From Elton John to Beyoncé, from the Spice Girls to MF Doom, from the gabber culture to the dancehall scene; they all have a place on the Put On Your Red Shoes stage. A feast of recognition for young and old that also raises the question: what do shoes say about musical preference and identity?
Spectacular and extravagant shoes underline the special status of artists. Idols who cannot live without their footwear and vice versa. David Bowie's alter ego Ziggy Stardust could not live without his red platform boots. Lady Gaga lifts herself to great heights with the most extraordinary heels. And vice versa, artists can turn everyday fashion into something special. Take a good look at Elvis Presley's loafers. Would they be so iconic if he wasn't singing 'Blue Suede Shoes' while his hips were doing groundbreaking moves?
While shoes are important to the identity of artists, artists and music in turn also play a key role in the image of shoe brands. Through their association with certain musicians, some brands themselves have now become so iconic that they have become part of the unofficial uniform of musical styles. Rugged Dr. Martens, originally work boots, could not be lacking in the closet of a punk but in 2022 they proved their street style potential at festivals like Coachella and our own Dance Valley. Lovers of reggae and dancehall, especially in Jamaica, swear by Clarks. And the New York rap formation Run DMC whipped up the audience to take off their Adidas shoes and keep them in the air.
Meanwhile, shoe brands are only too aware of the lucrative power of musicians. They symbolise success, popularity and wealth. The ties between brands and world stars are only growing closer. Brands like Nike and Reebok even commission music productions. In addition, they no longer simply use artists as the faces of campaigns, but have them co-design them. And for the musician, such a collab is also very lucrative. The artists know just as well that they are influencers. They can reach their target group directly through social media. It is therefore not surprising that musicians are increasingly setting up their own brands. Ye (West) has become a particularly influential player in the trainer field with his brand Yeezy, while Katy Perry sells her own playful and humorous style through her shoe brand Katy Perry Collections.
This exhibition has been made possible by Mondriaanfonds, VSB Fonds, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Noord-Brabant, M.A.O.C. Gravin van Bylandt Stichting, Rabobank Stimuleringsfonds and Gemeente Waalwijk.
The appearance of reggae DJ and producer Dennis Alcapone on the cover of his LP Guns Don't Argue (1971) is considered the first reference to Clarks in Jamaican music. The best-known example, however, is hip-hop group Run DMC's relationship with German sports brand Adidas. In 1986, the New York rap group released their album Raising Hell which included the song My Adidas; an ode to their beloved Superstars. Initially, this love was not reciprocated. However, a concert that the rap group gave in Madison Square Garden, New York, on 19 July 1986 was a turning point. Adidas employees watched as Run DMC roused the audience to take off their Adidas shoes and hold them aloft. A call to which fans eagerly responded. Adidas was impressed and gave Run DMC a so-called endorsement deal for the unprecedented sum of 1 million dollars.