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Fashion
Published: 22 Jul 2015

Urban Icons: The Rise of Sneaker Culture

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The Rise of Sneaker Culture exhibition, New York

The Rise of Sneaker Culture at New York’s Brooklyn Museum is the first major exhibition to explore the complex social, cultural and gender history of the shoe, as well as trace its material and technological evolution from the performance lab to the street. 

From its 19th-century leisure origins to current high-end designer collaborations, 150 pairs of sneakers showcase the design studios and archives of global manufacturers including Nike, Adidas, Keds, New Balance, Puma, Reebok and Converse. Peppered with ‘real life’ sneaker stories, the exhibition explores the footwear’s simultaneous inclusivity and exclusivity, making it relatable to anyone who’s ever owned a pair.

Highlights include two culturally and commercially pivotal events of the 1980s. Adidas signed a long-term endorsement deal with Run DMC, making the brand synonymous with the New York-based rapper crew, bringing it to a much wider audience. Nike also launched its Air Jordan shoe – named after American basketball player Michael Jordan – creating a still booming collector’s economy for the most sought-after versions.

Other notable exhibits include a shoe made from reclaimed gill nets ­– a collaborative prototype from Adidas, British designer Alexander Taylor and US-based environmental group Parley for the Oceans – which will launch in 2016. There is also the Air Jordan XVII (2002) by Nike design director Wilson Smith III. Inspired by jazz music and Aston Martin cars, the sneakers feature sleek, removable lace covers and are presented in an embossed display case, which includes a CD of the exclusive Air Jordan XVII song The Greatest performed by saxophonist Mike Phillips.

The exhibition runs until October 4 2015.

According to US-based sports industry news site SportsOneSource, the international sneaker market has grown by more than 40% since 2004 and is estimated to be worth around $55bn a year. For more, see Sneaker Packaging Trends 2015, Resale Retail: Air Jordan, Sports-Luxe Kith x Snarkitecture and NBA All-Stars Weekend Pop-Ups. See also Stealth Retail: Concepts’ Sneakerhead Pop-Ups, Adidas Sneaker Reservation App and Heritage Power: Adidas Exhibits Superstar History.

For more on the crossover of performance and lifestyle, see Athleisure Engagement Strategies, The Future of Athleisurewear and LA Retail: Spring Openings.

TOPICS: Fashion
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