New Brand: Karhu
Words: Sebastian Nicu
Kar Who!? Karhu! For more than 100 years, the brand from Finland has been active in the sports industry. In addition to spears and discuses, they produced running shoes under the name AB Sport Artiklar Oy since 1916. In the 1920s, the Finns decided on the much more melodious name Karhu, which means »bear« in English – how cute. Karhu quickly made a name for itself by outfitting various Olympic athletes in 1920, and constantly expanded its product range until the Finnish army became aware of the brand and had uniforms, shoes, skis and tents made for World War II. In 1952, when Karhu left the Olympic Games as the most sought-after sports shoe manufacturer and helped the equipped athletes win 15 gold medals, the brand celebrated their big breakthrough.
Among fashionistas and sneakerheads, Karhu is not necessarily known for their athletic running shoes with spikes. For many of you, the little anecdote about a Franconian sporting goods manufacturer is certainly more interesting. Because unlike today, back then, three stripes were placed on the shoes of Karhu. A certain Mr. Dassler bought the rights to the logo for the equivalent of around 1600 euros and two bottles of fine whiskey. When you think about how important the stripes are in today’s sports and fashion world, it was a real bargain. Since then, the letter M has adorned Karhu’s sneakers, the initial letter of designer Mäntylä.
But it wasn’t only in terms of logo design that Karhu was ahead of their time in the industry. When I ask pedestrians in the trendy district of my choice who invented air cushioning for shoes, 9.8 out of 10 will probably say Nike. Ha! Wrong answer. Karhu used the invisible technology in their ChampionAir back in 1977. At that time, Nike had just been called Nike for a few years, but that’s another story. The Karhu ChampionAir became a favorite among athletes and was sold over a million times by 1984. The runners’ joints probably still thank Karhu today.
Of course, it is no secret that shoes can be as historic and comfortable as they like, but if they are ugly, they will not end up on the streets. But Karhu does the right thing in terms of design. Whether you like classic 70’s runners or more modern 90’s silhouettes doesn’t matter. Because there is the right shoe for everybody. Even the coolest guys in the world of sneakers see it that way: Sneakersnstuff, Concepts and Patta are die-hard fans of the brand and therefore put their own colorways on their favorite models. These collaborations were practically the seal of approval that finally got Karhu off the racetrack and onto the streets. So if you want to impress your Tinder date with exciting stories about stripes and air cushioning, or simply with a cute little bear as a logo, you should give Karhu a try.
Get your pair of Karhu Sneakers now at HHV: Karhu
Visual content: Karhu