Navel Gazing Part 2: Sneakers as Temporal Landmarks

Now that is a triple-word-score $5 title!(all ridiculousness aside, stick with me, I’ll explain what I mean by that later. I really couldn’t think of a more condensed name for the concept.)

Those that know me and read the website (I’d wager the two are almost mutually exclusive — except for the ragtag bunch of misfits that Nate drags in) know that my Youth was marked by complete, abnormal interest in a variety of subjects. I’m not sure of the exact order, but it went something like this: dinosaurs, space, birds, Star Wars, airliners, fighter jets, and what I’ve sort of landed on now, computers and cars. That’s all well and good as it could be, and until very recently (yesterday, to be exact), I thought these phases were the be all and end all of “where I was” at a particular time, the landmarks (or buoys) on to which everything in my past had been tied. As in, when I’d page through my old, binding-suffering-because-of-overuse copy of Audubon’s Field Guide to North American Birds (1994 edition, of course), I’d remember X, Y, Z that happened around that time. Same thing when looking through my old space books, the binders I put together about airplanes, my dinosaur toys, etc, etc. I had thought that those were it for “way back when.” I think the reason for thinking in these terms is that each stage stands alone as a very discrete point in time. I can’t put my finger on exactly when I was interested in airplanes, but it was after such-and-such and before other such-and-such. Obviously, this isn’t how life goes, it’s rare for there to be a finite and complete “end” to something. Sure, I still remember bits and pieces from each “stage,” but I’m not usually adding more to whatever it is that I know and remember about each. I hadn’t put much thought to it, but these academic pursuits really only have memories about the particular subject associated with them: sitting in the cold, convincing myself that I was always just one more roll of film away from taking a picture good enough for Birder’s World with my crappy camera, and on and on. That’s the sort of thing I remember when I look through my old bird books. That’s all well and good, but as I’m looking at it now, I must not have been a very interesting kid, only remembering things related to these rather niche interests. So that leads us into yesterday.

aj12
Oh, the memories. Sort of.

I have a bit of a soft spot for sneakers; my Oakley Twitch review might’ve shown that, but being that I limit my purchases to the shoe in question, it’s quite under control. Recently, the Nike Free 5.0‘s have intrigued me. I have one pair of what I’ll call not-sitting-around sneakers, so I definitely don’t need these new sneakers, but I think they look nifty, and having tried them on, they’re very comfortable in their own, unique way (just like Nike would have you believe). So, this sneaker-centric internet browsing led to a corner of the internet I knew existed but didn’t realize quite how serious they were. The sneakerheads/shoeheads. All things considered, that’s fine. There’s no better place than the internet to complain about how “Nike’s reissue strategy really screws over the collectors because they claim a colorway will be limited, then change the packaging and sell it to everyone.” God bless the internet. Anyway. All this led me to this exact page, a history of all the Air Jordans. At first, there’s little significance there, I’ve never owned a pair of Air Jordans, they were way out of what my mom decided my sneaker price range was and by the time I was buying sneakers myself, they were still way too expensive, and more importantly, I wasn’t really into basketball sneakers anymore. But where this comes together is how big a deal sneakers were for elementary and middle school boys (that’s not a universal thing, but consider it a blanket statement). Looking through the list of Air Jordan’s, the first ones I remember as being “the new ones” were the Air Jordan 5′s, released in 1990. I was 8, but I can remember who the first person I knew that had them and how much I wanted them. I remember seeing the kids wear them for intramural basketball games at the East Side Youth Center, and on and on. And these aren’t people or things I’ve even thought of since then, way back in 1990. Oddly enough, going through the rest of the Air Jordan’s up until 1996′s Air Jordan 12. I had no intention of purchasing a pair then or now, but I remember talking about the new colors that would come out every month or so with my more athletic-minded friends at the time, many people I hadn’t thought about since then (until randomly looking at pictures of sneakers online), and oddly enough, the first time I really thought about the interior details of my middle school, something I thought I had forgotten since the day of my 8th grade “graduation.”

It goes on and on, looking at any of the high profile sneakers from 1990-1997, lots of stuff I didn’t realize I remembered. But it ends there in 1996/1997. Sneakers after that don’t elicit anything. I thought about it for a while, and I realized why. That’s when simple things like sneakers were phased out by a more serious interest in music. Like anyone “young,” I had always enjoyed TV, movies, and Top 40 radio, but around 1996/1997 (14 or so years old) most everyone has had a couple serious years acquiring his or her own personal taste in music. Before that point, oddly enough, sneakers provide those “temporal landmarks,” but after that time, it’s really music that reminds me in that same way. Of course it’s not just music, there are all sorts of “touch points for memories:” textures, smells/scents, pretty much anything, even the way a Chevrolet Lumina’s steering wheel feels. But none of this is news to anyone, we’re all simply interested in different things at different times in our lives. I had sneakers, but I’m sure other guys (and girls) have video game “sponsored” memories (I have some of those, mainly from being at friends’ houses, what with my mom associating video games with some sort of figurative devil) or memories when you find a Goosebumps book in the basement of your house.

***½

Navel Gazing Part 2: Sneakers as Temporal Landmarks receives three-and-a-half stars due to its main point’s obviousness as the review went on. The hyper-ambitious title perhaps hinted at possibilities left unanswered and avenues unexplored. Also, I’m a firm believer in sneakers being the ultimate artifact of contemporary design for point in time (heck, look at that Air Jordan overview, and see how the shoes from the early 90′s, with their neon colors, which were the new hotness™ way back when — my goal for the too many pairs of Oakley shoes I have is that they’ll be a bit more long-lasting in terms of style), and I’ve not touched on that concept one bit above.

5 thoughts on “Navel Gazing Part 2: Sneakers as Temporal Landmarks”

  1. I remember the Air Bacons being a big deal in 7th grade. Other than that, can’t say shoes really ever reminded me of a time. In fact, I really don’t remember any of my sneakers until I jumped on the airwalk bandwagon.

  2. Har har.. air bacon. Let’s remember you jumped on the Airwalk bandwagon after I had already left it behind. Anyway, I’m sure that there are other random things that’d make you think of stuff: programs to PYT plays perhaps?

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