I guess it had to happen at some point.
Every generation has its sartorial signature. For my generation of baby boomers, it’s blue jeans and training shoes. I sighed, looking at my four year old Converse All Stars. I was about to go down the pub for quiz night. I had gone to the utility room, and pulled my faithful trainers from their shelf.
The once pristine white leather now cracked and grubby, despite my best efforts with the leather conditioner. The laces, fraying, the insoles malodorous and worn. Despite the abuse of four years of almost constant wear, the soles with their moulded blue tread looked almost new, with just a small area around the ball of the foot and a slightly chamfered heel to testify to their age.
I felt an odd sadness sweep over me. I had enjoyed a constant relationship with casual footwear since I was a child. I remembered with loathing the awful black plimsolls with the elasticated tops that my Mother used to force me to wear at primary school.
Luckily, I soon grew out of them and recall going to my secondary school, and having a surge of pride when I pulled on proper trainers rather than the dreaded tennis shoes that had to be whitened with a no doubt toxic white creme which cracked and flaked as soon as it dried. These trainers were my thirteenth birthday present.
I can remember them now – Power Toledos. They were black leather, with a suede toecap, and a biscuit coloured ridged sole. They were very comfortable, and I was soon wearing them virtually all day.
As I grew older, and left school, I fell in with a group of friends who were very much into 1950s rock’n’roll, and it wasn’t long before my trainers were kicked into touch in favour of what we called bumper boots, and my baggy Levi’s switched for snake proof drainpipe denims with a turn up. This phase lasted for about three years, during which I experimented with crepe soled blue suede shoes, motorcycle boots, platform boots and Doc Martens.
However, the sheer practicality and enduring street cried of trainers lured me back, and I have virtually lived in the things since the mid 1980s. Thirty years of Adidas, Nike, Puma and Hi-Tec, each pair lasting me a few years.
I’m now 57. I caught sight of myself in the mirror the other day. A balding fat bloke in the obligatory Levis and a pair of scruffy Converse All Stars.
I though about the image, and mentally shuddered. It was not a good look. Well, not for a middle aged porky chap with virtually no hair. I am the Flight Operations manager in a large blue chip company, and my days were now filled with suits and meetings.
My current peer group of friends fall into two distinct categories. The rural look, with old, crinkly waxed jackets, tough boots and Stockman coats and hats, or the American collegiate look, with smart chinos and loafers.
But until now, I had stubbornly clung to my winter “look” of baggy tee shirts, comfort fit Levis and trainers, and my summer plumage of baggy tee shirt, shorts and trainers. I suddenly realised that I was somehow stuck in a time warp, an endless Groundhog Day of arrested development.
I snatched the shoes up, and strode over to the flip top bin, and hurled them viciously inside, the flip top spinning madly under my onslaught.
With a pious feeling I was about to walk away, when my eye was drawn to the tickets secured to the side of the fridge.
Status Quo’s “really and truly” farewell concert was due to happen a few short months away in December.
I realised that no adult red blooded male who has grown up with the Quo through the sixties and seventies could possibly entertain the idea of going to a Fab Four gig wearing anything other than blue denim and trainers.
Smiling, I reached into the bin, and pulled out the iconic footwear. “One more wear guys” I muttered, and hid them in the back of the cupboard.
I think it is fitting that my old pumps will retire at the same time as the blokes who will forever be associated with jeans and trainers.
Mark Charlwood © September 2016
I guess it had to happen at some point.