Early Basketball Sneakers, Chinese Children’s Shoes and More on View at the San Francisco Airport

If your plane is delayed at the San Francisco International Airport, there’s more to do to pass the time than simply shop and dine.

For those interested in a bit of culture, there’s the SFO Museum, located in the Main Hall, where visitors can view its current exhibit — on view through Nov. 12 — free of charge.

The exhibition features over 12 pairs of shoes borrowed from area museums and private collections, in styles ranging from native Alaskan boots to American cowboy boots to a pair from Bhutan called Tshoglham.

San Francisco Airport Museum Shoe Exhibit
Boots from Bhutan circa 20th century.
CREDIT: SFO Museum/Mingei International Museum

According to its curator, Nicole Mullen, the exhibit was sparked by a previous fashion project she curated that focused on antique purses.

The exhibition features shoes from the 19th and 20th centuries, from a range of cultures and countries. Included are western wedding shoes, early basketball sneakers, beaded moccasins, Chinese children’s shoes and Japanese geta, and a whimsical boot by California artist Mickey McGowan.

San Francisco Airport Museum Shoe Exhibit
Clogs from 20th century Turkey, made of mother-of-pearl.

For those interested in some footwear history, courtesy of the museum, practical reasons have long been behind footwear design. Indian padukas, or toe-knob sandals, elevate feet above the hot ground, while Inuit women in parts of Canada and Alaska today continue to make boots from caribou and sealskin to keep feet warm and dry.

Cowboy boots were designed for purposes such as horseback riding, and by the early 1900s, sneakers were designed for specific sports, such as basketball, dating back to 1891.

The exhibit can also be seen online.

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