out of the box: the rise of sneaker culture

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 Kosow Sneaker Museum; the archives of Adidas, Converse, Nike, and PUMA; and private collectors such as Dee Wells of Obsessive Sneaker Disorder, Bobbito Garcia and legendary hip-hop group Run—DMC.
  • 1860

    These Thomas Dutton and Thorowgood running shoes are thought to be the oldest in existence.
    [Thomas Dutton and Thorowgood / Running shoe, 1860-65 / Northampton Museums and Art Gallery]

  • 1917

    The All Star was originally introduced as an indoor gym shoe in 1917, and it became an American mainstay once it was promoted by basketball coach Chuck Taylor in 1921.
    [Converse Rubber Shoe Company / All Star/Non Skid, 1917 / Converse Archives]

  • 1936

    Future Adidas founder Adolf Adi Dassler gave a pair of sneakers similar to these spiked running shoes to record-breaking Olympian Jesse Owens during the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
    [Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik / Modell Waitzer, 1936 / adidas AG]

  • 1970s

    When New York Knicks legend Walt Clyde Frazier was looking for a pair of custom Suedes, Puma redesigned the shoe for him and dubbed it the Clyde.
    [Puma / Suede, ca. 1970s / Northampton Museums and Art Gallery]

  • 1985

    Michael Jordan was fined during every game of the 1984 NBA season for wearing the Air Jordan I in colors that didn't conform to NBA uniform rules. [Nike / Air Jordan I, 1985 / Nike Archives]

  • 2015

    Minimalist brand Common Projects is defined by high quality materials and the cryptic numbering system stamped in gold on the quarters of the shoes.
    [Common Projects / Achilles Low, 2015 / Common Projects Archives]


Published by the AFA in partnership with the Bata Shoe Museum and Skira Rizzoli, Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture offers 256 pages of exclusive material, including archival photographs and historic ad campaigns as well as interviews, sketches, and style tips from designers and tastemakers; it is the definitive collector's book for any self-respecting sneakerhead, $45/$22.50 AFA members, hardcover.

The book features an introduction by Bobbito Garcia, an in-depth essay on the history of sneaker culture and annotated exhibition checklist by exhibition curator Elizabeth Semmelhack, Senior Curator of the Bata Shoe Museum, a discussion of sneaker preservation by Ada Hopkins, Conservator of the Bata Shoe Museum, an interview between Dee Wells of Obsessive Sneaker Disorder and Nike designers Tinker Hatfield and Eric Avar, and contributions by sneaker experts including Cey Adams, James Bond, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, Marc Eckō, D'Wayne Edwards, Walt "Clyde" Frazier, Adam "Ad Rock" Horovitz, Christian Louboutin, Hiroki Nakamura, Tom Sachs, Jeremy Scott, and Stan Smith, among others.