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Brooklyn Museum Examines Sneaker Culture in New Exhibit

Brooklyn Museum’s newest exhibition is an ode to the borough’s signature shoe: the sneaker.

On Friday, the museum opened The Rise of Sneaker Culture, a first exhibit of its kind that examines the complex social history and cultural significance of sneakers. The exhibit pulls key styles from the archives of Reebok, Adidas, Nike, Converse and Puma, as well as sneakers from private collectors, including Dee Wells of Obsessive Sneaker Disorder, Bobbito Garcia and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels.

The touring exhibition, which originated at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, outlines the evolution of sneakers from the development of rubber-soled footwear from the 1830s to its current role as a status symbol, fashion statement and a vital instrument for athletes.

On display are early iterations of vulcanized footwear, a high-heeled women’s athletic shoe from 1925, prototype drawings by Nike legend Tinker Hatfield and a round-up of some of the most innovated models to make it to market, including Paul Litchfield’s Reebok Pump, Eric Avar’s Nike Foamposite and Hatfield’s Nike Air Trainer 1.

Highlights include a spiked running shoe from the 1860s, the original Air Force 1, early Adidas Superstars, contemporary designs by Damien Hirst and Kanye West and the high-end designs created by the influx of luxury labels currently tapping into the streetwear and sneaker market.

Also included are film footage, photographic images and drawings that contextualize the sneakers and explore the social history, technical innovation, trends and celebrity endorsements that have shaped sneaker culture over the past two centuries. Excerpts from the documentary Just for Kicks, covering sneaker culture from the 1970s to 2004, will also be screened within the exhibition.

The Rise of Sneaker Culture will run until Oct. 4.