I got my first pair of Nikes when I was about 11 years old. Ladies Roadrunners, light blue with darker blue swooshes. My mom bought them for me from a sporting goods store in the Berkshire Mall. I slipped them on, laced them up and raced around the perimeter of the store. I insisted I could run faster, jump higher in these expensive running shoes. Each time I looked down at my feet, I broke out in a big, silly grin that these days I reserve for Sofia Vergara and clips of Beyoncé in concert.
The Nikes came in a bright orange box with a map of the world on the front. The map showed the shoes were made in Beaverton, Ore., and sold all over the world.
Beaverton, Oregon. How special and exotic, my 11-year-old self said.
My 47-year-old lesbian self says he he he he he he.
I was hooked. It was with that pair of Nikes that I became obsessed with athletic shoes. Tennis shoes. Sneakers. Kicks. Whatever you call them, I love them.
I came back for more Nikes. My next pair were Nike Roadrunners, dark blue with complimentary light blue swooshes. They were the Bizarro version of my first pair — the same thing just reversed.
I can’t remember all of my sneakers (that’s what we call them in the Philadelphia suburbs). There have been so many:
The high-top gray Chucks that I bought with money I made working at McDonald’s.
The three-quarter cut Reebok basketball shoes with the black and neon pink accents. Note: These were the most expensive pair of sneakers I ever purchased. I shelled out $125 for them in the 1990s using the money I made working register and stocking shelves at Drug Emporium.
I wore a pair of white Asics wrestling shoes with black stripes my freshman year of college.
I told my mom everyone was wearing them.
No one was wearing them.
Except for me.
And the wrestling team.
There were others:
A pair of white Asics high-tops with red stripes. They were a half-size too small, which meant my toes pushed into the end of these exquisite high-tops every time I wore them. My toes are curling as I type this. But, god, they were cool.
Reebok classic high-tops with velcro straps.
Bright white Nike tennis shoes (shoes meant to play tennis in) with light blue swooshes.
Black Nike sneakers with white swooshes like a referee would wear.
I don’t associate these shoes with specific memories. Instead, they remind me of periods of my life.
Today, I can pretty much afford to buy whatever sneakers I want. I usually buy them from the men’s clearance rack though. I stockpile them and break out a new pair as needed. I’m not so fussy anymore. Sometimes I’ll splurge, but what really turns me on is a good bargain.
I look through the sports store catalogs in the Sunday paper as if they are porn magazines.
“Look at these,” I say to W.
“Sweet,” she responds.
She knows not to call them “cute.”
We’ve been over that.
My tastes have changed over the years.
I’m more fond of Adidas these days. I wore a pair of gray suede Adidas Neo shoes for most of the summer.
I’ve learned that New Balance might not be the best looking shoes on the shelf, but they are sturdy and incredibly comfortable. If I were a sneaker, I’d probably be a New Balance.
My feet have changed, too. I can’t wear most Nikes these days unless I find a pair in a wide.
Sneakers bring out the kid in me. That little boy/girl somewhere inside. Every once in a while, I’ll catch myself grinning as I work my foot into a brand new pair of checkered Vans or striped Adidas or Nikes that look like those ones I wanted back in the day. These are the shoes, I tell myself. The ones that will make me run faster and jump higher.
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What about you? What was your all-time favorite pair of sneakers? What do you rock these days?