Dunlop: From Rubber Tires to Dunlop Bags, Sports Clothes and Fashion

Dunlop has changed a lot since it began in 1989. From its beginnings in tires thanks to John Dunlop’s pneumatic tire patent it has grown, split and dispersed in a number of different directions. Not least, the design and development of some of the most loved fashion and sportswear apparel, including the Green Flash trainers and its iconic Dunlop bags.

In nineteen eighty seven, John Dunlop invented the first ever pneumatic, inflatable tyre for his son’s bike, tested it himself and finally patented it in 1988. However, sadly for John Dunlop the patent was later deemed invalid due to an earlier patent filed in France and the USA some forty years early. That didn’t stop Dunlop from developing tyres though and in nineteen eighty nine the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company was formed to commercialise John Dunlops work.

Tyre sales boomed and the company grew into an international force. While financial problems let to the sale of certain international elements of the business, Dunlop had a strong hold on the UK market until around 1925 when foreign companies started to compete in the UK. As such Dunlop moved quickly to diversify.

Acquiring the Charles Macintosh Group, the Dunlop brand was given to clothing and footwear. In Wales, for example, trainers are still referred to as D.A.P.s, which is purported to refer to the acronym for Dunlop Athletic Plimsolls. Here began Dunlop’s step towards sportswear and fashion.

Tennis played a big part in the development of the Dunlop brand’s association with sports goods. The manufacture of tennis rackets began around 1929 and continues to this day along with their production of Dunlop tennis balls. While Dunlop Holdings’ sale to BTR Plc in 1985 meant that Dunlop Sport was combined with Slazenger, it will never detract from the amazing history that Dunlop has had in sports.

Perhaps one of the most iconic sportswear range ever created is the Dunlop Green Flash Lace 1555. It was the trainer in which Fred Perry won Wimbledon in 1936. Thanks to the history and the reasonable price tag, the Green Flash is one of the most popular trainers of all time, with more than twenty five million pairs sold. It’s still popular too with a big fan following and the benefit of a seemingly never-ending retro revival.

However, it’s not just sports equipment and clothing that Dunlop Sports is well known for. Dunlop bags have also become a popular fashion, bucking the school yard impression of Dunlop bags as a cheap brand. Thankfully, the childish impression of possessions disappears quickly when you grow up, so college and university kids have taken Dunlop bags to their heart.

It’s fair to say that Dunlop is by no means the same company that it was a hundred years ago, or even thirty years ago, but it’s popularity and brand awareness has remained just as strong. Hopefully Dunlop will be around for a long time to come, in whatever business form, because it’s bags, trainers and tennis rackets are ace.


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