June 18, 2006

The Power of Converse

Pixie put on her first pair of Converse this weekend. They are used, bubble gum pink, about two sizes too big and glorious in every way. To me, seeing her wear them represented the first real passing of the torch from mother to daughter. Forget the first steps, first words or first teeth - this is the milestone that really hit me.

Like many before me, I was greasy haired Converse afficionado as a teenager. There was my brief moment of celebrity when I wore my stinky blue Converse to a fancy award ceremony in 8th grade. I won the applause of the entire school as I hiked my skirt up and pranced across the auditorium stage to receive my award to looks of disapproval from the faculty. There were the sighs from my parents when I would duct tape the rips in my Cons closed rather than buy stiff, new shoes. At school I always had to sit at my desk with my feet stretched way out in front of the desk since the odor of sweetly mildewing canvas was enough to make me actually stay awake in class. I wore them every day and the acid chemicals of my feet mixed with the canvas and rubber shoe created a pungent potpourri of death. I went through oh-so-many colors and cuts of Chucks up until college. My final pair I traded to a little sister who coveted them for a "trendy" pair of Sunday shoes that I would never even wear. I still keep those thick heeled Sunday shoes in my closet to serve as a cautionary reminder of the stupid trades we make in life that drag us closer and closer to unwanted maturity.

But now my first born child has started her first love affair with Cons and she seems to be developing the appropriate attitude right on cue. We went camping in Malibu last weekend and I dressed her up in a white t-shirt, ratty jeans and her new shoes. She swaggered around the park greaser style with an air of confidence that thrilled me. There's just something about those shoes.

Chuck Taylor's have a fascinating legacy. The shoe company was formed in 1908 and by 1917 had made the well-known black high top model and were worn mostly by athletes and were standard issue in gym classes. By the 1950's, however, teenagers took to wearing the athletic shoes all day as a sign of rebellion along with their jeans and t-shirts and we had the pop culture icons of James Dean in all his too-cool glory to solidify the trend. Thanks to the NBA in the 80's, legendary players like Dr. J played exclusively in Converse shoes and created even more excitement about the brand.

What's funny to me is that a shoe that has been around for almost 100 years can still symbolize rebellion and exuberance. You would think that kids wouldn't want to wear the same shoes their parents wore but for some reason, Converse are immune to the tarnishes of time. Some people feel that since the company was bought out by Nike a few years ago, the shoes no longer have the same status as they used to, but I disagree. To me, Converse have been and always will be a symbol of the good times, the young times, the free times. I get a strange feeling of pride when Pixie saunters around the house in her high tops and I imagine all the trouble she'll get into wearing those shoes. I couldn't help myself today and sent her to church in them along with a blue muscle shirt and pink tutu. Spike asked me what I was thinking sending her out in public like that but I couldn't explain. It just felt so right! Since putting those shoes on her last Friday, I have officially begun living through my daughter. It's amazing how a 6 inch long, bubble gum pink shoe with a blue star can change everything.


angela - in two days i'll be a real person again said...

Yes, the tutu and pink converse combination is adorable! You should try to find kids' converse in every color and pattern imagineable!!

Th. said...


The Big O has black. We all want to look just like him.