they still retained popularity in Japan.

In the mid-1980s is when Steven Nichols became interested in K-Swiss and wanted to buy them out. At the time he was president of Stride Rite Corp and attempted to convince them to buy K-Swiss. When they refused he resigned and decided to try and buy them out himself with proper backing. After his resignation, he raised over 116 million and bought K-Swiss in 1987 to became CEO. He then aimed to broaden the target market while maintaining its “country club” appeal. By the 1990s K-Swiss upped their advertising and placed methodical limits on their inventory. They didn’t want their shoes to become mass-produced which helped them in their expansion and rise in popularity once again.

K-Swiss TodayK-Swiss Today

Today K-Swiss is a major shoe brand that is sold in stores all over the United States as well as other countries. K-Swiss also does more than just shoes. They have apparel lines that keep up with the latest trends and high-tech material that you would expect from your favorite athletic brand. Here at Tennis Express, you can find K-Swiss shoes and apparel that will match your style and game. Go out to the courts as a trend setter and keep an eye on our blog for the latest news and trends!




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