First of all, I’m not a sneakerhead. I like sneakers the same way I like all shoes and clothes created for conspicuous consumption, but I don’t collect sneakers or keep them in boxes or any of that carry-on. I’m not hating, I just don’t have that kind of affinity for footwear. Also, boxes are bulky and New York apartments are small, so all my shoes, be them Jimmy Choo’s or Jordan’s, live on a shoerack. Having said all that, I will always remember my first pair of Nike Air Max and since it’s Nike Air Max Day – what a delightful corporate celebration – I thought I’d share it.
I grew up in Ireland and we didn’t have the rich sneaker culture Americans enjoy as young (and older) ones. At the time sneakers, or runners as we call them at home, were for just that – running or sports in general. The idea of sneakers and sportswear as fashion apparel had only began to creep away from the playing fields and onto the streets, but like any cross pollination between utility and fashion, sneakers (like hoodies) as fashion items held certain connotations.
My mom, trying to raise a young lady, would be damned before she’d see me in pair, no matter how much my nine-year-old self pleaded and begged. Sidenote: I don’t know why but I had such a serious hankering for a pair of sneakers, white Air Max with a blue swoosh in particular. It’s probably because they were predominantly boys shoes and I had taken to dressing like Aaron Carter at the time. Anyway, for my mom, and every other middle aged women in our area, sneakers were one thing, but Air Max were the psychical embodiment of crime, violence, and general unsavory behavior. Don’t get me wrong, my mom isn’t a snob. In fact, she’s a badass and has wicked fashion taste, but somethings are just too embedded in a particular culture to ignore.
That all changed one Sunday in March. My 16-year-old babysitter was staying with us at the time and we stopped in her house to feed her dog, Bugsy, a gregarious, oversized yellow lab with a tail that wagged like the crack of a whip. With a few minutes to spare we decided to take Bugsy into the garden for a little exercise. My babysitter, Claire, grabbed a hurley bat and slither – an Irish rendition of a baseball bat and ball – to hit for Bugsy.
I was a clumsy child and my spatial awareness wasn’t exactly on point. Needless to say, I stood to close and on the backswing the hurley clocked me right on the brow bone. The resulting carnage resembled a crime scene. There was blood everywhere – I bled on my jeans, I bled on the grass, I bled on poor old Bugsy, and my babysitter almost fainted with the shock – you could see the bone. Later that summer, I would break my ankle on a jungle gym and would bust my lip open on the same jungle gym, so clearly this wasn’t her fault. But anyone would feel bad almost removing a kid’s eye.
She called my parents and off we went to the doctor. The cut was deep and required stitches, which isn’t the most pleasant experience as any clumsy kid will know. The first one went in okay, but the second one stung like a bitch and so I decided I’d had enough. The gaping hole in my face would have to stay as it was. As far as I was concerned it was better than being threaded up like Frankenstein.
While the doctor fetched more disinfectant, or whatever, I hopped down off the gurney and darted for the door. My mom stepped in front to stop me so I lunged under the desk and refused to get out until the doctor put the needle away. They tried pretty much everything to get me back on the bench. They tried to lift me but I held onto the desk leg, then they bribed me with candy, to no avail. After a good 10 minutes of exasperation, my mom offered me anything to get the last few stitches.
Anything? Anything? What does any nine-year-old want? Nope, not a pony or a purple unicorn, but a pair of Nike Air Max. She relented, I got my stitches (and a neat scar) and a brand new pair of kicks to complete my transition to tomboy extrordinaire.
Thankfully, my fashion icons have evolved from ’90s tween boys to Swedish bloggers and I would like to think I have developed some semblance of style, but I don’t remember my first dress or my first purse. And yet, I will always remember those Nike Air Max. Probably because my babysitter hit me in the face with a stick, but I have other notions.
I didn’t realized it at the time, but the sneakers were my first example of how clothing was representative of stereotypes. I remember seeing the type of people who wore Air Max and knowing why mom didn’t want me in a pair. They were the teenagers who loitered in malls, the kids who you’d cross the street on the way home from school just in case.
But moving to America, I can look back and connect the dots. For a pair of sneakers, my Air Max’s taught me a lot. I didn’t grow up here and sometimes I don’t get the whole sneaker thing. But just because I don’t get it, doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it and I’m grateful to my 1998 Air Maxs for that. So while I might not be the biggest aficionado, I can still celebrate Air Max Day for what(ever) it is; a celebration of identity through style, of which I suffered battle wounds to earn.
Anyway after all that, peep the video above for a dope take on four repurposed Nike’s.