Rise of Sneaker Culture brings cool kicks to the High Museum

The exhibition runs June 11 through August 14

This month at the High Museum, The Rise of Sneaker Culture (June 11 through August 14) features 155 kicks, from 19th-century running shoes to futuristic moon boots. The exhibition explores not only the technical evolution of the shoe, but also its cultural and social significance. “[We hope visitors] start rethinking sneakers and question the way they are made and imagined,” says curator Sarah Schleuning. Here, some moments in sneaker history.

Downtown Atlanta store Walter’s opened and eventually became a mecca for sneakerheads.

What does Rocky wear to sprint up the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps in the original film? Not an athletic shoe, but busted-up Chucks.


Contrary to popular belief, the Ramones didn’t wear Converse on the cover of their debut album, but women’s Keds. How punk rock.

So chill they didn’t even have laces, these checkered skateboarding Vans* were perfect for Fast Times at Ridgemont High’s slacker Spicoli.


Every time Michael Jordan stepped onto the court wearing his newly released Air Jordans,* he got slapped with a $5,000 fine for violating the Bulls’ dress code, which Nike gladly paid.

“We make a mean team, my Adidas and me,” Run-D.M.C. rapped about his Superstars* on the track “My Adidas,” giving the brand a firm footing in hip-hop culture.

Tom Hanks wore Nike Air Force IIs* to duet on the FAO Schwarz walk-on piano in Big.

Before she married Ted Turner, Jane Fonda got boomers’ heart rates up in a pair of Reebok Freestyles* in her workout videos.


The Spice Girls achieved world domination with their Buffalo platform sneakers.


Uma Thurman kicked ass (and channeled Bruce Lee) in Kill Bill with yellow Asics Onitsuka Tiger Tai-Chis.*

Lauren Amos re-opened Wish in Little Five Points, creating lines down the block for shoes like Yohji Yahmamoto Y-3s and Nike QS.

Texas state senator Wendy Davis wore pink Mizuno Wave Riders during her 11-hour filibuster of a bill that would have further restricted abortion in the state.


The $200 Adidas Yeezy Boosts*, a product of a design collaboration with Kanye West, sold out in just 12 minutes.

*Find these in the exhibition

Photography credits: Air Jordan: Courtesy American Federation of Arts; AIR FORCE IIs: Ron Wood, Courtesy American Federation of Arts/Bata Shoe Museum; Wish: Caroline C. Kilgore; ROCKY: ©MGM/courtesy Everett Collection; Fast Times: © Universal/courtesy Everett Collection; Big: ™ and © 20th Century Fox Film Corp, All rights reserved, Courtesy Everett Collection; Kill Bill: Courtesy Everett Collection; West: Photo by KGC-102-195/starmaxinc.com, STAR MAX 2016, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

This article originally appeared in our June 2016 issue.