Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture (2015-2017)

Featuring rare and iconic sneakers that tell the story of the athletic shoe as it evolved into a staple of casual style and an object of high design.


Sneakers have long been loved as a staple of casual fashion, transcending gender, age, and socioeconomic categories to become the footwear of choice for millions across the globe. Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture tells the sneaker’s complex and fascinating story through approximately 150 pairs drawn from the collections of the Bata Shoe Museum; the Northampton Museums and Art Gallery; the archives of Adidas, Converse, Nike, and PUMA; and private collectors such as Dee Wells of Obsessive Sneaker Disorder and legendary hip-hop group Run-D.M.C.

Organized into five sections, Out of the Box includes iconic sneakers ranging from an 1860 spiked running shoe, the replica track shoes worn by Olympian Jesse Owens in 1936, the Air Jordan series, and the original Air Force 1 and early Adidas Superstars, to contemporary examples designed by such prominent figures as Damien Hirst, Christian Louboutin, Kanye West, and Nike sneaker design legend Tinker Hatfield.

From its historical origins in the recreational pastimes of the elite and the increasing importance of physical fitness to its role today at the vanguard of athletic performance and urban style, the sneaker has been a pivotal component of dress for more than 150 years. Out of the Box examines how the sneaker’s ever-evolving cultural significance offers insights into the world in which we live, work, and play.

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Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
July 10-October 4, 2015
Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OH
December 3, 2015–February 28, 2016
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
June 12–August 14, 2016
Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY
September 10–November 27, 2016
Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA
December 22–April 2, 2017
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
May 13–September 4, 2017


Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture (2015-2017)

Authors: Elizabeth Semmelhack With Cey Adams, Eric Avar, Bobbito Garcia, Tinker Hatfield, Ada Hopkins, Walt Frazier, Adam Horovitz, Christian Louboutin, Darryl McDaniels, Dee Wells Publishers:American Federation of Arts & Skira Rizzoli (2015) Dimensions 10 ¼ x 12 in. Format: Hardcover, 256 pp ISBN: 978-0-8478-4660-3

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Elizabeth Semmelhack is the Senior Curator of the Bata Shoe Museum.


Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Bata Shoe Museum. The exhibition is curated by Elizabeth Semmelhack, Senior Curator of the Bata Shoe Museum.

Generous support for the national tour of the exhibition is provided by Macy’s.

2016BSM_NewLogo       Macys