Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture

Dates: September 10 – November 27, 2016
Location: North Building
Pricing: $6 member / $8 non-member in addition to general admission

Save a $1 off of your ticket price with a donation of new or used shoes to WaterStep at the guest relations desk. 

From its origins in the recreational pastimes of the elite, to the increasing importance of physical fitness, to its role in athletic performance and urban style, the sneaker has been a pivotal component of dress for more than 150 years. Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture is the first museum exhibition in the United States to feature the sneaker’s complex and fascinating design history.

Out of the Box includes nearly 150 sneakers, plus film footage, photographic images and design drawings that richly illustrate the social history, technical innovation, fashion trends and marketing campaigns that have shaped contemporary sneaker culture. Featuring iconic shoes from the 1830s to today, many of the designs in Out of the Box have rarely, if ever, been exhibited publicly.

Among the highlights are an 1860s spiked running shoe, an original 1917 Converse All Star/Non Skid, a pair of 1936 track shoes, the original Nike Air Force 1, and early Adidas Superstars. The exhibition also features contemporary sneaker collaborations with prominent figures such as Damien Hirst, Jeremy Scott, Jeff Staple and Kanye West. Contributors include a range of private collectors, museums and archives, including Adidas AG, Converse Archives, Kosow Sneaker Museum, Nike Archives, Northampton Museums and Art Gallery, and Reebok Archives.

The Speed’s exhibition will include exclusive additions, featuring regional icons John Wall, Rajon Rondo, the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky.

The Speed exhibition is organized around six central themes: The Rubber Revolution of the 1820s to the 1920s chronicles the birth of the sneaker, advancements in rubber and the rise of sport culture; Body Politics explores the democratization of sneakers as the pursuit of bodily perfection took on nationalistic tones between the 1920s and 1970s; Fitness and Fashion shows the relationship between celebrity and the status sneaker; Fresh Out of the Box explores the sneaker as a symbol of urban masculinity; Air Jordan I–XX3 chronicles the immense popularity and cultural significance of Air Jordans; and finally, Innovation and Design highlights some of the most influential designs in recent sneaker history, including the first cross-trainer.

The extensive exhibition catalogue will provide the first definitive history of sneaker culture by curator Elizabeth Semmelhack, plus contributions from 24 influential figures, including former Jordan Brand Footwear Design Director D’Wayne Edwards, NBA champion Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Beastie Boys member Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, U.S. Open tennis champion Stan Smith, creative designer Sophia Chang, Run DMC member Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, fashion designer Jeremy Scott, Details magazine Style Director Eugene Tong, footwear designer Christian Louboutin, founding creative director of Def Jam Records Cey Adams, and contemporary artist Tom Sachs.

To find out about programming related to Out of the Box, visit our events calendar or view a schedule of programming.

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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.


Generous support of the Speed Art Museum’s exhibition season provided by Delta Dental and Dinsmore & Shohl LLP.



Interact at your own Speed!

Make your shoefie part of “Out of the Box!” Post a photo of your shoes with #speedsneakers, and it will appear on a screen in the exhibition, as well as on our website below. You can even use one of our shoefie stations placed around the Museum, at Shawnee Boys & Girls Club, and at Louisville Metro Parks community centers throughout Louisville.