I remember those must-have shoes of my youth like I wore them yesterday.
Perhaps working at a shoe magazine was inevitable for me, considering the importance I placed on having the styles of the moment as a kid. I made my fashion preferences known every time my mother took my three siblings and I on our semi-annual shoe shopping excursions at Shoe Town in Springfield, NJ. By the time I reached second grade, I wanted to wear what my older brothers deemed the “cool” sneakers—not the knockoffs my mom bought for me at our local supermarket. Mom assured me that I’d get to wear Converse Chuck Taylor canvas hi-tops when I got a little older, but that didn’t make wearing what the neighborhood kids derisively dubbed “Path-Mark specials” any less embarrassing. I was making a fashion faux pas before I knew French was a language. The fact that the shoes had a synthetic outsole, which made them slippery on gym floors, convinced me that they were a danger to my health as well as my social standing.
My mother finally gave in to my demands for Chucks. I remember those first few pairs like it was yesterday—strutting down the street in my fresh snow-white hi-tops with the big star logo on the inside heel, perfect for a pick-up game of hoops. I was ready for action—and I was convinced those sponge-soft rubber soles made a difference whenever I drove to the hoop.
The years that followed were marked by a succession of must-have shoes: I graduated to leather Converse hi-tops in junior high. Adidas Sambas became the shoe of choice for soccer players when I was in high school. There was a brief run on sporting Bata racquetball shoes, too. (It was a short-lived fad.) Then The Preppy Handbook craze ushered Sebago Docksiders onto the scene. They became “dress shoes” for guys who thought wingtips were footwear for fathers. Another non-sneaker style that came into vogue when I was a teenager was the Herman Survivors boot, our town’s take on the classic Timberland wheat boot. When worn with the laces undone and the pants partially tucked in, they were dubbed “burnout boots” (a look made famous by Judd Nelson’s character in The Breakfast Club). I came full circle during my senior year, returning to my shoe fashion roots by sporting canvas hi-top Chucks again—this time in fire engine red. Occasionally I still run into old acquaintances who remember me as “the guy who always wore those crazy red hi-tops.”
Kids today have far more footwear choices. There are shoes with licensed characters, shoes that light up, shoes that change colors in the sunlight, shoes that come in the shape of animals, shoes that talk and an extensive selection of adult takedown styles. Our industry has come a long way from the days when plain white canvas hi-tops were the end-all and be-all. In honor of our special kids’-themed issue, we’ve rounded up some of the key children’s trends for this fall in our story Fashionistas (p. 34).
And while parents have plenty to choose from in age-appropriate designs (think pink sparkles for girls and sporty kicks for boys), there’s no denying that the mini-me trend is taking a lead role this season. That’s the word from Roz Viemester, owner of New York’s Shoofly children’s shoe boutique and the subject of our “What’s Selling” department (p. 24). For more than 25 years, Viemester has been ushering in the latest kid trends for her über-trendy Tribeca neighborhood residents, and her perspective on what’s hot is a must-read. Our retail profile of Wee Soles of Los Angeles (p. 16) provides another window into the world of successful kids’ shoe retailing. Owners Darci Rosenberg and Tamsin Carlson, former professional dancers, have created a destination offering trendy kids’ styles and professional fitting.
Last but not least, this month’s Q&A with Tracey McLeod, president of BBC Int’l., (p. 10) offers an unparalleled level of insight into the children’s market. McLeod has been with the kids’ shoe powerhouse for more than 20 years. She’s also a mother of two. If it’s happened or if it’s about to happen in kids’ footwear, McLeod has the scoop.
To expand on my trip down shoe memory lane, we’d like to invite you to share favorite shoe fashion photos from your own childhood. Share them on our Facebook page and we’ll run a collage in an upcoming issue of Footwear Plus.