I love sneakers. Like LOVE LOVE LOVE. I can’t call myself a sneakerhead because I’ve never been to a convention, but I really am a sneakerhead. I love Nike, Adidas, Merrell, Converse, Reebok, Mizuno, etc etc etc. I love ALL of them. I haven’t met a sneaker I didn’t like, except maybe British Knights. They always seemed to fit me weird.
But my ultimate, favorite pair of shoes is my size 7.5 1989 Nike Air Delta Forces. They are no longer with me. I threw them out years ago. I bought them with birthday money in early 1990. I was 14. My parents told me I was foolish to spend what I believe was $65 on sale for these Nikes. When I say that I loved them, I mean it. I slept with them ON MY FEET the night I brought them home. I jumped out of bed, eager to wear them to school.
What I remember about them is that I went with my friend to the shoe store after we went to the movies. It was the first time I was allowed to walk around the tiny downtown area of my city with a friend. My parents knew we were planning to go “shopping” after the movie.
When I tried them on, it was like I had put my feet into the most fluffy, comfortable cloud. Ahhhhhh…this is what high class feels like. It was a moment of independence and the beginning of what has been a decades long obsession with finding sneakers that fit my personality. It was the first time I went against my parents’ rule of “No more than $50 on a pair of shoes.” A rule that I abandoned at the tender age of 14, never to look back.
You see, these Nike Air Delta Forces were the beginning of me as ME. Not me, clone of my parents. Not me, crowd-loving people pleaser. It was my first step into real, adult-like self-discovery. I LIKE COMFORTABLE SHOES AND WILL NO LONGER SETTLE!
After a couple weeks, a string along the side started to pull itself out, one stitch at a time, over a period of a few days. I cut it off, but not before my father could inform me (again) that I had overspent on these shoes. Screw you, I thought to myself.
Those shoes got me through two years of school, one being my freshman year of high school. It was such a painful time for me. I was really struggling with growing up and living with authoritarian parents and their super strict rules. Kids made fun of me because my father taught at the high school. My mom was going through a rough spot. My brother was always a challenge.
What I hadn’t done when I bought those shoes was consider that my feet had not finished growing at 14. I would eventually outgrow them in 10th grade. I could no longer pretend that I was fitting into them. I couldn’t ignore the pain in my big toes, or the fact that they really were disintegrating around my too-big feet. Reluctantly I threw them away. But it really does pain me to this day. I should’ve sized up one more half size and they would’ve fit me for life. Damn it, why didn’t I even try on the size 8???
I think about those shoes fondly. I sometimes find used pairs in other sizes. Today I was curious, but the only ones in my size were gray instead of blue. I can’t settle on the gray. If I am to buy these again (at a much steeper price than $65, I should add), they will have to be blue. Just like the originals.
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