The Rise of Sneaker Culture at Brooklyn Museum


If summer is a time when the living is easy–and I firmly agree that we should all at least try to make it so… the thrilling bustle of fall will be with us again soon enough–then the Brooklyn Museum has the perfect way to spend an hour of so on a hot July or August afternoon. That's right, The Rise of Sneaker Culture exhibition may have been mocked by a certain segment of city's cultural elite (nothing new for the Brooklyn Museum, which has a recent history of presenting family-friendly, crowd-pleasing shows to boost attendance and get people in the habit of going to museums, which is, of course, a good thing for everyone), but if you or your kids have any sort of connection to any era of sneaker-hood, from today's most insane new designs to the '80s NBA and hip hop styles to the PF Flyers and OG Pro Keds of my own personal youth, you will no question enjoy this show.


The Rise of Sneaker Culture at Brooklyn Museum

The Rise of Sneaker Culture at the Brooklyn Museum showcases some 150 pairs of sneakers covering nearly 200 years of people wearing rubber on their feet. The earliest, antique sneakers on display here are interesting mostly because of how uncomfortable (and tiny!) they look, and, as it is true throughout the entire show, the accompanying "wall cards" do a nice job of succinctly explaining the cultural and technological significance of each major leap forward. But beginning in the 1950s, after rubber became cheap and they became the shoes of the masses, the sneakers on exhibition start to look a lot more familiar, and everyone will feel that nice jolt of recognition when their childhood era makes its appearance. The show covers just about every major brand and style, with shoes on loan from manufacturer's archives (Puma, Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Converse) as well as the private collections of renowned sneaker-heads such as Darryl "DMC" McDaniels and Dee Wells of the popular podcast Obsessive Sneaker Disorder.    



Are Sneakers Wearable Art?

Among the many, many stylistic highlights here: the Roy Lichtenstein-ish Poworama sneakers by designer Pierre Hardy; the red, black, and white first-issue Air Jordans from 1985, which cost the star, then a rookie, $5,000 a game in fines, which Nike was only too happy to pay; the first real lightweight running shoes, also by Nike, the Waffle Trainers from 1974 (before the company got HUGE); the 25th Anniversary Superstar Adidas, signed by both Run and DMC (for obvious reasons); and a number of shoes embellished by artists such as Tom Sachs and Mache, whose Joker kicks are definitely show-stoppers. In addition to all of the nostalgic, one-of-a-kind, and cutting edge style, The Rise of Sneaker Culture at the Brooklyn Museum also explores such phenomenon as the iconic "sneakers on a wire," when shoes are flung over telephone or power lines to dangle by their tied-together shoelaces above the city streets (there is no single answer, re: "what do they mean?"), as well as evocative videos and a "design your own" table for kids and, apparently, plenty of grown-ups.


When and Where To Check Out The Rise of Sneaker Culture

The Rise of Sneaker Culture will be at the Brooklyn Museum through October 4. The Brooklyn Museum is located at 200 Eastern Parkway (the 2 and 3 trains stop right in front), and is open on Wednesday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., except for Thursdays, when it stays open until 10:00. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

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