Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture

Cortez. Gazelle. All Star.

“Not all sneakers are created equal,” says a sign near Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. This couldn’t be truer. Sneakers are practically as individual as each of us. Whether they’re high-top, slip-on, laced, fluorescent, metallic or jeweled, sneakers have become a part of our soles, and our souls. They make statements. I look back at the sneakers in my life and remember precisely how each pair made me feel. Like that glorious day in 1986 when I brought home some white canvas Keds. With blue tabs on the back. You know what I'm talking about.

Out of the Box was designed by Karim Rashid and features more than 120 pumped up kicks from the past two centuries. Several of the sneakers were loaned by the private collections of Nike, Adidas, Converse, PUMA and Reebok. Among the treasures are an original 1972 Cortez and an Air Jordan I circa 1984. Yes, I'm a Nike girl.

For those intrigued by other types of footwear, the museum’s permanent collection includes shoes worn by Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Madonna, His High Holiness the Dalai Lama, John Lennon, Elton John, Jimmy Stewart, Robert Redford, Rudolf Nureyev and Queen Victoria, and a pair of socks owned by Napoleon (they were larger than I thought).

Out of the Box is on display until June 1. On June 21, the museum will host an improvisational dance performance (and WorldPride affiliate event) by mm2 Modern Dance Company, at which really cool sneakers will be worn.