The intrigue of sneaker culture lies in the fact that it is both an equalizer and a mark of exclusivity – both egalitarian and elitist. With everyone from rappers and hedge fund managers to athletes and middle schoolers alike finding ways to sport sneakers regularly, the trend has entirely pervaded the fashion world for both utilitarian and aesthetic reasons. But beyond the fashion world, the sports shoe culture has taken on an iconic significance of its own. The basketball sneaker, in particular – from the basic 1917 Chuck Taylor All Stars, to Nike’s full selection of Air Jordans and the Run DMC endorsed Adidas shoe – represents a long tradition in brilliant endorsement, in racial transition, in the emerging Hip-Hop scene and in the commercialization of athletics. In fact, sneaker culture is so intricately nuanced that curator Elizabeth Semmelhack has devoted an entire show to it. “The Rise of Sneaker Culture,” her carefully assembled exhibit, is dedicated to the complex social history of the footwear, spanning all the way from the development of rubber-soled shoes in the 1830’s to models released only in the past year from Nike, Adidas and Reebok. The gallery, featuring around 150 sneakers, departed this summer from its birthplace at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto to show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art from July 10th through October 4th, and will continue on to the Toledo Museum of Art on December 3rd. The show comes along with a fully illustrated catalogue published by the American Federation of Arts in collaboration with the Bata museum and Rizzoli publishers. It comes packed with essays, interviews and an enormous collection of images all examining the social and cultural politics of sneakers.
Until October 4 at Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway Brooklyn, New York 11238–6052
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