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.
Pro basketball players score points under the net or from the line with passion. They score sneakers on the street just as avidly. Wearing head-turning sneakers is part of ‘who has game’. “Players want to be seen, and they don’t want to look alike,” said Jay Gaspar, the Phoenix Suns’ equipment manager. “Shoes become their identity.”
The N.B.A restricts players’ professional apparel to matching uniforms; they even supply the socks. But sneakers are different – the players are free to express themselves. And they do, with mucho gusto and mucho dinero. (Pleasure and pay checks.)
Go to the link below to see which player has:
- four locations across different states to warehouse his sneaker collection?
- a Nike sponsorship but gives himself a ‘sneaker allowance’ of $2,000 a month to buy more?
- a sneaker vault in his home?
- a 2,000-pair collection?
- shoes accented in gold as a tribute to the Grammy Awards?
- 200 pairs piled in boxes next to his bed?
- splurged on 57 pairs in a single afternoon?
- said he would love to wear a new style every game?
- played in a pair of Air Yeezy 2s — an exceedingly rare sneaker, the product of a collaboration between Nike and the rapper Kanye West?
- claimed to have “the best shoe game in the league”?
1. A Brief History of Sneaker Brands
Check out the link for a gallery of thirteen great pictures. Here’s a cheat sheet:
- 1916 – U.S. Rubber, Keds, original sneaker
- 1917 – Converse Rubber Shoe Company, All Star, high-top basketball shoes
- 1920 – ‘Adi’ Dassler, shoemaker for Jesse Owens (1936); founds Adidas (1948)
- 1937 – PF Flyers (for Posture Foundation), distributes weight evenly
- 1958 – Reebok is founded
- 1960 – New Balance, the Trackster, in multiple widths
- 1970 (circa) – Nike co-founder creates treads with kitchen waffle iron
- 1991 – Reebok, the Pump, custom cushioning
- 2004 – Nike, the Free, original minimal shoe
- 2005 – Vibram, the FiveFingers, sections for each toe
- 2006 – Nike, the Air Max 360, foamless midsole
- 2006 – Nike, the Air Zoom, ‘talks’ to Apple’s iPod nano
- 2011 – Brooks, the PureProject, for a natural stride.
Article by Dave McGinn, The Globe and Mail, May 12, 2012.
2. He Says “Sneakers” and… She Says “Tennis Shoes”
Josh Katz, graphics editor at the New York Times and PhD student – http://www4.ncsu.edu/~jakatz2/ did an online questionnaire on specific word choices across the USA. This map shows the concentration of the use of “sneakers” as a vocabulary item.
Source for map:
and more about this study:
This week’s blog will explore how sneakers have a wedge position in the sub-cultures of fashion and athletics. Are we quietly trading our rubber soles, by another name?