The Bata Shoe Museum unveiled their latest exhibition ‘Out of the Box’ last night, the first exhibition of its kind in North America showcasing the history of the sneaker culture. Highlighting iconic sneakers from the 20th and 21st centuries, the sold-out opening night gave visitors the opportunity to explore the historical beginnings of the sneaker from its emergence in the 19th century to becoming one of the most democratic forms of footwear in the 20th century to its current position as status symbol and icon of urban culture. The new exhibition features over 120 pairs of sneakers representing the 150 years.
Rare sneakers from the archives of Adidas, Nike, Reebok, PUMA, Converse and Northampton Museums and Art Gallery, along with loans from rap legends Run DMC, sneaker guru Bobbito Garcia aka’ Kool Bob Love and Dee Wells from OSD will be featured. The exhibition will also include limited editions as well as the latest designs from fashion designers, including Christian Louboutin, Pierre Hardy, Lanvin and Prada. A particular highlight is the handpicked sneakers and sketches by Nike designers Tinker Hatfield, Tobie Hatfield, Mark Smith and Eric Avar.
“Sneakers appear to be the most democratic form of footwear—they are widely available and worn by all—but in reality sneakers are part of a fascinating matrix of nuanced social meaning” said Elizabeth Semmelhack, Senior Curator at the Bata Shoe Museum and Curator of the Out of the Box exhibition. “Since the 19th century sneakers have been intimately linked to expressions of status as well as gender. I am particularly interested in how sneaker culture today is intertwined with shifts in idealized masculinity and how, what I am calling, the sneakerfication of men’s dress is defining these changes.”
The exhibition, designed by famed industrial designer Karim Rashid, will run until March 2014. For more details on this exhibit and upcoming lecture series click here.
The origin of the sneaker dates back to the middle of the 19th century when it emerged from a confluence of technological advancements and profound cultural shifts. These first sneakers were called plimsoles but by 1873, the term sneaker had been coined. By the middle of the 20th century the pursuit of bodily perfection took on nationalistic overtones and the sneaker became firmly entrenched in the wardrobe of millions. The ‘Me Generation’ of the 1970s shifted the focus of fitness from cultivating group identity to the pursuit of individual success and high?end athletic footwear became signifiers of conspicuous consumption. It was the embrace of the basketball shoe in American urban centers, however, at the end of the century that would give rise to sneaker culture and transform the sneaker into the icon that it is today.