Icons of England
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914 of 1160 nominations



Is this an icon?



These simple shoes may look innocuous, but don’t be deceived – the rubber soles and canvas uppers of the plimsoll have spawned generations of trainers and are the undisputed daddy of the modern running shoe. Why? Because when plimsolls were first manufactured in the United States in 1892, they used a new manufacturing process called vulcanisation, which uses heat to bond rubber and cloth. They may have been largely superseded by multicoloured, air-cushioned, gel-filled trainers, but the process of vulcanisation is still used today. Sometimes referred to as "plimmies", they conjure up memories of school across the generations, and still form part of the kit in many English schools today. There are also some of us who may remember them in a less glowing light. After all, the slipper, which was used as a form of corporal punishment in schools across the land at one time, was usually a plimsoll.

Photo: Maria Gibbs


Your comments

We've all worn them, on sports day or in the gym, slip ons mostly. I suspect they were black or navy blue, although I believe they did (do?) make them in white.

Alan Gatter

Actually the plimsoll was created by John Boyd Dunlop in 1870, the modern 'Green Flash' can be traced back to that date - so I agree - it's a true English icon.
Daniel Durnin

How can they be an English icon if they're American? They look like Keds to me...

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My favourite Icon of England has to be the Cornish Pasty.

Ian Baldry