Friday, April 27, 2007

Terror In The Tenth Grade (a true story)

When I was a little boy, I didn't really care what shoes I had. If they fit, and didn’t hurt, I was good to go.

I even remember once, when we lived in Vidalia, Louisiana, that I needed some new tennis shoes, and my mother handed me a five dollar bill, and I rode my bike to West Brothers and bought myself a pair of shoes. I was probably 11 or so. This would have been around 1973-1974. I was fine with that.

Then in 1975, we moved from Vidalia (population, oh, about 4,000 souls) to the monstrous, ginormous, incredibly massive city of Monroe, Louisiana (population, oh, about 50,000 souls).

I started eighth grade there at Robert E. Lee Junior High School, and by then I had advanced to my first pair of Converse All-Star (Chuck Taylor) purple low tops. Not fancy, but I loved those things.

Throughout that whole year, I still didn't much care about having the "right" clothes, much less shoes. I bathed every day, and wore decent stuff from Jacques Penn-ay, so I was cruising along.

But next year when I started at Neville High School, for some strange reason, Sainted Mother let me buy my first pair of Nike's. I was in love. With a shoe.

Even then I wasn't trying to fit in. In fact, most of my classmates were all about the Addidas, but something about that white leather pair of Nike's spoke to me.

So, even though I was still a fashion reject because I never sported designer jeans which had become popular, nobody messed with me about stuff like that; I guess that the Nike's were socially acceptable enough. (Plus, being bigger than them helps lower the risk of ridicule.)

Life went on, high school kept creeping along, and then sometime in the tenth grade, whatever pair of Nike's I had at the time, had a serious enough blow out to demand new shoes, and quickly.

One problem, ye olde pocket book of Sainted Mother's was almost bare, and so we ventured off to Monkey Ward to see what could be had on the cheap.

By then, although by no means a clothing snob, I had become attached to Nike's, and dare I say it, dreading having to show up at school wearing a brand new pair of Trax from Kmart, or something that would bring down the ridicule of my friends.

They even had a weird name for lame, off-brand, or ugly shoes. They would call them "pies". Don't ask me why.

Now the word pie could be easily added to to reflect anything from the looks to the smell of a ridiculed pair of shoes and the owner of those shoes. Ex. Smelly AND ugly shoes could might be called "tuna pies." I know, it's stupid, but then so were we at 15. There's no plumbing the depths of the weirdness in the minds of a 15 year old.

Back to the store. I had at least avoided the massive humiliation of having to show up with a pair of Trax from Kmart, my compadres at school could spot a pair of those a good mile away. There was no hiding a pair of Trax. But thankfully they didn't sell them at Montgomery Ward.

Then the problem of Sainted Mother's lack of funds arose, and the only thing I could get, that I though I might be able to slip by my friends was a pair of Converse All-Star fakes, with the unfortunate brand name of "SKIPS."

So I go to school the next day, and all is well, for a while. We were in Phys Ed and had to change into our gym shorts and t-shirts. No more long legged jeans to help hide my Skips.

We were avoiding having to participate in volleyball as much as possible and a bunch of us were sitting on the high school gym's bleachers, as the volleyball nets were set up inside.

By this time, I had completely forgotten about my shoes, when one of my friends, Mike K., sitting a level below me on the bleachers happens to glance down at my shoes.

"Aw, man! Check out Big John's new pies! AW MAN! THEY'RE SKIPS!" and everyone fell about in laughter.

Skips were one level above Trax on the acceptable shoe scale, and my almost-Converse shoes had avoided being laughed at for precisely 4 periods. Half a school day.

The next few months were long, as I wore the Skips, and until I earned enough mowing money to buy my next pair of Nike's.

The ridicule eventually died away, and I was invisible again, just like I liked it.

I can't forget the ridicule of the Skips. I didn't mind the ridicule part, it wasn't what they said that bothered me, it was the ATTENTION. Good or bad, I didn't want attention, and I still don't.

And I'm still a Nike guy, even after all these years. I've tried converting to other belief systems brands of shoes, but I always come back to Nike's. Once I find a pair that fits my size 14 gunboats, I'm a happy man, and my feet are happy too. Everyone has a preferrence, and to me, Nike's always feel like I'm putting on a favorite old flannel shirt.


Hammer said...

I didn't do the name brands either, I was still in the velcro suede shoes when leather kaepas came into popularity.

I got laughed at for my lack of style but that's just they way I am.

Di said...

Now THAT's refreshing...a MAN writing about shoes! A completely new perspective...and the names Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo don't appear anywhere! (I don't know if you read my blog last week, but I had an idea...that Prada should make baseball cleats and have the Tampa players wear them...and then they could advertise "The Devil Rays Wear Prada")

Mert said...

I totally agree. My family clean an advertising agency on the weekends in DC when I was a kid, to make ends meet. We all cleaned, kids included. My younger brother started at the tender age of 8 poor kid.

My parents bought us the essentials but we had to use our own money for name brand stuff with our own money.

I can still remember when I bought my first pair of Nike's... that was when the baby blue swoosh tennis shoe was in style. only it was in style the year before. I didn't care, they were still Nike's even though they were last years fashion. :D

Mert said...

Yeesh, proof reading a comment would be good. redundant much? ;) That's what i get for getting nostalgic over old shoes. :D

Babystepper said...

I remember a pair of Nike's I had back in high school. They were very old, but had never been worn, so I wore the tar out of them. I finally threw them away several years later. Shredded to nothing. I'll have to post about them someday. Some thought will have to go into the post as it will also of necessity be an expose on the dyeing everything in sight techniques of my mother.

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