Artist Gillian Kayrooz vividly remembers the first sneakers that stole her heart as a 17-year-old. “Adidas Superstars were my first fashionable pair and the feeling was astronomical. I tried to explain to my mum why it was so important I got these shoes and what they meant.”

Kayrooz, who is now a 22-year-old artist-in-residence at Parramatta Artists’ Studios, is examining millennial and Gen Z sneaker culture in Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre exhibition Fre$h Pair (until March 15) alongside fellow Sydney artist Kimberley Peel.

Artist Gillian Kayrooz with her ceramic sneakers.

Artist Gillian Kayrooz with her ceramic sneakers. Credit:James Brickwood

Sneaker culture emerged in the 1980s with the influences of basketball and hip-hop music eventually elevating the humble shoe into bona fide fashion item. Sneakerheads, as dedicated obsessives are known, will queue for hours for exclusive new drops and pairs from luxury brands can come with a four-figure price tag.

“[Sneaker culture] started at such a grassroots level and it’s now so embedded in the mainstream,” says Kayrooz. “Ten years ago no one would wear sneakers to work but now it’s a thing that isn’t even questioned. It’s so mainstream now, but there are still pockets of the subculture that exist which if you got really into the details you would be blown away by the fanaticism of sneaker culture.”

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