Definitions

gym shoe

Plimsoll shoe

A plimsoll shoe or simply plimsoll is a type of athletic shoe with a canvas upper and rubber sole, developed as beachwear in the 1830s by the Liverpool Rubber Company (later to become Dunlop). The shoe was originally, and often still is in parts of the UK, called a 'sand shoe' and acquired the nickname 'plimsoll' in the 1870s. This name derived, according to Nicholette Jones' book "The Plimsoll Sensation" because the colored horizontal band joining the upper to the sole resembled the Plimsoll line on a ship's hull, or because, just like the Plimsoll line on a ship, if water got above the line of the rubber sole, the wearer would get wet.

As it was commonly used for corporal punishment in the British Commonwealth, where it was the typical gym shoe (part of the school uniform), plimsolling is also a synonym for a slippering. They were generally black or white with a few in brown.

  • In most of English-speaking North America, they are known as sneakers or tennis shoes, depending on the regional dialect. Also, shoes are colloquially referred to as "Chucks" — in reference to Converse's Chuck Taylor All Star shoe.
  • In Australia and other places such footwear is still referred to as a sandshoe, and include the similar shoe, the Dunlop Volley. The American term, "chucks", is only used to describe the Converse shoes.
  • In the UK these shoes were compulsory in schools' physical education lessons and today are still known as Plimsolls, except in Northern Ireland and western Scotland where they are usually known as gutties and parts of Southern England and Wales, where they are known as daps (taken from the factory sign - "Dunlop Athletic Plimsoles" locally called "the DAP factory") or dappers. They are also known as pumps. In South Africa they are called tekkies.
  • In India they are worn by school children and are known as keds and are usually a white colour. The brown version is used by most police and military units as a gym training shoe. And are part of the uniform of a Batman (military).

Their use, however, is decreasing, with trainers being used more often. The shoe has become an icon of many generations—and music genres, including Grunge, hip-hop, emo and gangsta rap. In the early months of 2008, the Plimsoll shoe within the UK became a major fashion statement, with many celebrities such as Pete Doherty and other Indie/Emo related stars influencing their come back. They are generally worn with tight fitting jeans (also known as Drainpipe jeans) or jeans with turned up bottoms.

In the BBC science fiction series Doctor Who, the Tenth Doctor wears plimsolls. He referred to them as daps in the episode "The Poison Sky".

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