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Get Your Kicks & Celebrate the Rise of Sneaker Culture with “Out of the Box”

“Out of the Box,” a new exhibition of vintage and cutting-edge sneakers presents the fascinating history of this iconic shoe.

Miss Rosenby Miss Rosen
Photo: Pierre Hardy Poworama, 2011 Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, gift of Pierre Hardy. Photo: Ron Wood Courtesy American Federation of Arts/Bata Shoe Museum

For more than 150 years, athletic footwear has graced the scene as some of the most innovative, stylish, and versatile shoes ever made. Back in 1860, little did Thomas Dutton and Throwgood know that the creation of their running show would start a revolution that continues to blaze.

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In celebration of all the goodness that has become a cultural icon, a fashion staple, and a pleasure to rock, the Oakland Museum of California presents Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture, currently on view now through April 2, 2017. The exhibition features 140 iconic sneakers made over the past two centuries, including landmark designs by Adidas, Nike, Puma, Reebok, Converse, and Vans, some of which are being exhibited for the first time.

adidas x Run–DMC 25th Anniversary Superstar, 2011 Courtesy of Run–DMC, collection of Erik Blam Photo: Ron Wood Courtesy American Federation of Arts/Bata Shoe Museum

adidas x Run–DMC 25th Anniversary Superstar, 2011 Courtesy of Run–DMC, collection of Erik Blam Photo: Ron Wood Courtesy American Federation of Arts/Bata Shoe Museum

Christian Louboutin Roller-Boat, 2012 Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Gift of Christian Louboutin Photo: Ron Wood Courtesy American Federation of Arts/Bata Shoe Museum

Christian Louboutin Roller-Boat, 2012 Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Gift of Christian Louboutin Photo: Ron Wood Courtesy American Federation of Arts/Bata Shoe Museum

The show is divided into two sections: the birth of the sneaker (1820-1920), which looks at the technological advancements, primarily the vulcanization of rubber, that allowed for the manufacture of a new type of comfortable, sporty footwear. The second section looks at the evolution of the sneaker in consumer culture, beginning with the first celebrity endorsement of Chuck Taylor for Converse.

Out of the Box features some of the flyest kicks ever made, including Puma Suedes, Reebok Freestyles, and Air Jordans, as well as high-end designs from Prada and Laboutin. Then there are the coveted rarities, such as the Nike Lebron James Stewie Griffins and the Kanye West Yeezy Boot.

Vans Checkerboard Slip-On, 2014 retro of 1980s Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Gift of Vans. Photo: Ron Wood Courtesy American Federation of Arts/Bata Shoe Museum

Vans Checkerboard Slip-On, 2014 retro of 1980s Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Gift of Vans. Photo: Ron Wood Courtesy American Federation of Arts/Bata Shoe Museum

Nike Air Jordan I, 1985 Nike Archives Courtesy American Federation of Arts

Nike Air Jordan I, 1985 Nike Archives Courtesy American Federation of Arts

The exhibition, which was originated by the Bata Show Museum in Toronto, draws its selections from significant private collectors, museums, and archives—including adidas AG, Converse Archives, Kosow Sneaker Museum, Nike Archives, Northampton Museums and Art Gallery, and Reebok Archives.

cart1In conjunction with the show, Skira Rizzoli presents the exhibition catalogue of the same name, which features an introduction by legendary sneakerhead Bobbito Garcia, a must-have for any collector. The book features sneakers ranging from an 1860 spiked running shoe, a pair of 1936 track shoes, Air Jordans I–XX3, the original Air Force 1, and early Adidas Superstars to contemporary sneakers by prominent figures including Damien Hirst, Jeremy Scott, and Jeff Staple, among others.

Manufacturer Unknown Pre-vulcanized Rubber Overshoes, ca. 1830s Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum Photo: Ron Wood Courtesy American Federation of Arts/Bata Shoe Museum

Manufacturer Unknown Pre-vulcanized Rubber Overshoes, ca. 1830s Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum Photo: Ron Wood Courtesy American Federation of Arts/Bata Shoe Museum

Nike x Tom Sachs Whites (Original), 2008-12 Collection of the artist Courtesy American Federation of Arts

Nike x Tom Sachs Whites (Original), 2008-12 Collection of the artist Courtesy American Federation of Arts


Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Whitewall, Dazed Digital, Jocks and Nerds, and L’Oeil de la Photographie. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.