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Monday, September 27, 2004


(Junior) High Fashion

The kids in one of my classes were making fun of me the other day. Not an unusual occurrence. I am, after all, a white guy from Ohio. They weren't making fun of my whiteness; they weren't making fun of my mid-westernhood. They were giving me shit about my shoes.

After four days solid of wearing a pair of dress shoes that are just a tiny bit too tight, I broke out the one pair of athletic shoes in my decidedly non-athletic shoe collection: a pair of brown sneakers from Payless. I picked them up because I wanted something I could walk around in all day comfortably. I didn't notice that they were "Shaqs." Apparently, Shaq needed to install a new hot tub in his private jet, so he lent his name to a line of cheap Payless sneakers which, now that I look at the tongue of the shoe, do actually say, "Shaq."

My students, it seems, have marketing awareness that leaves mine crying for its mother in the dirt. They spotted my shoes within minutes of my showing up in the schoolyard in the morning. One of them said to another, "Yo, Mr. Wack's wearing Shaqs." (Actually, what he said was "Mr. Walk's wearing Shaq's," because my new principal was concerned with how junior high school kids would heap abuse on me if they knew how my name is really spelled, so I have, for the first time in my life, distorted the truth about something that's been a point of honor and pride for 34 years. This makes me want to cry. Anyway...) They all took a closer look and started laughing to one another behind their hands.

One of them recovered from his guffawing enough to say, "Mr. Walk, you're wearing shoes from Payless?" To which I replied that I was, in fact, wearing shoes from Payless and big fucking deal. See, this is where the difference between my childhood and theirs really hits home to me. These kids know more and care more about clothes than I ever did, as a child or now. They're all fucking driven to wear the latest in Cool Wear, be it Burberry or Hilfinger or Sean Jean or huge pink t-shirts (which I don't watch nearly enough hip-hop videos to come close to understanding.) They slam on kids who don't dress in appropriate brands and styles.

When I was in sixth grade, this is not how it was. Yes, there were styles that were cool. I remember when Nike sweatshirts were very big for a time. I remember that painters' caps enjoyed a brief run as fashionable. In junior high, everyone was wearing sweatpants pulled up a couple inches above the ankle. The kids who followed these trends and wore all the right stuff were very cool. But you weren't made fun of if you didn't wear the right stuff. Most guys I knew didn't overly concern themselves with being Junior GQ. We got along okay anyway.

If I was a kid today, I'd be completely fucked. See, my parents loved me and took care of me. I always had plenty of clothes and they were never ratty or full of holes. But they were generally, like, Tuffskins Huskies from Sears or St. John's Bay sweaters from Penney's. My dad just never saw the sense in paying more than fifteen dollars for tennis shoes that I was going to outgrow in a few months anyway.

My sister, because she was both a girl and a couple of years older, had a little more say in what she wore. She always had at least a couple pairs of whatever jeans were trendy at the time. But what the hell did I have to complain about as long as what I wore kept me warm and dry?

And my parents were right. To this day, I don't see the point in paying a hundred bucks for a pair of jeans when you could get practically the same thing for thirty. I don't have any burning desire to look like the guys in the Kenneth Cole ads. And I shop for shoes at goddamn Payless. Why should I or anybody else give a shit what's on my feet? What kind of peace of mind am I meant to get from knowing that I plopped down a hundred and fifty dollars for Air Jordans? I am not an Yves Saint Laurant-following girl. I am a guy and guys should not fucking care what they're wearing.

There. I've said it. Unless a man is going out for a fancy night on the town or he's gay, he should not give two shits what he's wearing. As long it's marginally clean. And doesn't have gaping holes through which his genitalia can poke. And isn't made of rubber.

And it makes him feel pretty.

Nice Joe,

You and I would have gotten along splendidly in grade school. I do, however, remember feeling considerable pressure to wear the latest fashion, mostly because I discovered that I got more attention from the little women when I did. I got a pair of Hash Jeans for christmas one year, and my social standing skyrocketed 4 notches above my normal nosepicking, marble throwing standard. This turned out to be both a curse and a blessing; a blessing for all the attention, of course, and a curse because the stakes had been raised and my Toughskins just weren't good enough anymore.

They should do a reality show about inner city youth and their fashion preferences.
dunno if it has anything to do with inner city youths at all...I come from the CoSpgs (Colorado Springs for those not in the know), and that's about as far removed from inner city youths as, well, Colorado Springs. Thing is I recall getting the same kind of shit back then, starting in middle school, which for us was 7th through 9th.

Actually, Mr. Wack (you should've told that principal to go screw...I'm sure you could've dealt with a few week's worth of shit the kids would've laid out...hell you've had 34 years of it), it's not clear how old these kids are...6th grade? yeah, that's about right...

the kids that notice this are the same kids who end up being the jocks and popular kids in high school. shits, all of them, but not remotely new.--tbo
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