Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Lifetime of Loving Shoes

I was around twelve when I started loving shoes. As a young sports fan, I loved the way some Falcons taped their shoes, pulled up their socks, wore sweatbands, cut their sleeves, and wore cool facemasks. But shoes were the easiest to love: where-ever I was, I would check out the shoes on people’s feet.

My first favorite shoes, in junior high, were called “Jox”, by Thom McCann. The store was across town, near Westgate Mall. I remember a blue and white pair. Next came the classic suede Pro-Keds. I ran through a red pair, then navy, and even gold (with black stripes). I didn’t even know that pro basketball players were wearing them…even Pistol Pete Maravich. I was cool, and didn’t even know it. I wore holes in the toes and heels, then carefully taped over the holes, so I could keep on wearing them.

For my Friday-night varsity football games I taped up my cleats just like the pros did, to the point of started a team-wide trend. Teammates would come to me for approval and advice. Our team looked good. As a senior the team wore white Spot-Bilts. I stuck to my black pair with a little less white tape…like my idol Fred Biletnikoff.

In college I found a shoe store on North Druid Hills that had a great sale section. Laughing, the Suggs’ uncle David called it “the Gentile store.” I would buy canvas Nike “All-Court” shoes, similar what John McEnroe wore…white with a blue swoosh. Then a black pair, with white shoestrings. A pair of trendy Asahis, and a preppy pair of Tretorns. All for ten bucks a pair. Without much money, I couldn’t really expand my love of shoes. Even when I started working, buying extra shoes was a luxury I tried to avoid.

When we got married, Ceil discovered sneakers were a good thing to give me as a gift. I wore a cool pair of purple-trimmed Fila sneakers in Bermuda on our honeymoon. I could play basketball rocking black Reebok high-tops like the Celtics Dennis Johnson. Later I bought a pair of Nike Air Flight Lites, just like in the Super Dave TV ad. Lang’s feet were growing, so he handed down his black Converse Weapons and white Reebok high-tops. Times were good.

Every February I found a way into the Super Show down at the World Congress Center, the largest sneaker convention in the world. There I could check out styles that would be hitting the stores in the upcoming months, and take home bags of glossy folders and other samples. Stars were on hand for autographs. The Super Show is where I laid my eyes on Nike’s latest running shoe: the sandal-like Huarache. Soon I would be one of the first to wear them.

During the height of the sneaker craze, one of the best shoe stores in town was The Sport Shoe. Every year they would bring all their unsold shoes to an empty K-Mart and sell them cheap. I remember buying my first two pair of New Balance shoes at those sales. After the sneaker craze died down, stores like the Sport Shoe all went out of business. Shoes were often on my Christmas list: New Balance 993’s, Nike sandals, and more. Since I was careful to only wear old shoes when I did yardwork and such.

Later Niketown opened in Phipps Plaza. In those days before we had kids, Ceil and I might go out to eat at a place like Micks, then walk around the mall. At Niketown I discovered a simple brown leather shoe that looked like a baked potato: the Air Moc. “Who wore these?” I asked a Niketown employee. “Musicians” was his reply. Eventually I bought a pair on the sale rack of the Sport Shoes Outlet in Commerce. Years later I bought a new high-topped pair at Goodwill.

Only when I discovered thrift stores in the late 1990’s was I able to finally expand my shoe collection. Occasionally I would stumble across a style that I love, in good condition, and snap them up for just a few dollars. Sneakers, dress shoes, golf shoes. Sneakers and cleats for young Will. I’m still on the lookout for certain shoes, like cool boots or plastic Croc-like Pumas. Soon I may sell some rarely worn shoes on eBay, like the extra Air Mocs.

My children are starting to follow in my footsteps. Anna has a couple pair of high-heels. Will’s tastes are different than mine…he went through a sissy shoe stage, before settling on outdoor shoes. He disdains the trendy Under Armour spikes and sneakers seeming worn by the majority of his jock teammates (a good thing). Matthew rocks Chuck Taylors, adidas Sambas and shell-toes, Nike Hyperdunks, Air Jordans, and Toms. He wore the coolest sneakers in his basketball leagues. Ceil even has certain brands to which she remains loyal.

Thursday trivia night is a place I can pull out snazzy shoes, like my red Puma Suedes. I think I’ve worn all my Pumas to Trivia. Too bad my blue suede Converse One-Stars are falling apart from old age, or I’d wear them. I can’t yet bear to throw them away. The older I’ve gotten, loafers and other leather-type shoes have gradually taken the place of sneakers. Driving shoes and thick-soled Timberland loafers are worn more often, unless I’m going to be walking or on my feet for an extended time. During summer I’m usually in flip-flops…even at church.

When I started my blog it had a shoe theme, and I have continued to post photographs of most of the shoes that I get. Last year I created a minor Facebook stir when I described white leather New Balance walking shoes as “old man shoes.”

These days I have more shoes than I need, but it’s still a fun hobby. As I’ve aged, shoes are less of an obsession…but it still gives me something to look at when I’m in a crowd of people.

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