Bata Shoe Museum: The Rise of Sneaker Culture

museum galleries Bata out of the box

The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto is a cultural gem in a shoe-box-like structure designed by famed architect Raymond Moriyama. Boasting a collection of 13,000 shoes and related artifacts, the museum has four galleries, with displays ranging from Chinese bound-foot shoes and ancient Egyptian sandals to chestnut-crushing clogs and glam platforms.

The current special exhibit “Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture” explores the history of the sneaker with some 120 running shoes from the past 150 years. On view are some of the rarest sneakers from the archives of Adidas, Nike, Reebok, PUMA, Converse and England’s Northampton Museums and Art Gallery, with the largest collection of historical footwear in the world. On loan are shoes from rap music legends Run DMC, sneaker guru Bobbito Garcia aka Kool Bob Love and Dee Wells from OSD (Obsessive Sneaker Disorder).

Now termed a “status symbol and icon of urban culture,” the historical beginnings of the sneaker are shown from its emergence in the 19th century to becoming “one of the most democratic forms of footwear” in the 20th century.


Shoe-Making during Japanese Internment

Shoemaker Japanese internment camp

“Dad had to make so many wooden getas (clogs) for our family of seven. My brothers helped saw, drill, and sand, and we girls braided the straps and knotted them through the holes. They kept our feet from getting dirty after we took our showers, and they were great for walking in the sticky mud when it rained.” So wrote the gifted artist, Chizuko Judy Sugita de Queiroz, in her memoir “Camp Days 1942-1945”.

George Takei, in the book’s introduction, described her art which has arisen out of “girlhood years imprisoned in [an internment] camp called Poston in the desolation of a desert in Arizona.  Chizuko’s art is a powerful narrative of a shameful event in our history. It is also an evocative personal chronicle of the survival of a loving and resilient family.”

See also: “Camp Days 1942-1945” a memoir by Chizuko Judy Sugita de Queiroz.

Special thanks to glass artist Caroline Jonas for this information.