Sneakers and celebrities–Encounter a luxury niche of pop culture mash-ups in new chronicle, Collab

Review by C.J. Bunce

How do you get your kicks?  Maybe you buy them online, maybe at a mall shoe store, or a classic locally owned standalone shop.  Wherever you buy your sneakers, tennis shoes, running shoes, however you define them and whatever you call them, they are as personal a purchase as anything you need, jeans, T-shirts, socks, etc.  According to author and frequent writer on the shoe industry Elizabeth Semmelhack, a small but growing crowd of shoe buyers are looking for shoes that express their personality, in what has become an industry taking in billions of consumer dollars in a merger of haute and popular culture.  This week fans of exclusive shoe wearing–and collecting–have a new guide to this burgeoning trend, Collab: Sneakers X Culture, from Rizzoli/Electa books.

This is the latest of the high-end art books from Rizzoli that focus on style and culture in areas you might not have thought about.  This full-color hardcover with a textured leather shoe feel–and a book mark that is really a yellow shoe string–has photographs representing the spectrum of designer sneaker collaborations with a key focus on the 21st century.  Shoe companies have partnered with all sorts of “personalities of the week” to advertise, market and even influence the evolution of sneakers going back to the very first examples of the modern athletic shoe.  You can search your favorite shoe manufacturer right now on Amazon with the word “Collab” and find the latest combination of celebrity–usually the latest pop music icon or athlete, but sometimes including social media influencers, too–and shoe manufacturer that partnered with them because together they believed they had the right fit.

Concept artwork for the Pyer Moss x Reebok, DMX Daytona Experiment 2.

It begins with a smart foreword that sets up the background for anyone not familiar with this mash-up of two worlds by rapper Jacques Slade.  Author Elizabeth Semmelbeck takes readers back to the beginning, with shoe innovations conceived by Adi and Rudi Dassler, Josef Waitzer, Jack Purcell, Robert Haillet, Stan Smith, and Chuck Taylor.  She documents Walt Disney, Run-DMC, Chanel, Jay-Z, Pharrell Williams, Eminem, 50 Cent, Wu-Tang Clan, Rihanna, and dozens of other shoe and artists “collabs” in the book’s 256 pages.

Some of the best insight to what this segment of pop culture is all about comes from interviews, including chats with Chris Hill, Reebox’s design manager for “statement footwear,” Jeff Staple, Adidas designer Nic Galway, DJ Bobbito Garcia, shoe designer Melody Ehsani, artist Shantell Martin, stylist Aleali May, and GREATS design director Salehe Bembury.

Discussed are some of the rarest shoes available, which have taken on luxury item status for those with the money to buy in to this collecting niche.

For fans of books like Stan Smith: Some People Think I’m a Shoe and Stickers 2: More Stuck Up Crap, From Punk Rock to Contemporary Art, fans of shoes, shoe culture and innovative art, and celebrity in pop culture, Collab: Sneakers X Culture is available this month for the first time.  You can order it here at Amazon.



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