NY exhibit unties history, culture of sneakers

From rubber-soled footwear in the 1830s to a spike running shoe in the 1860s and luxury creations by designers Christian Louboutin and Prada, a new exhibit traces the history of sneakers from their humble beginnings to iconic status.

“The Rise of Sneaker Culture,” which opens at the Brooklyn Museum on Friday and runs through Oct.4, reveals how the comfortable athletic footwear developed as people had more leisure time and sports rose in popularity.

It includes about 150 pairs of sneakers from museums, archives of manufacturers such as Adidas, Converse, Nike, Puma and Reebok and from private collections.

“It’s an exhibition that explores this item that is very common to most people,” said Lisa Small, the curator of exhibitions at the museum.

“Everyone has a pair of sneakers, but this show kind of explores its history from the 19th century through today and how it’s become this kind of iconic form of footwear that has so many different meanings.”

Divided into six sections it shows how sneakers developed from early 1920s Keds canvas top shoes to more specialized sport sneakers in the decades leading to the early 1970s.

It spans the development of high-end sneakers linked with hip-hop and basketball stars such as Michael Jordan. As luxury designers and celebrities such as Kanye West jumped into the game, the elite element continued.

“We have a shoe that Kanye designed for Louis Vuitton,” said Small. “We have sneakers by Christian Louboutin, that’s another really interesting fact. High-end women’s shoe designers entered the men’s sneaker game. So we’ve got Prada, we’ve got Louboutin, we’ve got Jimmy Choo’s.”

    Some of the highlights include all 23 pairs of Air Jordan sneakers Nike created with former NBA star Michael Jordan and a pair of Adidas signed and donated by rap group Run DMC.

Visitors can also view the running shoes that Adi Dassler, founder of Adidas, gave to Olympic athlete Jesse Owens to train in for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and share their own sneaker stories in an interactive display.

(Reporting by Alicia Powell for Reuters Television, writing by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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