As a teenager, I never even considered purchasing a pair of Chuck Taylors. To me, they were the footwear equivalent of a Green Day album — overrated and embarrassing, part of a hastily fashioned anti-establishment uniform I had no interest in wearing. Instead I favored a pair of classic black Vans, or in my hardcore days, any variety of running shoe that coordinated with my oversized jeans and the straight edge Xs drawn in black marker on the backsides of my hands. In other words, a slightly different uniform.
As an adult, however, I came to appreciate the classic design of Chuck Taylor sneakers. I liked that the shoes had endured generations as the minimalist footwear of recreation. Men (and women) wore them to play basketball, get drunk and shoot BB guns, or run from the police. It was no different than today. Except now the choices of footwear are as endless as Internet distractions. If you have a scene, there is a shoe that defines it. If you’re in a clique, there is acceptable/unacceptable footwear that is worn. Your choice of shoe says a lot about you.
This particular pair of Chuck Taylors racked up miles and miles of travel. Mostly, they hit the streets and sidewalks of Pittsburgh, the asphalt and concrete tearing at the rubber soles. But they also saw streets and sidewalks in New York and Los Angeles, Toronto and Detroit, and other cities I don’t remember.
For the last year, these shoes have been languishing in my closet. The few times I’ve worn them they were uncomfortable, falling apart around my feet. Pieces of the rubber sole flapping as I walked, all cushion obliterated from the insole. But I couldn’t bring myself to discard them. The other day, however, I finally tossed them in the trash can. There are two crisp new pairs of Chuck Taylors in my closet. But I don’t care about them. They lack the character of their predecessor.