|This article does not cite any references or sources. (October 2010)|
PF Flyers are a brand of athletic shoes that are currently manufactured by New Balance. They were first produced by BF Goodrich in 1937. They had popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, but lost steam during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. The brand was purchased by Converse in 1972, but later sold off due to antitrust issues. New Balance bought the rights to the brand in 2001 (which had been dormant since 1992) and resurrected it in 2003.
The style most commonly associated with the shoe is the common canvas-duck sneaker, with cloth reaching above the ankle, and a patch that reads "PF Flyers." This common style is called "Center Hi". They are very similar to the Chuck Taylor All-Stars manufactured by Converse.
PF stands for Posture Foundation. Developed in 1933, this patented insole technology set a new standard in sneaker comfort. The insole technology was first used in BF Goodrich shoes. It involves a wedge-like insert (promoted as the "magic wedge") that moves weight to the outside of the foot, evenly distributing weight, reducing leg strain. As the success of the sneakers with the Posture Foundation insole technology grew in 1937 it became the basis for the brand name, "PF Flyers."
In the 1930s and early 1940s PF Flyers was making sneakers, as well as oxfords, boots and heels. Sport styles by PF were very popular in the 1950s, renowned for helping you "run faster and jump higher" courtesy of the "action wedge." This ability would be a result of the improved fit of the foundation, but similar foundations were finding their way into competing brands, countering the PF advantage.
PF Flyers had the first collaboration between a sneaker company and pro athlete in the 1950s, when they teamed up with Bob Cousy, the famed Boston Celtics star to create a string of classic basketball designs.
By the 1960s, PF Flyers was one of the largest sneaker brands in America. In 1964, Hanna-Barbera's Jonny Quest was featured in a custom-animated 60-second commercial for the brand that ran during the Jonny Quest series, which featured a "magic ring" as a promotional offer. The ring featured a movable code wheel, magnifying lens, signal flasher and a secret compartment. The code was implemented by a rotating circular inner code dial marked "ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ" and a fixed outer code marked "WEARPFSLQMYBUHXVCZNDKIOTGJ". The ring was available, free, from shoe stores which carried PF Flyers.
Shoe retailers also distributed free comic books, illustrating adventures centered on young heroes whose PF Flyers enabled them to overcome danger. These books were tied to the concurrent TV ad campaign, which ran on Saturday mornings.
In the early 1970s, magician Harry Blackstone, Jr. promoted a "PF Magic Wedge Kit" giveaway offer with the purchase of PF Flyers on a television commercial.
With the brand's increasing popularity, women were able to buy dresses made to match their PFs, and PF was standard issue in the US Army.
The brand was purchased by Converse in 1972, but later had to be sold off when the US government filed an antitrust suit claiming that if both companies combined they would have a monopoly for sneakers.
PF Flyers were featured prominently in the 1993 film The Sandlot. Towards the end of the film, the character Benny (Mike Vitar) wears an all-black pair of Center Hi's - the narration tells us they are "guaranteed to make a kid run faster and jump higher." The style is now available under the designation, Center Hi Sandlot Edition.
In recent years, the phrase "wearing his PF Flyers" has been commonly used. It is said when a player is running very fast in a game, usually baseball. Such as, "deep fly ball to right right center, but Ichiro's got his PF Flyers. He ran it down."