Scribble on My Sneakers – Please!

At summer’s end, after being overworked from that summer camp where you had to deal with all those snot-faced hyperactive kids, nothing was more rewarding than going to the camp director and getting your paycheck. Then you could purchase whatever your meagre little wages would permit for the school year.

The idea of strolling down your high school halls showing off your latest outfits and accessories might have been something that actually got you out of bed and into school in the morning. Like shiny new Loonies fresh from the mint, students would clamour out the school bus and identify each other amongst their cliques and peers according to what they wore. With the changing seasons of course came the switch in wear, but what remained a constant were your sneakers. Try to remember for an instant how crisp and white the laces on your first pair of Converse were. Perhaps you felt like Elmo from Sesame Street, not wanting to touch the ground for fear of dirtying the prized item on your feet.

Progressively, throughout the school year, your sneakers would sustain a variety of beatings – everything from glue and bubble gum to random spit and general wear and tear – and eventually end up in the incinerator (due in part, as a teenager, to rancidness). But for some reason you kept wearing them, even though your left toe was sticking out and your mother pleaded with you to find a new pair. But the idea of having your identity, a.k.a. the constant accessory worn on your feet all day, taken away from you was out of the question.

Here’s why, artistically speaking, of course…

As you daydreamed in your math class, scribbling in your binders with a blue fountain pen and banging the heels of your Vans together as the clock remained at 3:13 p.m. for what seemed an eternity, your eyes would eventually skew to the beautiful product at your feet. A sudden urge, usually stemming from boredom, would compel you to write your name at least five times on the rim of your shoes. Slowly, a little happy face with horns would emerge on the tongues, and eventually, the entire structure would be filled with blue scribbles and mini-designs best left on your binder.

In retrospect, through bored anxiety, the impromptu art you created on your sneakers helped to identify your personality and separate you from the pack of sheep in your classes. Let’s face it: many other students were wearing the same kind of sneakers that year.

Ever since sneakers were popularised in the late ‘70s, we grew up with the luxury of having an array of brands to cater to our sneaker demands. The idea of wearing sneakers from a particular brand might seem like a commercial choice at first. But the idea of the sneaker, mostly for Gen X and Y kids who like to scratch and tear their sneakers, is symbolic of adolescent comfort. That is, the idea of not wanting to grow up in a baby boomer society fixated on revenue and profit.

The demand for sneakers that stand out from the crowd is so strong it has even influenced the casual dress market. Today we see high fashion houses scampering to understand what makes a sneaker so beloved. Aldo shoe designs, for example [Aldo is a Canadian shoe maker/retailer –Ed.], are looking sportier and more retro these days, just like in the days of our adolescence. Contrary to popular conservative belief, today’s business world can survive with casual-looking shoes that resemble sneakers from the ‘70s. Whereas before, it would have been highly unlikely to see a high-powered executive sporting scribbles and scratches on his high-fashion sneakers at the office.

So the next time you’re sitting in your cubicle and find the sudden urge to scream out loud in pure boredom, reach for your liquid paper, your safety pin or a band aid, for that matter, and put it on your sneakers. You might just feel comfortably adolescent.

Justin-Barry Mahoney

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