Getting Your Sneak On

A new show at the Brooklyn Museum, The Rise of Sneaker Culture, has been getting raves, mostly for its focus on the eighties, a particularly obsessive era for sneakerheads. The most notable of these seminal sneakers, among 150 pieces in all, are the Nike Air Jordan I (1985) and Reebok Pumps (1989). A marvel, too, are the Reebok x Chanel Insta Pump Fury, the 1997 collaboration between Chanel and Reebok that ranked among the first so-called high-low joint efforts, but which was never produced beyond the runway — thus extremely rare.


History buffs, however, will gravitate toward the odd-looking vintage variety of sneaker — so odd that they hardly look like sneakers at all. For instance, the world’s oldest-known running shoes look like black lace-ups you’d see at any formal event today, except they have long metal spikes on the sole and a leather band across the top for added traction. They are, shockingly, over 150 years old. Then there’s the earliest Converse All Star. At 98, it looks remarkably modern, owing to the fact that it has the kind of rubber sole still used today in almost all sneakers.

Over on the other side of the gender divide (back when few thought there could be more than two), a pair of high-heeled ladies sneakers from 1925 were apparently an attempt to allow women to engage in sporting activities, as was their wont at the time, while not losing their femininity. Thus the compromise was born, but in the context of today, they look more comical than anything else.


The Rise of Sneaker Culture, July 10 – October 4, 2015, Brooklyn Museum, NYC


Bata x Wilson John Wooden, 1977


Thomas Dutton and Thorowgood, 1860–65


Jeremy Scott for Adidas


Chanel x Reebok Insta Pump Fury, 1997


Pierre Hardy Poworama, 2011


Dominion Rubber Company, Fleet Foot, 1925


Adidas Micropacer, 1984


Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik by Adidas AG, 1936


Nike Air Jordan I, 1985


PUMA x Undefeated, Clyde Gametime Gold, 2012


Adidas x Run–DMC 25th Anniversary Superstar, 2011


Nike x Tom Sachs NikeCraft Lunar Underboot Prototype, 2008–12


Nike Waffle Sneaker, 1974

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