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Prague: ARTĚL Style

Expert recommendations and insider tips for first-time visitors and locals alike from ARTĚL’s founder, Karen Feldman, who has lived in Prague since 1994. Click on the links below for detailed reviews – from Feldman’s own unique perspective – of all the best that Prague has to offer...

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Spring for Cvičky!

Published on April 02nd, 2015 in Shopping

  • Cvičky (photo courtesy of www.c2.staticflickr.com)

  • Kids in Cvičky (photo courtesy of www.namestovo.weblahko.sk)

  • Spartakiáda 1985 (photo courtesy of www.hromnice.cz)

  • Spartakiáda 1985 (photo courtesy of www.cdn.megapixel.cz)

  • Spartakiáda 1985 (photo courtesy of www.numberczech.cz)

  • Ladies in Cvičky (photo courtesy of www.sokolhrabuvka.wz.cz)

  • Endless supply of cvičky! (photo courtesy of cvicky.cz)

  • Bowling in cvičky (photo courtesy of cvicky.cz)

  • Dress-up with cvičky (photo courtesy of www.nd01.jxs.cz)

If you were an '80s preppy who wore Keds with leg warmers and oversized sweatshirts or, going even further back to the '70s, remember when they were practically the only sneakers available on the market, you will have an appreciation for the Czech version of them, cvičky.

 

So called because they were, like Keds, originally used for exercising (in Czech na cvičit means “to exercise”). But not just any ordinary exercising: the first ones were produced in 1960 for the Czecholovak Spartakiada, a massive gymnastics event celebrating the Red Army's liberation of Czechoslovakia that began in 1945 and was held every five years thereafter until the Velvet Revolution in 1990.

 

Spartakiada replaced Sokol, the youth sports movement that was the hallmark of Czech national pride from 1890 until the communists banned it after WWII. To give you some idea of just how massive Spartakiada events were, millions of white canvas cvičky were produced for the gymnasts, soldiers, and students whose attendance at them was mandatory.

 

The 1960 Spartakiada had an impressive turn out of 750,000 gymnasts and 2,000,000 spectators and took place at Prague's Strahov Stadium, considered to be the largest in the world. For a truly mind-boggling look at the whole phenomenon, watch this clip.

 

 

 

 

 

In 1985 the Czech tricolor was added to the previously all white canvas cvičky. They became popular once again for their cheap price tag and availability and were not only sported in gym classes and at Sokol but also as bowling shoes, house slippers, leisure wear, ballet shoes, and as symbols of teenage rebellion by students who decorated them with ink pens.

 

I was amazed to learn that today cvičky have become somewhat of a retro fashion icon – they even have their own Facebook page created by an online catalogue where you can order them in just about any color or pattern imaginable. (You can also buy them at most shoe stores or supermarkets.)

 

I for one find them infinitely more attractive then the infamous Czech all-purpose footwear důchodky and have even been eyeing a pair for my daughter.


 

 

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