August 18, 2020

On “It’s Not a Fashion Show” : A Shoppable Sneaker Style Essay

shoppable sneaker post style essay

To follow: My sneaker picks of the moment (click to shop) plus the ladies out here killing in these streets who’s feet I look up to (what a weird sentence). Shoppable Sneaker Style Essay

“This is not a fashion show.” I’d hear this phrase often from my mother as I’d make the painstaking decision of what to wear for the day. Trips to the grocery store, the doctor, the mailbox…didn’t really matter. There was always something I was particular about as far as looks were concerned. My fit for the day always gave me a bit of anxiety that I was ashamed of – they were just clothes, after all, but it took me decades to understand that they were so much more. 

I’ve always had this fascination with sneakers. From back in the day when L.A. Gear was all the rage and if your shoes didn’t light up what were you even doing with your life. 

In elementary school there was no ‘sneaker budget’ in my household. We used to go to this place called Kings Shoes where I have distinct memories of walking through the doors and getting immediately punched up the nostrils by the blunt smell of hard rubber soles. I recollect finding a left or right nameless shoe in my size in a bin amongst a sea of the same style and color and following the elastic string under the pile to find it’s attached mate.  Shoppable sneaker style essay

As I grew, I just didn’t really care much. I wore the same beat up pair everyday. Partly for financial reasons but also because I was far more concerned with doing more pull ups than all the boys in my gym class (which I did – I’m still proud of that) and running faster than all the girls (which I also did. Thanks very much).  The one thing I did care about was socks. I guess it was the next best thing to shoes. I would miss-match my socks – red and blue, turquoise and grey, because…well…to this day I’m not sure. But it was very important to me, I would get upset with my mom if she placed matched pairs in my room (cute upset, not for real upset cuz mom didn’t play and those socks woulda been upside my head. I had some sense). I did that for years, it became a calling card of mine and always gave me some type of weird confidence from expressing myself in this way.

Once I made it to high school the socks stopped and the only shoes I was really concerned about were my track spikes – I needed those to be everything. They were. Bright orange with a yellow nike swoosh, I confidently mediocre-d myself to track captain in those – something I’d endeavor to be since I started my track career. When I laced up my spikes I felt capable. I felt ready to win. (Which I did occasionally). But at least I knew I looked like a winner.  Shoppable sneaker style essay

Fast forward to college, it wasn’t until about Sophomore/Junior year that I actually started caring about anything aesthetic…I started wearing makeup (gasp) and transitioned to 4” stilettos being the only thing I considered worthy of my feet. I got a job at a shoe store that specialized in that very form of footwear after college and typically brought home new shoes in place of my check. I don’t recommend that, by the way. At a time when I didn’t really understand what life was doing and how to respond – I had, at least, a point of view on that. 

“This is not a fashion show,” I’d hear – I’d moved back in with my parents and on the way to a family gathering, Target trip, the mailbox – it didn’t matter. I’d take my time to pick out the right sky high heels to go with whatever I was wearing that day – feeling like I was owning my space and silently daring someone to look at me sideways. I wouldn’t have done anything about it because I was shy, but I felt powerful knowing that I was sure about what I was wearing even if and, sometimes, especially if the occasion was mundane. As a result  I had felt like I was going against the grain- participating in the slightest bit of rebellion I could muster. It’s the closest thing to confidence I had at the time. 

After a few years, though, something magical happened – my first pair of Jordans – a pair of Jordan 1 mids . I purchased them from a well known sneaker shop here in the cities and a long lost love floated back to me. I started to slowly build my modest collection. It was a slow build for a few reasons – because my coins did not line up with my footwear aspirations, perhaps I was a bit intimidated by the culture which, at that time, was quite male dominated. I also felt a bit like an imposter. I didn’t know when the drops were, I’d never participated in a lottery and I can’t tell you the official colorway for every shoe. To be honest, I don’t have the energy or attention span to keep up with every aspect of the culture, though I do enjoy dabiling.

What I do know is, when I see a woman confidently walking down the street or posting to her IG in an outfit punctuated by a clean pair of trainers (that’s sneakers in British) I am immediately awed and assume she’s cool and want to be her friend but also not because I’m a reforming shy introvert and people still scare me a little. So I just lurk like a sane, appreciative creeper. Totally acceptable. 

I also know how they make me feel when I put them on – in short, I feel the most like myself. It’s rare that I meet an Air Max I don’t like and AF1s are forever classic. Fashion forward without the fuss. Dressed up and dressed down. Trendy and classic. The space I occupy in a fresh pair of sneakers is one of bossed up energy that I don’t need words to communicate, whether it’s a pair of Nikes (which are prefered) or something amazing from TopShop. That’s where I feel at home. Somewhere along the line I automatically associated them with a casual confidence that needn’t be explained. 

I allowed myself the voice I didn’t know how to use out loud  through my style choices. And, even now, I feel like I’m imparting some key phrase of my personality or disposition through what’s on my feet and the canvas I build around that. Sometimes confidence boosts from the outside in and giving yourself space to exercise it, whether through words or crispy white on whites, is totally OK. Eventually you find ways to transfer it from your feet to your soul.  For me, it was never about life being fashion show, it was something much more. 

Here are some of the feet I follow – all dope women, of course. Plus you can follow my Kicktionary pinterest board to keep up with what I’m watching…

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