Plimsoll shoe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Traditional school plimsolls with elastic instead of laces.

A pump (British English; see other names below) is a type of athletic shoe with a canvas upper and rubber sole developed initially as beachwear.

Pumps have solid rubber soles about 8 or 9 mm thick, to which the canvas is glued without coming up the sides (as on trainers). The effect when running is similar to running without shoes.

The shoe was originally, and often still is in parts of the United Kingdom, called a "sand shoe" and acquired the nickname "plimsoll" in the 1870s. This name arose, according to Nicholette Jones's book The Plimsoll Sensation, because the coloured 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.[1]

A small-sized plimsoll with a tartan design, using a CVO (Circular Vamp Oxford) design/style.

In the UK plimsolls are commonly worn for schools' indoor physical education lessons. Regional terms are common: around their area of origin (Liverpool, in north west England) they are often referred to as "Galoshes". In Northern Ireland and central Scotland they are sometimes known as gutties; "sannies" (from 'sand shoe') is also used in Scotland.[2] In parts of Edinburgh and Midlothian they are also known as “rubbers” or “gym rubbers” owing to their rubber soles and the need to wear them in the school gym hall. In parts of the West Country and Wales they are known as "daps" or "dappers". In London, the home counties, much of the West Midlands, the West Riding of Yorkshire and north west of England they are known as "pumps".[3] There is a widespread belief that "daps" is taken from a factory sign – "Dunlop Athletic Plimsoles" which was called "the DAP factory". However, this seems unlikely as the first citation in the Oxford English Dictionary of "dap" for a rubber soled shoe is a March 1924 use in the Western Daily Press newspaper; Dunlop did not acquire the Liverpool Rubber Company (as part of the merger with the Macintosh group of companies) until 1925.

Plimsolls were issued to the British military (called "road slappers" by the common soldiery) until replaced by trainers in the mid-80s. If white they required hours of application of shoe whitener, if black they were required to be polished until they gleamed.

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.

Outside the United Kingdom[edit]

Plimsolls are referred to as:

  • Australiasandshoe, sneakers or runners, and include the similar shoe, the Dunlop Volley[4]
  • Canada – also called running shoes, or runners
  • India – white plimsolls are often worn by school children and are known as Keds dating from the 1970s and earlier, and more commonly, as "canvas shoes". The brown version is used by most police and military units as a gym training shoe.
  • Ireland – "Gutties". Occasionally called rubber dollies in County Cork. In County Armagh they were occasionally called Marcel Marceaus - related to the popularity with a burgeoning county mime scene.
  • New Zealandsandshoe was commonly used in the past, although it is now somewhat old-fashioned.
  • Poland – Polish name for shoes with a canvas upper and rubber sole is "tenisówki" or "trampki".
  • South Africa – South African slang for shoes with a canvas upper and rubber sole is takkies.
  • United Statessneakers, tennis shoes, basketball shoes, Keds, or Chucks


  1. ^ "99% Invisible, Episode 33 – A Cheer for Samuel Plimsoll".
  2. ^ "sannies". Dictionary of Playground Slang (Online). Retrieved 2010-01-19.
  3. ^ "BBC Word Map – enter What they wear and Child's soft shoes". BBC. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  4. ^ "Sneaker pimps". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2005-06-21.