For a period of time in the late eighties, I attended high school in a very wealthy part of Maryland. I was a poor, hillbilly kid from rural Pennsylvania and didn’t really worry about “fitting in” as far as my wardrobe was concerned. Where I came from, kids wore what they could afford and did their best with what they had. NOT the case in Maryland. The pressure to follow the trends of the cool kids (“preps”) was unlike anything I’d experienced. They all wore Guess Jeans rolled up at the bottom (the old “tuck and roll” or “California roll” to our West coast brethren), tons of Benetton Colors cologne, but most importantly, they all wore Tretorn sneakers with no socks. Every last one of them. If you didn’t have a pair of Tretorn Sneakers, you were basically worthless.
Of course my family couldn’t afford Tretorn Sneakers, so I was doomed to spend my few years there as a second-class citizen.
Around this same time, a girl in my psych class was featured in a starring role in a John Candy movie, directed by the late, great John Hughes. It was interesting how the other kids reacted to her success. Even though she was one of them– her family seemed to have plenty of money– she didn’t look or act like them, and when the movie came out, everyone basically teased her about it, or ignored her altogether. Fans of John Hughes movies will appreciate the bittersweet irony; that her role in a John Hughes movie created a class rift between her and the other preps.
But I thought she was so awesome because, well… she’d been in a movie and that was pretty sweet, but also because she didn’t fit any mold– she wore very little makeup, had this wild, curly, untamed hair, she wore frumpy sweatshirts, and most of all… most awesomely of all… she wore Nike Swoosh sneakers instead of Tretorns. Nike sneakers were considered very passe. This made her my hero. If I’d had the money to buy new sneakers, I would have bucked the trend and bought Nike swoosh sneakers, just to be like her.
I never really spoke to her, though, cause I was so intimidated by her awesome sneaks, except for once when I encountered her in the girls bathroom. I said, “I rented your movie the other night. It was really cool.” She smiled and said, “Thanks.” It was the most I’d ever heard her say to anyone.
Today I was browsing the vintage shoes at Monster Vintage, and I came across these eighties Nike Swoosh Sneakers, and the memory of that girl and her awesomely cool Nike sneakers came rushing back to me. I realized that now that I can afford to buy myself sneakers if I feel like it, I would STILL go for the eighties Nike Swoosh because they are still way cooler than whatever the cool kids are wearing these days. And a cursory Facebook search reveals that the preppy girls who wore the Tretorns back in Maryland in 1989 aren’t all that impressive these days after all (cough*fat*cough)… unlike our Nike girl who currently stars in her own sitcom. So score one for individuality!
Cheers, Joni 🙂