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A Legendary Indian Sneaker Brand Goes Global

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As kicks go, the Bata Tennis has quite an exotic pedigree. Worn by hundreds of millions of Indian schoolchildren since 1936, the long, lean sneaker with distinctive corrugated rubber-toe guard and pinstripe is one of the best-selling shoes of all time. But until now, it was only available on the subcontinent.

Company founder Tomas Bata set out to “shoe mankind” in 1894 and transformed the small, Czechoslovakian cobbler into one of the first brands to open its own factories all over the world. Along the way, Bata built company towns to cater to every need of his workers and constructed Bata planes to fly teams across the globe.

Today the shoe giant produces 15 million pairs in India annually, and through its twenty-five factories throughout the world, serves 1 million customers daily. But Bata is still considered a phantom brand by trainer collectors who snap up rare vintage pairs for increasingly high prices.

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To celebrate its 120th anniversary, Bata has produced the first international edition of the Bata Tennis for spring in its original white canvas with green pinstripe and new versions in indigo blue and black, available exclusively at Colette in Paris; Dover Street Market in New York, London, and Tokyo; and Miami’s The Webster.

“We’ve been using the same Indian last since the 1930s, which was designed to fit feet across many different regions, and that’s what gives the shoe its unique elongated shape,” says Charles Pignal (great-grandson of Tomas Bata), who spent several weeks fine-tuning the shoe at the brand’s original factory near Calcutta. “There are a lot of shoes in Bata’s history that are iconic,” says Pignal, “but this particular shoe is a real emblem of what we stand for. When I talk to Indians, they all say, ‘Everyone wore those!’” This spring we can all wear them.

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