Among the glittering foot candy is a pair of gold Jeremy Scott x Adidas sneakers, but gilded footwear has been around for centuries.

 

Long before sprinter Michael Johnson became “The Man with the Golden Shoes” when he laced up a custom pair of gold-colored Nike racing spikes at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the precious metal has adorned footwear across the globe.

To commemorate the history of golden shoes, Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum is kicking off its newest exhibition, dubbed “The Gold Standard: Glittering Footwear from Around the Globe.” The exhibition features some of the museum’s most impressive and precious artefacts and explores the meanings and cultural uses of golden footwear.

The contemporary pair of gold Jeremy Scott x Adidas sneakers shown above may be the height of fashion today, but they harken back to the golden winged sandals made for the Ancient Greek messenger god, Hermes. The current popularity of golden footwear has a longstanding and complex history behind it.

The gleam of gold has seduced people around the world. Treasured for its incorruptibility and remarkable shine, gold has been used ornamentally since time immemorial and as currency since at least the Bronze Age.  Gold has ornamented the powerful and adorned the divine for thousands of years. But gold for shoes? Seems improbable.

Yet golden footwear has been central to expressions of status and style in numerous cultures. From royal shoes to fashionable sneakers, the gleam of golden footwear has been used to proclaim privilege and flaunt status.

Curated by the BSM’s Senior Curator Elizabeth Semmelhack, and comprised solely of artefacts from the BSM collection, The Gold Standard examines objects as diverse as Ancient Egypt golden funerary sandals to rare 16th century Italian chopines to contemporary gleaming gold sneakers. Together, the objects tell the story of the ongoing popularity of golden.

The Gold Standard: Glittering Footwear from Around the Globe will be on display throughout 2018.

Also currently also on view at the Bata Shoe Museum:

  • Fashion Victims: The Pleasure and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century and Art & Innovation
  • Traditional Arctic Footwear from the Bata Shoe Museum Collection

Photos courtesy Bata Shoe Museum