An Ode to Sneakers

I’ve never been into fashion. It’s not that I don’t appreciate its aesthetic or cultural value; I just have never been good at picking out clothes and putting an outfit together. I blame an incredibly easy 80s childhood. I liked bright colors and anything with animals on it, and my mom picked out my clothes every morning. It wasn’t until middle school that I suddenly had to get rid of all my neon and puffy-painted items and upgrade to something grown up”¦like flannel shirts. (Sigh.)

In the time since, I’ve gotten a lot better at dressing myself. I stick with classics, simple colors, and only go out on a limb when it comes to accessories. I’ve learned that throwing a nice coat over even a mediocre outfit can do wonders. The one habit I haven’t been able to break? Sneakers. (Or perhaps you call them tennis shoes?)

I wore pink and blue Velcro sneakers as a kid. I upgraded to Nike running-style shoes in middle school, and switched to New Balance and Pumas in high school. Joining the track and cross country teams only gave me more reason to have a constant stream of new sneakers in my closet ““ after all, old sneakers are bad for your shins! There was never a shortage of snugly tied, supportive, comfy shoes for me to wear around.

And I love getting them dirty. Some people cherish those first few wears when the sneakers are still bright and clean, the laces crisp, the soles bouncy. Not me. Sneaks don’t feel like they’re mine until they’re a little dirty and the insides start to mold to my feet.

I still wear sneakers a lot. Living in a large city especially gives me a bit of leeway. Everyone walks to the subway, the bus stop, the grocery store, and their office. It’s not uncommon around here to see women in suits (tights and all!) wearing sneakers. (I know my workday is over when my supervisor switches to her bright white tennies.)

Sneakers have their place in the fashion world; they’re part of an overall look embraced by hipsters and the like. There’s a whole subculture of sneaker enthusiasts who are willing to pay unbelievable amounts of money for rare or limited-edition sneakers. But my love for sneakers isn’t that sophisticated. I don’t actually know where to find these rare and special sneakers.

And whatever “look” goes along with sneakers, I can guarantee I’m not rocking it. My sneakers don’t complete some sort of urban-cool aesthetic. I wear Gap jeans that are slightly too short (I’m too tall for regulars and too short for talls, okay?!) and bland work pants and argyle socks that see the light of day whenever I cross my legs on the subway. I know that it would only take a small upgrade to have more fashionable shoes. (Granted, I don’t know what those upgrades would be. I’m even more clueless about shoes than I am about clothes in general.) But I just can’t bring myself to turn my back on sneakers.

Photos: Getty

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