David Beckham ringer opens Sports to Street show as Northampton heralds sneaker heaven

By Ben Miller | 18 January 2011
A photo of a man in a suit with a mayor
Exhibition: Sport to Street, Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, Northampton, until July 3 2011

While Victoria Beckham was Tweeting the news that her husband is expecting to become a father again, an identical twin of Britain’s most popular right-winger was causing no less of a stir in Northampton.

The Northampton Museum and Art Gallery hosts one of the world’s oldest shoe collections, ranging from the world’s oldest known running shoe – worn by a Lord in the early 1860s – to soft-soled tennis shoes worn by Henry VIII and Converse numbers crafted as aerobics and sport became fashionable during the late 20th century.

A photo of a man in a suit cutting a ribbon
The impersonator cuts the ribbon
Opened by a lookalike of the player whose Adidas footwear forms part of the story, new show Sport to Street traces the history of the trainer.

“It’s part of a much wider project called Collecting Cultures, which will lead to the museum becoming the world’s leading collection of trainers and sports shoes,” explains Paul Varnsverry, of the town’s Borough Council.

“The museum, with its designated footwear collection, is certainly the national centre for shoe heritage.”

Paid for by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project to make Northampton a magnet for sneaker junkies includes explorations of the relationships between leading brands, sub-cultures and celebrities in this display.

“The story of the rise of the trainer, from its humble beginnings as a simple sports shoe to its status as one of the coolest items of footwear, is fascinating,” says Rebecca Shawcross, the museum’s resident shoe expert.

“We are lucky to have what is fast becoming the best trainer collection in the world. This is the first time we have ever showcased so many in one place at one time.”
  • Open Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm (2pm-5pm Sunday). Admission free.
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