Jane Fonda is one of the most admired women in the entertainment world, not only for her performance in cinemas and television, but for her activism. But she is also recognized as a pioneer in personal care, with her famous aerobics classes. And in them, their Reebok Freestyle.
In the late 1970s, promoting healthy living was challenging in America. And Fonda turned out to be one of the first to do so. His aerobics workshops were key to thousands, perhaps millions, of people, especially women.
When Angel Martinez, a salesman for the British brand Reebok, was looking for his wife in an aerobics class, he noticed that many of the attendees did not have sneakers. At that time, they were used in professional sports, and there were few that they had on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s hard for women today to believe that in those days they ‘shouldn’t’ sweat in public. So Freestyle comes along, comes aerobics that empowers women through strenuous physical activity… women who did aerobics were incredibly fit, incredibly strong and that was something that captured the imagination of young women at the time. The Freestyle was the shoe that made it possible. There was a cultural shift from what Freestyle stood for and what Reebok was doing. “
Ángel Martínez, designer of the Reebok Freestyle
Martínez proposed to his bosses the creation of shoes for women. They did not initially like the idea, but it was so much the impetus that Reebok ended up making the Freestyle.
Reebok Freestyle, the comfort for aerobics
Joe Foster, one of the founders of Reebok, recounted in a note published by Retail Dive: “(Martinez) sees half the class with running shoes, and the rest without shoes. The lightbulb went on: why don’t we make these girls a special shoe with a glove leather upper and a very cushioned sole?
Released in 1982, Fonda was one of the first public figures to use them. These white sneakers (their main color, but they also came in pink and light blue), were made of a much softer leather than those used in other sneakers.
They also had ankle supports and two thin Velcro straps. They were synonymous with aerobic comfort, and Jane Fonda took full advantage of them.
But Reebok, unlike brands like Nike, Adidas or Converse, never thought of using a figure to promote their shoes. Only in the early 1990s did he rely on athletes like NBA star Shaquille O’Neal.
Reebok executive Paul Fireman tells in Retail Dive that “he had no giant ambition. I just had the ambition to find a business that I could get into, turn it into my own and be an entrepreneur. “
The goal, as Cara Salpini points out in a text about the competition between Reebok and Nike, was never for celebrities to wear their shoes. Meanwhile, Nike took advantage of signing a certain Michael Jordan to promote his own in the NBA.
The figures of the show adored them
Reebok’s fame faded as Nike grew and grew. He never capitalized on showbiz figures like Cybill Shepherd, Paula Abdul, Mick Jagger or David Bowie using Freestyle. The success was not taken advantage of.
Cybill arrived at the 1985 Emmy Awards in a black dress, opera gloves and orange Freestyle. “Heels are a form of slavery. I will not ruin my feet ”, justified the actress.
And it was dizzying: They sold 32,000 sneakers in their first few months, made huge profits, and in one way or another, they helped millions of women in America join the sport with Jane Fonda.
In words by Ángel Martínez: “It was about fashion, it was about fitness, aesthetics and something else the athletics world had never seen before: women buying sneakers.”
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ICONS / Reebok Freestyle, feminine independence in the form of sneakers