The Poop : A tribute to the Vans slip-on shoe
I was beyond ecstatic in 1983, when my mother bought me my first and only pair of Vans slip-on shoes. This was just before I started making enough money to purchase some of my own clothes, and my parents rarely bought me anything trendy. The shoes were blue on the toe with a lighter blue heel -- what we might consider in the 21st Century to be old man shoes. Still, I remember feeling almost dangerously proud. If you happened to be in Burlingame during the Reagan administration and saw a skinny kid bumping into light poles because he liked stare at his shoes when he walked, that was probably me.
Laziness never goes out of style.
But even as a 12-year-old who was dying to own a pair, I never thought that Vans would still be around in 27 years. We all wore Swatch watches and listened to The Bangles too, and none of us considered for a second that either was more than a fad. I thought my own kids would be riding jetpacks to school in the year 2010, but I figured they'd be wearing Nikes.
So imagine my surprise that my 5-year-old owns three pairs of Vans (two of them are Vans knock-offs), and not even to be ironic. He has a camoflauge pair, a charcoal-colored pair with small gray and gold skulls on the fabric, and the immortal Spicoli-style "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" checkerboard slip-ons.
The survival of Vans makes some practical sense, when you look at the evolution of child-rearing in the U.S. As generations pass, we overschedule our kids but expect less of them when it comes to the simplist functions of living. Things like telling time and tying shoes are lost arts. (My son can order apps from my iPod Touch, but I'm sure he would be baffled if ever confronted with a rotary telephone.) Vans slip-ons perfectly match our children's on-the-go-with-the-least-effort-possible lifestyles.
There's the comfort factor, too. Once the fashion industry makes it socially acceptable to essentially wear slippers to school, it's hard to make people go back to the blister-y past of saddle shoes. (For this reason, I fear, my grandchildren will be wearing Crocs when they ride their jetpacks to school in the year 2040.)
And finally, the price is definitely right. I realize this is turning into less of a blog post and more of an infomercial, but I did pay less than $15 for two pairs of Vans knock-offs from Old Navy a couple of months ago. And I didn't even need Vince from Shamwow to tell me to do it.
I've been respecting the longevity of Vans for a long time. But I didn't completely come full circle until yesterday, during my BART ride home from work, when I actually woke up the youngish preppy-looking guy across from me to ask where he got his shoes. This was doubly awkward, because not only did it look like an obvious pick-up line, but he was considerably better looking than me. (Even though I'm a straight married man, I'm more comfortable making small talk with male strangers who are in my league.)
Anyway, mission accomplished. They were Vans (not knock-offs) and he bought them online. The exact same pair will arrive at my house in 5 to 12 days. I'm even thinking of wearing them to work. Between the blogging and newspaper article writing and parenting, my shoe-tying time is becoming a luxury.
What pair of Vans slip-on shoes did you own as a child or teen?