LA Gear is an American footwear company specializing in sneakers that is based in Los Angeles, California and owned by ACI International. It became popular through celebrity endorsements in the 1980s and 1990s. In the latter years of the decade, the brand waned in popularity, though it has made multiple resurgences since then.
LA Gear’s first endorsement came from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a basketball player who broke off his endorsement deal with popular apparel brand Adidas to give weight to the new LA line. (Abdul-Jabbar was to retire by 1989.) Other NBA players like Karl Malone and Hakeem Olajuwon soon joined the trend. In 1990, Joe Montana–then a star quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers–signed an endorsement deal with LA Gear and rapidly rose to become the company’s most prominent “face.” Other celebrities to publicly endorse LA Gear sneakers included pop stars Michael Jackson and Paula Abdul, both of whom had a specialty sneaker designed bearing their name.
In the early 90s, LA Gear shoes were exclusive status symbols, but became more ubiquitous and easy to obtain as the years went on. Company executives hopped on every shoe trend of the decade, including LED light-up shoes and inflatable “pump-ups.” However, despite the company’s best efforts to maintain their trendy image, popularity across their lines began to fade quickly. In 1994, Olajuwon left the brand to pursue another endorsement deal with sporting goods manufacturer Spalding; by 1994, LA Gear had abandoned their men’s shoe lines altogether and marketed more actively towards women and children. But the damage to LA Gear’s reputation was done; in 1998, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. There have been several attempts to revive the brand, and fans of their classic designs still remain, but LA Gear has never risen to the level of popularity it held from 1990-1992.
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