Now closed

April 2013 – June 2014


On April 25, 2013 the BSM opened Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture, an exhibition that explores the history of the sneaker from the 19th century through to today. Out of the Box was the first exhibition in North America to showcase the history of sneaker culture and will feature over 120 sneakers representing the past 150 years. Highlighting iconic sneakers from the 20th and 21st centuries, Museum visitors will have the opportunity to explore the historical beginnings of the sneaker from its emergence in the 19th century to becoming one of the most democratic forms of footwear in the 20th century to its current position as status symbol and icon of urban culture.

Rare sneakers from the archives of adidas, Nike, Reebok, PUMA, Converse and Northampton Museums and Art Gallery, along with loans from rap legends Run DMC, sneaker guru Bobbito Garcia aka Kool Bob Love and Dee Wells from OSD are featured. The exhibition also includes the latest designs from fashion designers, including Christian Louboutin, Pierre Hardy, Lanvin and Prada, as well as exceptional limited editions such as the Nike Dunk Supremes and LeBron James Stewies. A particular highlight is the handpicked sneakers and sketches by Nike designers Tinker Hatfield, Tobie Hatfield, Mark Smith and Eric Avar.

The origin of the sneaker dates back to the middle of the 19th century when it emerged from a confluence of technological advancements and profound cultural shifts. These first sneakers were called plimsoles but by 1873, the term sneaker had been coined. By the middle of the 20th century the pursuit of bodily perfection took on nationalistic overtones and the sneaker became firmly entrenched in the wardrobe of millions. The ‘Me Generation’ of the 1970s shifted the focus of fitness from cultivating group identity to the pursuit of individual success and high-end athletic footwear became signifiers of conspicuous consumption. It was the embrace of the basketball shoe in American urban centers, however, at the end of the century that would give rise to sneaker culture and transform the sneaker into the icon that it is today.

The BSM exhibition was designed by famed industrial designer Karim Rashid. A significant departure from the Bata Shoe Museum’s previous installations, the exhibit’s look was very modern in style and vibe with blasts of colour against the predominantly white environment, a design that is true to Karim’s aesthetics and vision. “I have always been very interested in the sneaker since I am a true believer of the age of casualism” said Karim Rashid. “As a designer I also tend towards the running shoe as shoe of choice due to the great advances in technology, materials, performance, design, and style. It seems that the opportunity of experimentation is endless. So in turn, this exhibition showcased sneakers that all had pivotal implications on the industry, market, and society. The design of the exhibition reinforces the leaps and bounds made by the sneaker and its place within the flux, speed and charge of society. I am so pleased to work with the illustrious Bata Shoe Museum to make this exhibition a reality.”

In addition to the lenders already noted, the Bata Shoe Museum’s sneaker holdings are complemented by loans from individuals and organizations, including PONY, Ewing Athletics, Mache, Phillip Nutt, Thad Jayaseelan, Sheraz Amin, Christian Louboutin, Chad Jones, Matte Babel and contemporary artists Tom Sachs/ Sperone Westwater Gallery and Shantell Martin.