Boxfresh or battle-scuffed; on the court, the catwalk, or at the club or corner store – sneakers (or trainers, or sports shoes, or whatever you might call them) seem to enlace every form, function and fantasy – across sport, fashion, art, movies and music. Over several decades, sneakers have sealed their status as a pop-culture currency. In 1986, New York hip hop legends Run DMC created a ground-breaking anthem (and $1.6million brand endorsement deal) with their hit track My Adidas – and globally, sneaker statements and serenades have continued hard and fast since then, whether it's Dr Dre displaying his pristine stash of Nike Air Force 1s, or Lil Nas X's recent controversial/collectible "Satan Shoes". London's Design Museum has also dedicated its latest exhibition, Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street, to the footwear phenomenon.
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"What appealed to me was to tell the story of sneakers in a design context as they are ubiquitous everyday designed objects that have taken on such great meaning in many people's lives," says Ligaya Salazar, the curator of Sneakers Unboxed. Salazar's own fashion and art background, and time spent playing semi-pro basketball in her teens, echoes the exhibition's multi-layered overview; the theme is handled with clinical precision (one of the opening exhibits dissects the "anatomy of a sneaker"), but also in a way that offers a vital emotional kick. Many of its defining images stem from street scenes and black cultural innovations; the show includes Martha Cooper's vivacious early-80s photographs of NYC breakdancers sporting robust Puma Clydes; elsewhere, Grace Ladoja's 2015 doc short Air Max – The Uniform explores the London grime scene's favoured footwear.