At the exhibit, The Rise of Sneaker Culture which opened at the Brooklyn Museum in July, sports and fashion go step by step in this showcase of rare sneakers and the evolution behind this ‘soleful’ culture. As one observes the various brands in glass displays—Adidas, Converse, Puma, Nike, Reebok, Asics, and more it is easy to forget that what is on their feet is what everyone is there to see.

As described on the exhibition site, “The Rise of Sneaker Culture is the first exhibition to explore the complex social history and cultural significance of the footwear now worn by billions of people throughout the world.” Behind the footwear are the carefully planned designs highlighted by early sketches, prototypes, patterns, and various techniques to result in the finished product, with items dating from the mid-19th century. Photographs, early concept models, film footage and interactive media provide added background to the grouped, chronologically ordered collections.


A feeling of classic sneaker nostalgia is evoked as each display contains labels to accompany it: each shoe tells a story. There are leather shoes, which show early forms of casual sneakers. Running shoes and basketball sneakers show the evolution of performance footwear balanced with style. From Allen Iverson’s Answer IV, Converse Hi-Tops, decorated Puma’s, not to mention walls of Jordan’s and Air Jordan 1 and signed Adidas x Run-DMC Superstars, the exhibit includes 150 pairs of sneakers.

Witness rare sneakers such as Michael Johnson’s gold running shoes or iconic basketball kicks from the 90s: Grant Hill’s Fila’s. The design process and early beginnings of sneakers are also on display. You can see the limited Nike Dunk Pigeon as well as collaborations with skate brands. But also included are high-end fashion interpretations of the street wear classic, from sneakers by Prada, along with avant-garde artists like Damien Hirst. True sneaker heads will be there but this is an exhibition for everyone.

Brooklyn, New York City, and cool kicks definitely have a connection. The exhibition will be up at the Brooklyn Museum until October 4th.

Next, check out the many secrets of Prospect Park, where the Brooklyn Museum is located. Get in touch with the author at Michael Gaffney