one of my favorite times of year is the fall. especially, back to school. new beginnings, possibilities, everything is shiny and new. i’m convinced that the act of renewal is woven into the very fabric of why i love to teach.
one of my favorite activities of childhood that has always been a great memory for me was the buying of new shoes. my earliest memories of buying “school shoes” was getting to go pick out new Zips from the Stride Rite store. i remember having a red pair one year, a navy or black pair a different year, and i vaguely remember having a green pair on one occasion that almost, but not quite matched my green toughskin jeans (yes, those beloved reinforced deniums from Sears and Roebuck).
no matter what the color, each pair always came out of the box with that new sneaker smell, revealing the double “Z” emblazoned down the entire length of the shoe. i remember seeing those two Z’s on each shoe, gazing almost trance-like at those impossibly white twin bolts of lightning thinking, “i can’t wait to strap these babies on; they will make me run like the wind! AND, i’ll be able to jump higher too! i just know it!” it was a glorious fantasy for a boy who didn’t know he would grow up to resemble a fire-plug, usually finish most foot races in the middle or rear of the pack, and have a vertical leap only an anvil could envy.
i don’t consciously remember ever seeing a commercial for Zips. i don’t really know why my parents bought sneakers at Stride Rite (although we did buy dress shoes there at Easter because they carried extra wide church shoes). and although i can’t really find an advertisement or commercial from the 1970’s, i did find this sweet 1980’s commercial that may go to the archetypal nature of sneaker advertisements. behold: Zips (which in the 1980’s are apparently way cooler than their 1970’s predecessors – zippers and pockets? Are you kidding me?)
flash forward to 2010. this year’s back-to-school sneaker buying experience was especially poignant for me. my very soon to be pre-K daughter’s school’s uniform code dictates snappy, but not very sneaker-like blue-and-white saddle oxfords. so as not to deprive her from having a “back-to-school sneaker experience,” and since she has outgrown her current tennis shoes anyway, i thought i’d go get her a pair of shoes she casually mentioned a few saturday mornings ago.
it happened during our ritual bi-monthly trip to shipley’s donuts. as we were sitting and eating our sugary goodness, Special K leaned over the table and said, “Hey, Papa. You see that girl over there,” pointing to a two or three year old girl about thirty feet away. “Yes,” i said, peeking over the box scores of the first place texas rangers. “She’s got on a pair of Skechers,” my four-year-old said knowingly. “She does?” i counter. “Yep,” Special K says confidently. “What do you know about Skechers?” i query. “Well,” she begins, sitting up straighter, “They’re sparkly,” she begins. she waits; i wait. “Some of them light up,” she says as her face sorta lights up in anticipation. she waits; i wait. “And,” she continues, “Aislan, at church has a pair too.” “Hmmm. I see,” i say, noting the shoes and wondering if there will be more from my fashion conscious daughter. there isn’t.
so, as school approaches, i think to myself that i’ll just trot on down to the store and pick up a pair of the aforementioned too cool for school light up Skechers that have captured the imagination of my child. little did i know what i was in for. not only were there several dizzying styles of sparkly, light up and non light up versions of the shoe, but they were adorned with all sorts of graffiti from skulls to peace signs, neither of which i’m a big fan of, nor wanted to encourage in the clothing choices of my four-year-old. in addition, the price range varied with the amount of bling associated with each style, some ranging upwards of sixty buck. “holy $&!#,” i think to myself, “i don’t even spend that sorta cash on my own shoes. and i’m certainly not going to pay that sort of coin for pacifist or gang related imagery.” luckily, i did find a pretty snazzy pair of Skechers on sale that looked at first glance as pretty innocuous.
feeling pretty proud of myself, i brought ‘em home to my girl who was every bit as pleased as i hoped she would be. as she opened the shoe box,she squealed, “Skechers! Skechers! Just like on the commercial, ‘Go, Skechers, Go!’” and then it happened; the jungian connection between 40-year-old dad and 4-year- old kid. as she finished putting them on, she jumped up and headed for the door exclaiming, “Come on, Papa! Watch me run around the house! These Skechers will make me run faster! Watch me run!” and away she flew. i must admit that i was feeling pretty puffed up.
and then my wife brought it to my attention that the graphics on the shoes were modeled after old school tattoo art.