Forget the shoelaces - Tabs for all

Touch fasteners are to children's sneakers as white bread is to peanut butter and jelly.

The trendlet

And just as back-to-school season fades into late fall and, eventually - gasp - winter, the easy-to-close tabs are evolving beyond Iron Man athletic shoes to sturdy Mary Janes and boots.

Where does it come from?

Velcro - the original touch fastener - was invented by Swiss engineer George de Mestral in the 1940s after an inspirational walk in the forest with burrs clinging to his trousers. De Mestral was awarded a patent in 1955 for Velcro, a combination of French words velvet and crochet.

Fast-forward to 1968, a big year for Velcro. Already used on the then-futuristic runways of Paco Rabanne and Pierre Cardin, NASA took advantage of Velcro's gravity-defying quality and used it to affix pens and food packets to astronauts during the first Apollo mission.

It was also the year Puma debuted Velcro sneakers at the Olympics. Tommie Smith, one of the African American athletes who joined his teammates in a black power salute, won a gold medal for track and field while wearing the trainers.

In the following decade, the original Velcro patent expired and several companies started to manufacture their own versions of the easy-to-stick system. Still, the world never stopped referring to the hook-and-loop fasteners as Velcro, just as we refer to tissues as Kleenex and cotton swabs as Q-tips.

During the 1980s, Adidas began making children's shoes with the clingy closure. By the early '90s, there wasn't a high- or low-top sneaker brand that didn't have it. Although the quick-grip sneaks have moved in and out of fashion with adults - most recently on Yeezy Boosts - they have always remained popular with little people (and their parents) because of their relative ease.

Who is wearing them?

Active toddlers and elementary schoolers in the classroom, on the playground, and in kiddie culinary classes. And adults who like to be comfortable.

Did Elizabeth wear them?

If it weren't for my soft, red Reebok high-tops, I wouldn't even have known what Velcro was. These days, however, I would prefer my Velcro on Mary Janes.

Should your kid wear them?

Yes, because for little ones, fun should always beat out fashion.

All shoes courtesy of Plae at www.goplae.com and Nordstrom. Chloe in Marin Madia print $49.95; Max in Odyssea print, $64.95; Thandi in cloud 9 print, $79.95; Ty in navy/denim, $54.95. Interchangeable tabs are $4.95 for a set of two.

ewellington@phillynews.com

215-854-2704

@ewellingtonphl