July 10th-October 4th 2015
Sneakers have become a global obsession, perhaps the defining accessory of our generation. No other article of clothing carries as much cache as the sneaker– one particular style can be used as an anthropological tool to discern so much about the character wearing them, from sports affiliation to music appreciation.
The Brooklyn Museum is hosting its first exhibition to explore the complex social history and cultural significance of the footwear worn by people all over the world from different countries, backgrounds and socioeconomic standing. With over 150 pairs on show, The Brooklyn Museum examines the evolution of the sneaker from its beginnings to its current role as status symbol and urban icon.
Models by Adidas, Prada, Converse, Nike, Puma and Reebok are on show, from archives created by private collectors such as hip hop legends’s Darryl “DMC” McDanela.
With a synthesis of film footage, interactive media, photographic images and design drawings, we are able to contextualize everything and explore the social history, technical innovations, fashion trends and marketing campaigns that have shaped sneaker culture over the last two centuries.
The exhibition begins at the very root of the sneaker, with the rubber tree. We learn about the sap from this tree, and find out how and why the sneaker came into existence in the first place.
Initially, sneakers were solely for the elite, those who had the time and luxury to play tennis or other high-class sports.
Between the two world wars, the respective governments began to democratize physical health and sneakers, so that men had fit bodies to serve their country. Eventually, when rubber production simplified after World War Two, it lost its status and the price point became very low.
When we reached 1984, sneaker culture grew exponentially as hip hop’s relevance grew– it became part of culture’s tapestry. The craze took off like wild fire, with anyone and everyone desperately seeking the latest model and color palette that was on the shelves.
The Air Jordan was the turning point in sneaker history, and since then, their popularity and importance continues to increase and evolve into new spheres of culture.
This is a fantastical curated exhibition, and gives sneakers an honorable light that anyone can appreciate, regardless of whether you have a “sneaker head” status or not.
It is impossible to ignore or underestimate the sneaker, as they are so important culturally. After all, people spend days in lines outside of a store to attempt to grab the newest pair of shoes (be it Supreme skateboard shoes or more high-fashion Yeezy’s).
The sneaker is an undeniable force in fashion, music and sports– now we can fully understand the importance of them as an artifact and art object. They are the subject of songs, the reason for trends, and a catalyst indie transforming athletes into designers.
It is quite remarkable to see the rare, historic shoes displayed under locked glass like ancient Egyptian artifacts– they are art after all though, anthropology in perhaps its most immediately apparent form. This show supersedes style, it is about a cultural movement.