It’s not unusual for women to covet shoes or blister their toes wearing them. But my Chucks weren’t beautiful or expensive. They were cool.
For six long years, I wore them almost every day. In a high school with more than four thousand people, my Converse were known as the rattiest pair. I held that title with pride. My chucks helped me talk to the boy who wanted to write a lyric on my right foot. Otherwise, he would never have had a reason to speak with me.
Those sneakers allowed me to be the person I wanted to be.
Getting my black and white pair coincided with my discovery of The Ramones, Dead Kennedys, The Distillers, Rancid, Sublime, basically anything with a power chord and scratchy vocals. Chuck Klosterman marveled at how the people who say punk rock saved their lives in “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs” genuinely believe it. Similarly, Chucks saved me. My Queens neighborhood didn’t value that aspect of me. So the shoes inextricably linked me to a world that understood me.
That I could fit in somewhere outside of the block with the kids who exclusively wore Enyce, velour sweatsuits and spent their time stringing up sneakers with the fat laces up on telephone poles.
My mother and I went to the army-navy store at the corner of 74th St. and 37th Road in Jackson Heights, Queens. It was the closest and cheapest option. I was 13, so my mother held the purse strings and had to embarrass me with her foreign, haggling ways. I was, and to this day remain, a Converse purist. I don’t know why a classic would have to be reinterpreted as a knee length, sequined, pink tacky monstrosity. High tops will do--in red, black, white or cream. Low tops are acceptable but high tops are just better.
High school is a breeding ground for anxiety over popularity, being normal and trying not to feel perpetually left out of something. The scrawled writing on the sneaker soles helped me cheat my way to success in AP Government during my senior year when studying felt overwhelming and I, for a moment, stopped caring about school.
The more I think about it, the shoes I coveted would not register for today’s sneakerheads.
In fact, the most recent Jordan and Nike collaboration released right before Christmas with the retro Air Jordan XI Concords – the shoe Jordan wore in the 95-96 season when the Chicago Bulls won the NBA championship has caused a violent frenzy. Shoppers around the country were beaten, trampled and even stabbed to buy this $180 shoe.
And as someone who cried when her Converses were thrown out by unknowing (read: stupid) college roommates, I get what sneaker love looks like. But not $180, knife-fight worthy. Nothing justifies that. But I do know how the simple act of owning something special shapes you. Those shoes stood for more than just a pyramid studded belt phase. To me, they meant acceptance into a world I wanted to be part of.
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