Monday, February 21, 2011

Long Live Chuck Taylor.

I've got a weird obsession, especially for a guy.

Some would consider it highly non-masculine and chalk it down to my twenty years of exposure to the fashion industry. Others may theorize that, since we all have some yin and yang inside us, I have a little more yang than most men.

And those who remain, or the vast majority, wouldn't care.

Last week, as I sat wedged into the back corner seat of King County Metro Route 54, I engaged in my customary bus-riding exercise: I checked out each and every person, male and female, who boarded.

A heavyset man stuffed his body between one of those bus stripper poles, which are coated with the next monkey pox super bird flu, and a skinny, goth girl. As he settled in uncomfortably between animal and mineral, his feet called to me like a beautiful siren.

He wore Converse One-Stars.
You see, from my earliest memory, I've had a thing about shoes, namely "sneakers," as they're referred to on the east coast and parts of Illinois. Over here, we call them "tennis shoes," which is like referring to all soda as "Coke."

Anyway, as young as age five, anytime I scored a new pair of kicks, I couldn't keep my eyes off them. I actually watched them while I ran, which was a problem. I'm sure that whenever that salesperson asked me if I wanted to wear them out of the store, the look he or she received was the puzzled expression of a kid who'd been asked if he wanted the spikes which had just been pulled out of his feet to be re-impailed.

Here they are..they're called PF Flyers. Back in the Sixties, their ads claimed to make any kid run faster and jump higher, which was difficult to do if you're watching them while running. Nonetheless, I still made my mom time me wearing the Flyers and compare my jumps between my sweet new rides and the old JC Penney Specials or Sears Canvas Nightmares. Shoe snob at five? Guilty.

If I weren't outside admiring my form, I'd be in the house, the new shoes always in view. In fact, the styling above is quite similar to how I'd lay them on the floor next to me while watching Speed Racer. It was the best way to achieve maximum satisfaction from my awesome, new acquisition.

I got really excited about cool shoes because, as a kid, I burned through them faster than Sarah Palin exhausted male names that start with "T" and are types of wood. And because of that, my parents couldn't afford the PF Flyers or Suede Converse One-Stars every time. Some pairs had two stripes rather than three; sorry, but no thirty-dollar Adidas Superstars this time, buddy.

I really hope I understood.

Since seventh grade was a marquee year, first year of junior high and all, Mom and Dad again sprung for the Cadillacs. Nike hadn't been around long in 1975, so not many people were yet familiar with the swoosh. I sat down in math class that first day, wearing a sparkling new pair of Nike Cortezes:

Lord, I loved those shoes, at least until the girl behind me called me "Nike" (rhymes with "Mike"). Apparently, she thought I had personalized my shoes with my first name on the back heel. Weird and unintentional, I know, but my fragile thirteen-year-old psyche struggled with wearing them again, at least until I could find a red marker to blot out the moniker.

My sneaker obsession died down slightly after junior high, since other interests trumped foot fashion, but I never ditched my childhood favorites.

What I'm trying to convey is that, even though I keep up with what the kids are wearing, my taste in shoes hit its head on the asphalt and stopped developing around 1975. My preferences are stunted and limited to canvas and leather. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to play some record albums and plug in  my calculator.

Long live Chuck Taylor.

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