I hated shoes growing up— Well, to be more accurate I hated the shoe culture growing up. I hated a lot of things growing up, but I really hated shoes— sneakers especially. As a kid, I wanted the hottest pair of Jordans coming out at any given time but my parents couldn’t afford it; and unlike most people, they actually let the fact that they couldn’t afford it stop them from purchasing it. (I know right!!) Truth be told my parents probably could afford it, they were just insanely cheap and couldn’t justify getting them (I was broke as the worst kind of joke at the time so I wasn’t going to get them either). No big deal I guess, I mean they were just shoes after all; but alas, they’re weren’t just shoes, they’re never just shoes, they’re always what you “just have to have” in order to gain any type of acceptance— so naturally, me not having them meant constant ridicule and taunts of being thought of as poor.
Thus begins the vicious cycle I endured through for most of adolescence. I was laughed at for not having the right sneakers, I was mocked for not knowing what the right sneakers were, I almost got into fights for even daring to come too close to scuffing someone’s sneakers; I found the whole subset incredibly elitist and ignorant but really I was jealous because they got to be a part of a culture I was kept out of. Over time, that jealousy became vitriol. I watched and studied people, like I tend to do always; I watched the extreme lengths they would take to protect their shoes from any bit of dirt or grime— toothbrushes, paper bags, slippers to wear outside until they could get indoors, the whole nine. I didn’t get it. The purpose for shoes, in my mind, was to keep your feet and the ground separated and these extremities done to take care of them showed borderline psychotic behavior.
Right around 14 was when I started my pretentious phase— reading higher grade level books, upping the vernacular and scoffing at everything that was beneath me (which was everything). It was around this time that I began to appreciate shoes or, at least what I considered, real shoes. Reading my dad’s GQ subscriptions for the latest on boat shoes, mocassins and oxfords. In my own mind, I turned the tide on sneakerheads, considering their affinity for “basketball shoes” immature and idiotic. I watched news stories about murder over these shoes and looked down on the whole culture for championing death in exchange for shoes you only wore once. More and more each day I hated all sneakers. I hated them with a passion that I let be known— I didn’t care about your cement 4s, I didn’t care about the color scheme of your pippens, I didn’t give a fuck that you “copped those questions joints” and I thought your mids were stupid. I hate everything about the sneaker game.
That is until I got to college and met “the intelligent sneakerhead”. When I got to college I got to meet with some of the most brightest and most insightful people, something I was far from used to. They were thoughtful, challenging and refined— and a lot of them happened to be the biggest sneaker fiends ever. They didn’t just buy them to say they bought them; they knew about them. They knew the history of these shoes, they knew the value of them; the quality and the aesthetics of them. They frequented the sneaker forums to find out release dates and compare their collection to that of others. They were my shoe professors. The ones who taught me why they matter until I was ready to jump on my desk and rejoice, “oh captain, my captain!”. I always knew the game but these guys thought me to respect it and, slowly but surely, love it. All those years of anger disappeared and I again regressed to being a child, wishing I was a member of the secret society.
I’ll never be a sneakerhead (you damn near have to be born into that world), but, like all cultures I didn’t get to be a part of, I became a student of it. I got caught up in the world and began to understand why it mattered. There are still things I hate about it, but there are things to hate about anything; what was important was I finally found the merit in sneakers and footwear as a whole. I had to understand that the outfit is the sum of the whole— not just the shirt but everything together mixed with your own persona to bring it to life. I will forever love the day I became a fan of “those basketball shoes” I once decried. That being said, I sure hope I can get my hands on these Ewings that are dropping soon.