Back in 1993, every kid around the world had to have a video game cartridge featuring the Super Mario Brothers game and a pair of shoes with lights.
By: Nitten Gokhaley
Not just the United States, but even classrooms and playgrounds in some of Asia’s developing countries were full of kids wearing such status symbol footwear. Thanks to the cheaply available local copies of the original American L.A. Lights. If you exclude a few Nintendo accessories, L.A. Lights footwear was the first widely appreciated wearable-tech gadget across the world.
Which was the company that created the first pair of these shoes?
Los Angeles, California based L.A. Gear happens to be the first brand that launched the product named L.A. Lights in 1992. L.A. Gear had established itself as a brand for women’s clothing and men’s athletic shoes during the 1980s. They were sponsors of multiple college basketball teams and had several sports celebrities endorsing the brand, which was registered in 1979 by Robert Greenberg.
L.A. Gear’s sports shoes lost their credibility when their footwear worn by basketball players fell apart during matches. The sales of the existing range of shoes dipped due to such issues during 1990. But the company pulled out L.A. Lights from its hat and ended up selling more than five million of its light-up footwear within 12 months from its launch in 1992. It quickly became the hottest thing that every kid desired to wear. The quality of the shoes, design and colors were often considered as debatable issues. However, the LEDs integrated into the shoe soles were the real success story.
Between 1992 and 1994, kids’ footwear was not at all influenced by adult fashion. All that the kids needed were the LED lights. The fortunes of the blinking footwear firm started changing when news stories about the user’s exposure to a high level of mercury in various parts of the shoe came under the spotlight.
According to reports, the footwear had tilt switches that controlled the LEDs and the blinking effect. The shoe design was reliable, but the problem was the use of mercury in the switch. Technically and legally, it was clear that the users were exposing their feet to mercury. Due to the reports about the use of mercury, some states in the U.S. banned their sale and distribution. Later, mercury switches were replaced with pressure-sensitive ones made from environmentally friendly material. These proved to be a technical blunder as they reportedly remained turned on for several hours, resulting in a discharged battery within a day. The product slowly lost its popularity by 1998.
Another comeback on cards
Believe it or not, even today, almost all of the top shoemakers still sell their version of light-up footwear. Light up shoes made it in the headlines when Justin Bieber wore a similar pair developed by Pop Shoes during his Purpose tour in 2016. Even top show maker Adidas is expected to launch a light-up version for some of its Ultra Boost footwear soon.
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