Who influenced my choice of kicks?
Michael Jordan is not responsible for my wearing Nikes. At least initially. Neither was it Chris Mullin who I was a huge fan of dating back to his St. John days when the team was known as the Redmen not the Red Storm and nor was it Charles Barkley with his “if I can’t go through you there are a couple of ways I can go around you” commercial.
My sneaker pimp was none other than Michael Douglas. Yes, the actor and he of the War of the Roses, Black Rain, and Basic Instinct fame. Now Kirk Douglas’ son didn’t set any athletic records or break any backboards but for me in the days of FEN and sports movies like Pisces and Slap Shot (dude, Paul Newman and the Hanson Brothers!), I sometimes turned to Hollywood to slake my thirst for sports in a pop-culture deprived market.
In the great pantheon of sports movies, the 1979 movie Running starring Michael Douglas as Michael Andropolous, a failed American Olympic Marathon runner, will not be remembered like Rocky, Remember the Titans, A League of Their Own, or We Are Marshall. But Running will go down as one my all-time favorites. My dad took me to watch that and I sat mesmerized about this story of redemption and crossing the finish line. I asked my friends to watch it and felt embarrassed when they laughed at Douglas’ finishing the race all bloodied and broken. But I loved it so that I bought the novelization of the film (and I still have the browned-out and well-thumbed book). The other thing that enthralled me was Douglas/Andropolous’ choice of footwear. It was a simple pair of running shoes with a check sign on it (who knew that it was called the Swoosh back then).
I was hooked and badgered my dad no end to get me a pair albeit unsuccessfully. I never got to buy the kicks I wanted for myself until I was working. And I recall my first pair: the black and blue Huarache Air Trainer. Man, I loved those shoes. It was like riding on a Benz with its great shocks and cushioning; it was stylish, and it was an excellent sports shoe – one that paved the way for cross-trainers. Seeing how Nike brought them back and turned them into Kobe Bryant’s signature shoe wear was a treat; like the cherry on top of that banana split supreme.
As much as I was a Michael Jordan fan, it was kind of hard to wear his Air Jordans. For one thing, they were the priciest shoes on the market and as much as it was also a fashion statement to have Jordans, I guess you were expected to be really good at basketball to have one. I was pretty okay but not great at hoops. But just having that Jumpman logo – which will go down in history as one of the most famous next to the Golden Arches and the Swoosh – on my gear meant it was cutting edge, classy, and top flight.
I did collect my pair of Air Jordans with the III, X, and XI being my faves. And Scottie Pippen’s Air Uptempos were stuff that I coveted. I simply loved those black shoes with the funky huge “AIR” stitched to its side.
Cut years later, I discovered other footwear. I bought K-Swiss because I loved the simplicity of the shoes although back then it wasn’t something you could wear to play hoops. The classic version is still a staple of my footwear to this day. More so when the off-white color got dirtied-- it looked even cooler. I remember watching Julia Roberts’ movie Sleeping With the Enemy and there was a scene where Kevin Anderson was seated in the porch of this house with his leg atop a couch and he was wearing a pair of dirty white K-Swiss just like mine and I remember saying to myself, “Man, it does look cool!”
So how about them black shoes?
It seemed back then that it was like throwing a brick through a window. To my recollection, the purveyors of black soles were Joe Paterno’s Penn State Nittany Lions and Red Auerbach’s Boston Celtics. But the black tops craze went into overdrive when the Chicago Bulls formally adopted that as their shoe color (but that choice can actually be attributed to former Bull Brad Sellers who thought it would be a great sign of team unity).
Well now, kicks come in the colors of the rainbow (just like ipods and other digital mp3 players). They’ve become forms of expressions with a street and fashionista feel to them. Who would have thought that sneakers would have that technological edge to them? Remember those futuristic Nikes on Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future and those space-faring Reeboks on Sigourney Weaver in Aliens? Say no more, effendi; they’re close to becoming a reality.
I purchase three to four pairs of rubber shoes a year. I use a couple for casual wear and the others for tennis and hoops. Does a celebrity endorser have an effect on my choices? Contrary to what people think, yes, star power helps. But I guess it’s the bigger shoe companies like Nike, Adidas, Reebok, and Converse who use the big guns to push their products. Others like K-Swiss get by using ordinary folk to push their products. But nowadays I look to the athletes I admire -- Michael Jordan, James Blake, Kobe Bryant, or even Manu Ginobili among others to choose what shoes to buy and contribute to the coffers of a billion-dollar industry.
Funny because it wasn’t an athlete who first got me into this.