Explore The History of Sneakers In Toledo

An exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art showcases the complex history of sneakers.
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What started as a practical way to comfortably outfit athletes has grown to a multi-billion dollar industry. Footwear sales from the “big three”—Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour—grew 47% between 2009 and 2013 to a staggering $25 billion. With all that money comes cultural impact and cutting-edge design—you don’t get to $25 billion without being trendy. On the backs of superstars like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Kanye West, sneaker culture is bigger than ever before.

Converse Rubber Shoe Company, All Star/Non Skid, 1917. Converse Archives, courtesy American Federation of Arts.
Converse Rubber Shoe Company, All Star/Non Skid, 1917. Converse Archives, courtesy American Federation of Arts.

Examine this intersection of art, fashion, and commerce at The Rise of Sneaker Culture, visiting the Toledo Museum of Art’s Levis Galleries from December 5 to February 28. See approximately 160 sneakers, including all 23 editions of Michael Jordan’s signature line, a pair of 1936 track shoes like the ones worn by Olympian Jesse Owens, the original Nike Air Force 1, prototype drawings by legendary sneaker designer Tinker Hatfield, and more. Follow the timeline of sneaker culture through film, photos, and design drawings. The traveling exhibit has already been to Toronto and Brooklyn before this Midwest debut, and will head to Atlanta next summer and Louisville next fall. It’s organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Bata Shoe Museum, and curated by Elizabeth Semmelhack, senior curator of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog, Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture. The catalog includes contributions from NBA Hall of Famer Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Beastie Boys member Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, fashion designer and bizarre sneaker king Jeremy Scott, and footwear designer Christian Louboutin, among others.

The Rise of Sneaker Culture aims to be both fun and informative, so don’t miss your chance to see it in Ohio.
Scroll through to check out some of the featured kicks:

Dominion Rubber Company, Fleet Foot, about 1925. Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum. Photo: Hal Roth, courtesy American Federation of Arts/Bata Shoe Museum
Dominion Rubber Company, Fleet Foot, about 1925. Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum. Photo: Hal Roth, courtesy American Federation of Arts/Bata Shoe Museum
Nike, Waffle Trainer, 1974. Northampton Museums and Art Gallery. Photo: Ron Wood, courtesy American Federation of Arts/ Bata Shoe Museum.
Nike, Waffle Trainer, 1974. Northampton Museums and Art Gallery. Photo: Ron Wood, courtesy American Federation of Arts/ Bata Shoe Museum.
Nike, Air Jordan I, 1985. Nike Archives. Photo: Ron Wood, courtesy American Federation of Arts/Bata Shoe Museum.
Nike, Air Jordan I, 1985. Nike Archives. Photo: Ron Wood, courtesy American Federation of Arts/Bata Shoe Museum.
Pierre Hardy, Poworama, 2011. Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, gift of Pierre Hardy. Photo: Ron Wood, courtesy American Federation of Arts/Bata Shoe Museum.
Pierre Hardy, Poworama, 2011. Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, gift of Pierre Hardy. Photo: Ron Wood, courtesy American Federation of Arts/Bata Shoe Museum.

The Rise of Sneaker Culture, Dec. 5-Feb. 28, free, Toledo Museum of Art, toledomuseum.org

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