Who Invented It: Klaus Märtens
Year Introduced: 1945
The titular Dr. Klaus Märtens was a German army doctor who injured his ankle during a ski trip in the Bavarian Alps in 1945. While recovering, he found his standard-issue army boots too uncomfortable to wear, so designed an air-padded sole made of tires and a soft leather upper. When he returned to the city, he went into business with Luxembourger Dr. Herbert Funck, and used discarded rubber from Luftwaffe airfields to make the shoes. The kicks were a huge hit with German housewives at first. It wasn't until their introduction to the English market in the 1960s that they received the workwear connotations they're known for today. British licensee R. Griggs Group Ltd. manufactured the shoes in the United Kingdom, added the trademark yellow stitching and coined the term "AirWair" for the soles.