Sole of the city’s counter culture on show

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Shoes on display at the exhibit. Pic © JMU Journalism

Liverpool has a rich history when it comes to music and fashion, and one of its less well-known cultural legacies has gone on display.

The Fashion of Counter Culture exhibition aims to educate people about where the obsession with trainers and sportswear in Liverpool originated from.

Paul Owens, designer and head lecturer of fashion at John Moores University, curated the footwear exhibit, collaborating with founder of Transalpino, Brendan Wyatt and designer, Jay Montessori.

Mr Ownes told JMU Journalism: “The lines have been blurred through mainstream media over the years. The reality is, the label love and the sportswear love, maybe accidentally, happened in Liverpool… it happened here first.”

The showcase, which is on at LJMU’s John Lennon Art and Design Building until October 26th, offers a range of shoes from the late 60s up to the present day. These have been borrowed from museums, private collectors and the Transalpino archive, with some of the shoes having an estimated value of £1,000.

YouTube: Chantelle McKeever

Self-professed trainer-fanatic and collector, Paul, told JMU Journalism where the idea for the exhibit came from, saying: “It was born out of my love for trainers and an interest in collaborating with experts who knew the story, inside and out, who’d been there. They were the beginning of it in the late 70’s early 80’s – they saw the story develop.

“I felt it needed to be shared again with people before it became blurred again.”

The exhibition pays homage to football fans who brought European labels back to Liverpool in the late 70s early 80s from trips to see the Reds in action on the continent.

Mr Owens said: “It’s all based on the terrace casuals, but it started to come through fascination with vintage stock, dead stock, the tribe of collectors and the stuff that had been born here from the terrace casuals.

“As it progressed, we started to look at the significance of trainer shoes for Liverpool, so we looked at people like Wade-Smith.”

Robert Wade-Smith demonstrated the city’s obsession with footwear when he commercialised the shoe phenomena in the 80’s after he started his business by purchasing Adidas stock that most exclusive stores couldn’t sell due to the expensive prices.

Wade-Smith’s stock sold out in three weeks, and thus began Liverpool’s journey to what has been claimed to be selling three times more stock of trainers than any other UK city.


About Chantelle McKeever, JMU Journalism