Technology pushes fashion boundaries for footwear

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The chargeable sneakers

Taurai Mangudhla
It appears science fiction clips have always been ahead of everyone when they predicted the invention of mobile phones, though the concept seemed to be driven by satellite connectivity and not necessarily GSM.

By 2000, mobile phone technology had taken the world by storm and even invaded Africa. At the time mobile phones were a preserve for the rich and famous, but they were to become a must have for everyone.

Just in the same manner electric blankets evolved from concepts in the 1920s to become a reality. By 1990, manufacturers were concerned about the safety of electromagnetic fields in fabrics that are designed for direct contact with the skin, but this did not deter invention. A lot has happened in terms of combining fabrics and electricity.

An electric blanket is simply a bed covering with a built-in heating element so that a sleeper can maintain his or her desired temperature even in the coldest of temperatures.

Although they have arguably become the most successful combination of fabric and electric current, electric blankets remain alien in parts of the world that don’t experience near freezing temperatures.

Likewise, one can feel lost, like they are from another world when their computer screen is screaming “ban the cold and keep yourself warm with the best battery operated body warmers for men and women.”

A few years back no one would have imagined the invention of heated socks, heated slippers, heated insoles for shoes, heated jackets, vests, pants, shoes and even under garments.

The electric current produces desired heat while the fabric material also keeps the heat pressed tightly to your feet or any other part of the body for top-notch heat transfer. Rechargeable lithium batteries, which are used with the technology, can generate serious heat hence the use of controllers is necessary to regulate warmth.

These fabric items borrow largely from the invention of the electric blanket.

What all these rechargeable heated clothes, just like the blanket, have in common is the generation and preservation of heat to warm the owner.

This is not the same with chargeable sneakers that produce glowing colourful light for no other reason except to make the owner look “cool” particularly when they go out clubbing at night.

In the past few years’ chargeable unisex sneakers became a hit across the world, particularly in Asia where they are manufactured. They are very popular with the younger “cool dudes” who won’t miss an opportunity to be outstanding at a gathering.

Whatever inspired the inventor, these shoes have USB charging pots and lithium batteries that store energy to produce light when activated.

They produce different colours at intervals. Some are equipped with kinetic energy generating technology that produces electricity as one walks. This energy is then used to charge mobile phones. This is no doubt a cool invention and big score on renewable energy, but is it really necessary for anyone who doesn’t live in the wilderness?

Sadly these light up sneakers have been subject to ridicule given that previously beaming shoes were for kids and they just look hideous on a grown man or woman, at least for me.

Whatever the case, technology has moved to clothing and we wait to see what the future holds.

Just to give you an idea, some inventors are already going for solar fabrics to make clothes and harvest the renewable energy.

I came across some literature which quotes one Meg Grant, of Solar Fiber, saying that she and co-collaborators from Giessen University are already pushing the textile boundaries in terms of solar fibers.

“If you look around you, textiles cover so many surfaces, so why not give them a “super power” that can take advantage of this, like solar energy harvesting,” Grant was quoted as saying.

The idea behind solar fiber, Grant said, is a flexible photovoltaic fiber that converts sunlight energy into electrical energy via a yarn that can be worked into all sorts of fabrics.

Imagine shopping for your new suit and having to ask if where or nor it’s made of solar fiber. Maybe it will be a hit, your designer outfit producing electricity. Really?

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