The STEP BY STEP: Shoe.Design through the Ages exhibition is based on the German Leather Museum’s unique shoe collection and is firmly centered around shoes, their design, and their cultural significance.

Historical exhibits are deliberately combined with items from the second half of the 20th or the 21st centuries in order to highlight and reveal continuities and changes in the development of shoes and shoe design.

In a total of eight thematic areas, basic types such as sandals, slippers, low shoes and boots are explained and questions raised: How does a shoe develop? Since when have we distinguished between right and left shoes? What materials are used to make shoes? Why do we recognize designer shoes today? What is the cultural significance of certain types of shoes? How have heels developed and what are the erotic connotations of specific models?

More than 150 selected shoes or pairs of shoes cast light on the breadth of the collection and trace the cultural history of footwear to impressive effect. Alongside sandals that are more than 2,000 years old from Peru, Syrian elevated sandals for the hammam from the 19th century, or salmon-leather boots from the Nanai, there are countless shoe creations by renowned designers such as Beth Levine, Roger Vivier, Vivienne Westwood and Jimmy Choo. 

Shoes are – as the exhibition strikingly demonstrates – far more than functional and fashionable cladding for feet. Above all, they represent a protective item of clothing, a status symbol, a fashion item, or a political statement by the wearer as presented in the show.

Accompanying the exhibition is an extensive publication from arnoldsche Art Publishers (available in German only). This is available for purchase on site in the museum or can be ordered via e-mail at 

Exhibition view, Shoe.Designs change? © Deutsches Ledermuseum, L. Brichta

This extensive exhibition has been facilitated by the generous sponsorship of the Dr. Marschner Foundation.