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Fashion & Style

The top 10 kicks at the Rise of Sneaker Culture

Posted by Bianca Venerayan / April 26, 2013

Sneakers Art TorontoOut of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture at the Bata Shoe Museum - the first North American exhibition of its kind - initially struck me as one of the strangest exhibitions I've ever encountered. The sneaker is so seamlessly integrated into almost everyone's lives that it's a bit odd to see them displayed immaculately behind glass.

But, as I began exploring the 130 some-odd shoes I began to realize the entire culture is more multi-faceted than I thought - the exhibition included everything from the first running shoes (ever) to Louis Vuitton x Kanye West Don's. So, whether you're a sneakerhead, fashion enthusiast, over-zealous gym addict, or an average Joe, there's definitely something for you to see.

Here are my picks for the top 10 sneakers featured at Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture exhibition at the Bata Shoe Museum.

Dutton and Thorowgood running shoes, 1860-1865
Sneakers Art TorontoI thought it would be most appropriate to start this list off with the oldest known pair of runners. Though they look a lot like men's leather dress shoes, the spikes and the supportive strap were meant for less formal occasions.

Nike Air Jordan III, 1988
nike airA pair of Nike Air Jordan I's was also on display, but the III's were the first to incorporate the Jumpman logo that we all know and love. The history behind the shoe of not-so-humble beginnings earned it a spot here -- Michael Jordan made them famous by paying a $5000 fine at each game because colourful footwear was prohibited on the courts.

Nike Pro SB x De La Soul, 2005
Sneakers Art TorontoEight years later, this pair is still one of the most popular Nike SB releases of all time. Designed in collaboration with hip-hop group De La Soul, the high-top sneakers feature a holographic print of their 3 Feet and Rising album cover.

Louis Vuitton x Kanye West Don, 2009
Sneakers Art TorontoThe Louis Vuitton x Kanye West shoe line marked one of Kanye's first forays into fashion design. This particular pair is the most imaginative of the ten styles released in collaboration with the renowned fashion house, featuring an analogous colour scheme in only the highest quality leather.

Converse All Star, 1940s-1950s
Sneakers Art TorontoEverybody's got a pair of Converse All Stars somewhere in their closet - it'd be a shame not to pay homage to the history behind the iconic sneaker. These three styles are variations of the basketball shoe between 1940 and 1950, including the different logo placements of basketball player/spokesperson Chuck Taylor.

Nike Stewie Griffin LeBron VI, 2009
Sneakers Art TorontoThis Nike LeBron VI - inspired by LeBron James' favourite Family Guy character - is amazingly detailed; the bold colours are outlined in black, giving the sneaker a surreal cartoon vibe. Unfortunately, they were never commercially released, making the Bata Shoe Museum one of the only places to see them in the flesh.

Mache Customs, 2012
Sneakers Art TorontoMache is king of sneaker customization - Jay-Z and Kanye West can vouch for him. This particular pair of Nike Air Force XXV's features a hand-painted portrait of Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

PUMA RS-Computer Shoe, 1986
Sneakers Art TorontoSneaker technicians have certainly tried it all - these PUMAs are solid proof that athletic shoes will always aim to be (questionably) progressive. This pair - released in 1986 - came with a software package and cable so that they could be linked to a computer to pull up data on running distance and time.

PUMA x Ronnie Fieg Disc Blaze OG Cove, 2012
Sneakers Art TorontoIn the 90's, PUMA released footwear with disc closure systems in place of laces; turning the disc would tighten the shoe as needed. Last year, sneaker designer Ronnie Fieg reimagined the classic Disc Blaze, releasing an updated version in collaboration with PUMA.

Jeremy Scott for Adidas Totem, 2013
Sneakers Art TorontoLast but certainly not least: the Jeremy Scott for Adidas JS Wings 2.0 "Totem." When I think of Jeremy Scott's shoes, I automatically think of wings, exaggerated tongues, and in-your-face colours. This pair - as part of his Totem collection of First Nations-inspired pieces - uses all three elements to create a controversial final product.

The Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture exhibition at the Bata Shoe Museum will be open until March 30, 2014.

Photos by Javin Lau



Mikey / April 26, 2013 at 08:48 am
I almost owned the third pair in this list... I can still remember the trip down to Goodfoot.

THANK GOD I grew up that day.
Bill / April 26, 2013 at 09:39 am
With the exception of the Allstars, that is one tasteless and butt ugly collection of sneakers.
James / April 26, 2013 at 10:16 am
And here come the downpour of negativity from hipsters that will bad talk this exhibit and these sneakers. Maybe they should have an exhibit on plaid shirts and skinny jeans, or maybe creepy facial hair.

This is the first ever sneaker exhibit to be featured in a museum IN THE WORLD. Respect the culture instead of insulting it.
mar / April 26, 2013 at 10:18 am
all of these are hideous except the stewie griffins. those are unreal and i need them
Matt replying to a comment from James / April 26, 2013 at 11:04 am
I'm glad you said it in detail. It saved me the typing.
Kristian / April 26, 2013 at 11:24 am
@james - THANK YOU

You dont go to the ROM and call Dinosaurs Lame and Ugly but ill buy the T-rex? You dont go to AGO and shit all over the artwork there but ill buy a poster of the Mona Lisa...

Close friends of mine from poured their heart and soul into this show only to have all you rusted out bike riding, Toms shoes wearing people to crap all over it. You dont know the culture behind shoes - you dont know why a iconic brand like Louis V brought on a great fashion mind like Kayne to develop a "Sneaker" that right now you would have to drop $3000 to own a pair - but this is also coming from those who say $3000 for a pair of shoes? you know how many trips to a thrift store i can make to buy my used plaid shirts that the rest of us in the know all got rid of 4 years ago?

people like @mar @bill have no idea of the fashion world never shop at the likes of Holts or harry - dont stop in at boutiques like prada and louis so will never know the beauty and pride that comes with owning anything that is at this exhibit.

there is alot of history in that room maybe you should recognize it for what it is! a museum showcase - and maybe you should also just stick to shopping @ winners for your 2 season old gear!

Al replying to a comment from mar / April 26, 2013 at 11:53 am
There is a version that was eventually released, but they're not nearly as nice:
D / April 26, 2013 at 12:43 pm
Correction here: The III's were not the shoe that MJ was famously banned for wearing. It was the Air Jordan 1's, in the red and black colourway. He was fined 5,000 per game for wearing them because they didn't match the Chicago Bulls Uniform, and over the course of a 82 game season... that cost over 400,000. Nike payed the fines however. #justsayin
lol / April 26, 2013 at 01:50 pm
trickydisco replying to a comment from Kristian / April 26, 2013 at 02:41 pm
love the de la souls
What? replying to a comment from Kristian / April 26, 2013 at 02:48 pm
Comparing a pair of shoes that Kanye West designed for a mediocre fashion house to dinosaurs found at the ROM? I've got nothing...
Sadie / April 26, 2013 at 02:49 pm
Really cool! I would have never known about this, so thanks for posting. Excited to check it out :)
hell yeah / April 26, 2013 at 02:49 pm
I think the only sneakers I have ever seen that are truly "First Nations inspired" are the Brian Jungen modifications to Air Jordans.
Akswun / April 26, 2013 at 04:25 pm
Always wanted the De La highs and Los. But if anything a pair of Golddiggers.
Kanyes' shoes will always garner hate, either becuase they're expensive or they just hate him personally.
The rise of the seaker culture reached its peak in the mid to late 2000. Now a days its all about Jordans. A lot of us who were into shoes a few years ago have grown out of the sneaker phase. But kids are keeping it alive along with places like SVP.
kay replying to a comment from Kristian / April 26, 2013 at 04:40 pm

"rusted out bike riding, Toms shoes wearing people to crap all over it. You dont know the culture behind shoes..."

you sound silly.
Matt replying to a comment from Kristian / April 26, 2013 at 06:25 pm
I just wanted to let you know that someone agrees with you.
Jill / April 26, 2013 at 11:24 pm
"First Nations inspired"? Or appropriated?
Jill bends to my WILL replying to a comment from Jill / April 27, 2013 at 10:56 am
Oh yeah, Jill...GOOD and appropriated.

You LIKE it appropriated, don't you. Say it. Say you like it.
LMIH replying to a comment from Kristian / April 27, 2013 at 10:45 pm
Kristian, I hope one day you'll find something that actually matters which you could apply your misguided shoe passion towards.
R Tripathi / April 28, 2013 at 09:52 am
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