From Chuck Taylors To Air Jordans, Footwear In Culture On Display At New Exhibit

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A new exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum is all about sneakers.

Whether it’s Chuck Taylors or Air Jordans, what you wear on your feet says a lot about you.

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Sneakers as an art exhibit?

“I love kicks. This is really where my heart found its home,” sneakerhead Dallas Penn told CBS2’s Steve Overmyer on Wednesday.

How do you begin to tell the story of sneakers in culture? The art exhibit succeeds using 150 versions of American footwear superstardom.

“Sneakers are not tangential to culture. Sneakers are actually central to it,” said Elizabeth Semmelhack, curator of the “The Rise of Sneaker Culture” exhibit. “Since the middle of the 19th century sneakers have helped us express nuanced moments in culture.”

Simply, your style is expressed in your sneakers. Are you more of a Chuck Taylor? Or a Patrick Ewing? Do you put your sneakers on a pedestal? Or are they hanging on a power line?

“Any sneakerhead worth their mettle, come here and learn the history of why you have too many sneakers in your house,” Penn said.

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Sneaker fashion has actually began in the 1970s when Clyde Frazier gave us the Pumas and the awesome lacing. Magic Johnson had “The Weapon” by Converse. You’ve got the kicks Spiccoli — Sean Penn’s character — wore in the film classic “Fast Times At Ridgemont High.” Remember the aerobics era? Not so much anymore.

But it didn’t get to the point it is right now until one man came along, Michael Jordan.

“Look at what it did for Michael Jordan. The controversy behind it in the sense that that every time he wore it he got fined $5,000,” said Calvin Fowler, director of the sneakerhead film “Jordanheads.”

“This has evolved from counterculture to mainstream. Sneakerheads are a subculture. But being a Jordanhead is a subculture within a subculture,” Fowler said.

Every Jordan sneaker ever made is on display at the Brooklyn Museum. But the exhibit also recognizes the role of hip hop in sneakers and now even high-end fashion designers are in the game.

“Your sneakers say a lot about you. It really says something about your personality,” Fowler said.

By that measure, the sneakers in the exhibit are not just athletic footwear, but a reflection of society.

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The exhibit opens to the public on Friday and runs until October. Admission is free, but a suggested donation is $16.