I saw a grown man wearing indoor soccer shoes the other day. That’s what triggered this post. Was he going to play soccer? I can say with 99% certainty that he was not about to get in some sweet touches. He was just rocking the style. I’ve never been a real shoe person. I’ve owned several pairs of Clarks sandals. I have some brand loyalty, but for years running the most expensive shoes I own have been my golf shoes. Excitement. Doesn’t mean I’m immune to the occasional trend, though. These days I find it hard to keep up with how pointy the toe on my dress shoe is supposed to be, but back in the day the shoe trends were much more clear. It was black and white. Like a pair of Sambas.
The Samba Classic
I never owned a pair of Sambas. Looking back that seems about as likely as surviving the Black Death, but it’s true. I’m not sure how far the Samba trend spread, it may have just been my area’s troubling affinity for soccer, but this shoe might as well have been part of the school uniform. Kids wore these and bleeping Umbros around every day like they were roaming the dusty streets of South America and a quick game of futbol was going to break out at any moment. I did occasionally rock an Umbro. I can hardly live with myself. The Samba eventually became omnipresent, which is the death knell of any trend. The cooler kids, the real soccer players would switch brands (Diadora? I’m spit-balling), maybe change up the color of their Sambas, but mercifully the trend would eventually just fizzle into oblivion.
Converse Basketball Shoes:
This was a blip on the radar for me. Right at the moment I became aware of the sneakers I was wearing there was like a four-day period where Converse was cool and then it became all Nike. I had two pairs of Converse sneakers. One pair were Chuck’s. I’m not including those, because they are always popular to some group of people of varying size. We saw a denim pair at the Jean Short Open this year. I had a pair of Chuck’s that were turquoise. Try to think of a more embarrassing color. You can’t. My other pair of Converse were like the ones pictured above. Converse didn’t branch out much. This was their shoe. You could get it in Lakers’ colors or Celtics’ colors for Bird and Magic, but this was right before the birth of actual variety. As I remember it, my pair were the Dr. J. version and were Red/White/Blue, but that may be revisionist history.
Nike Air Flight/Big Tongues
After Jordan arrived and Converse’s market share completely evaporated the next several years were dominated by Nike Air. What I remember about the basketball shoes then, though, was that everyone tried to get the tongue of the shoe to stick out as much as possible. You’d yank the nonsense out of that thing. Usually there was the Air Flight logo on the tongue, which I suppose was the point–LOOK AT ME! But, this was the era when I spent the longest amount of time tying my shoes. It required precision. Eventually the shoe companies figured out what was going on and just made the tongues bigger. Sometimes yielding comical results, and of course there were the Reebok Pumps. Great tongue on those sumbitches.
Definitely never had a pair of Doc Martens. Very versatile shoe in terms of popularity. It rode the 80s right into grunge. This was a statement shoe and I was never into making statements. When I think of Doc Martens I think of someone trudging down the hall, baggy jeans, oversized shirt, possibly a wallet chain? I think of the people who spent their days smoking in the bathroom. I wasn’t around for the Doc Martens punk phase. I think that would have been more entertaining, a little less confrontational? Another thing about Doc Martens is that guys and girls wore them. Unisex, ladies and gentlemen. That’s pretty powerful stuff. I didn’t see a lot of girls walking around in Air Flights (though they did wear Sambas). Apologies for skipping over some of the female shoe trends–like jellies.
This is my personal favorite. I’m not sure what the style of shoe was, it was something like a top-sider, but not exactly. It was most often Bass, though. I think some people opted for the Sebago Campside, but both were the same idea. This was another unisex shoe. I don’t think any shoe has ever more clearly delineated the separation between the cool kids and the hapless losers. I tried my best to find a picture of the proper lacing technique for these shoes and this was the best I could find. You did not, if you had any respect for yourself, tie these laces in a knot. They had to be curled up at the ends so that the shoes essentially became slip-ons. The less popular kids would have the same shoes, but would tie them in a normal fashion. They might as well have been in wingtips. Embarrassing. The problem was, it seemed like only certain girls knew how to properly craft the laces. I was totally clueless. Give me a decade and I couldn’t make the laces look like that, so before you ever bought these shoes you really needed to line up a “lace girl,” or a “lace guy,” otherwise, like I said, hapless.
Please feel free to correct my faulty memory, or to fill in some bigger and better shoe trends that I missed.