Sneaker Freaks

An exclusive tour of the Bata Shoe Museum's latest exhibit, Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture. Toronto

“The first thing I did was call was Run D.M.C.,” Bata Shoe Museum curator Elizabeth Semmelhack told us. “I was like, if I’m going to get this exhibition going I got to start right at that pivotal moment and they said, ‘Absolutely!’ They didn’t have any Superstars from 1986, so Darryl’s mom actually checked her basement. Instead, we got the anniversary pair, which he signed recently at a concert!"

As self-confessed sneaker freaks (it’s okay, we’ve come to terms with our unhealthy obsession), we’re always amazed when we come across a Coveteur’s collection. You can imagine our excitement when we got word about the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto’s latest exhibition, "Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture," which just so happens to be in our very own backyard. Any self-respecting sneaker freak is sure to flip for this. Shoes seems to be one thing almost every guy and girl can equally obsess over without any judgement; girls have their heels, guys have their kicks. And while there’s a fine line between collecting and hoarding, we seem to think there’s nothing wrong with healthy sneaker fetish (see: Sophia Rossi, Hannah Bronfman, Jake Davis, Ben Baller et al.).

When it came to building Bata’s collection, Semmelhack says she felt a bit like Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, knocking on everyone’s doors (a.k.a. e-mailing and calling) obsessively to the point of being, well, “obnoxious.” After getting D.M.C.’s kicks, she contacted Christian Louboutin (yes, the Christian!) and it sort of just “snowballed from there,” she said.

And while we say we don’t play favorites, there were clearly a few standouts that we contemplated breaking the glass case and running away with: Puma’s Computer Shoe circa 1986, which clocked your calories and distance with a built-in computer (and now there’s an App for that!) and the LeBron James-designed Stewie inspired by the Family Guy character. (You can thank legendary sneaker-head Chad Jones for those ones; they were one of 24 pairs ever made!)

“I didn’t care; I had to have them!” she confessed.

After getting a thorough history lesson in Sneaker 101, Semmelhack had a little surprise in store for us: an exclusive tour of Mrs. Bata’s private 13,000-plus shoe collection. Aside from laying eyes on a few unusual ones (read: Absolut Vodka heels; like, huh?!) and Tiger Woods’s personal pair, we must say Mrs. Bata’s assortment definitely veers the line on the side of hoarding. Good thing she’s got a museum, right?