There are vintage shoes, and then there’s the Club C
. It’s a sneaker that is anything but ordinary and continues to remain just as popular today as it was back in the ’80s, when tennis shoes started coming on to the scene -- Reebok was taking the charge.
A Brief History of The Club C
In the ‘80s the sport of tennis continued to rise after the boom in the late ‘70s and because of that, tennis footwear was becoming a focus in the industry. From canvas to rubber and nylon, everything was fair game as long as the look was clean. According to the Reebok Archive, sneaker cuts begin to change from low cuts and for the first time saw mid and ¾ cut models. As time passed, more colorful and experimental versions would be welcomed into the fold.
Reebok first got into the tennis game in 1984 and released their first tennis shoe, the Phase I using garment leather and terry cloth lining. According to the Reebok Archive, “With just the Phase I, Reebok was responsible for 7.7% of total tennis footwear sales in the U.S. that year.” This was a telling sign for years ahead, and paved the way for Reebok to introduce the Phase I Pro and Phase 1 Nylon just a year later.
According to the Reebok Archive, the Club C was designed under the direction of Paul Brown and launched in 1985. The shoe was initially launched to fill a need. [It was] “for the club player who needs a durable performance tennis shoe.”
The Club Champion as it was known (Club C) features a reinforced garment leather toe cap, eye stay and back stay for long wear. And it has a removable expanded urethane arch support system with a terry cloth lining for comfort.” The shoe’s clean silhouette yet unique look has helped the shoe evolve from a performance model into a lifestyle staple.
It was predicted very early on that the Club C silhouette was going to be something special. According to the Reebok Archive, back in 1985 the Revised Revenge, a shoe that paved the way for the version of the Club C as we know it today, had over 10,000 preorders banked. That is some SERIOUS love for an 80s tennis shoe that hadn’t even been released yet.
The Reebok Archive says that the investments made in 1985 paid off, in its second year as a tennis brand Reebok owned 22% of the American tennis shoe market. Reebok went on to create multiple tennis shoes and lines of apparel to meet the needs of a growing consumer base. According to the Reebok Archive, in 1986 Reebok started producing and designing its own apparel and launched a full men and women’s tennis collection
The Club C came to be through the evolution of four tennis shoes that Reebok released in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, mostly in the UK to start. According to the Reebok Archive those silhouettes included the Revenge Plus, the Club Champion, the Club Classic and the Monterey.
As for our hero sneaker, the Club C as we know it became available in men’s sizing in the US in the Spring of 1989 in classic colorways like white and navy and white on white that are still available today. Women’s sizing became available in July of 1993. That same year, the Club C and Club C Canvas were officially classified under the Classics category instead of falling under categorization of being a tennis shoe that spring. With that, the ‘80s tennis shoe had officially moved off the court, and into the closets of trendsetters everywhere.
The move to Classics birthed multiple versions of the popular ‘80s tennis shoes, including the Club C Wide in 1994. With that move into Classics, it wasn’t until the ‘90s that the Club C became part of the style scene and truly started trending beyond the performance realm. The sneaker went from the courts to the street and became the popular choice in skateboard culture particularly in California. The low cut and rubber outsole of the sneaker made it a perfect go-to choice for skaters, leaving the laces loose and an easy sneaker to wear at the skate park and as a lifestyle shoe.
A very popular model still available today is the Club C 85 Vintage. According to the Reebok Archive, this version of the shoe was released in 2016 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the ’80s tennis shoes. The word CLASSIC was no longer written on the tongue and the shoe got a retro makeover—back to its original look which is still available today.
Now in 2019, the Club C continues to be in high demand. As a classic, easy, white sneaker, it can be worn with anything. This ’80s vintage shoe defied imitators and has remained an icon through the decades.
As an old ad from Reebok Classic’s 1992 campaign “Never gets old” that included Club C once read, “Time passes. Looks change. Fads die. But some things never get old.”
The Evolution of Club C
So now that you’re caught up on the heritage of how our ‘80s tennis shoe rose to the top, we’ve done an inventory check and here are some of the top models that are available today and remain our top picks.
This all white version is an instant classic. While these are ‘80s tennis shoes, this version makes them look brand new. If you want sleek and a bit of a modern take on this ‘80s sneaker this is the pair for you.
Reebok Archive Sample, Club C Champion 1987
Reebok Archive Sample, Club C 1988
Reebok Archive Sample, Club C 1989
Reebok Archive Sample, Club C III 1992
Reebok Archive Sample, Club C 1997
Reebok Archive Sample, Winter Special Edition Collection, Club C SE 2009
Club C 85 Vintage (released in 2016), $75; Reebok.com
More Versions Available Today
To check out our entire Club C collection click here