I love my work boots, and I wear them most of the time, but occasionally I need a change, sometimes I need the bouncy comfort of sneakers or maybe I feel like revisiting my youth with a pair of vintage sports shoes to make me feel more than a little pang of nostalgia. So what sneakers go well with our denim? Are you the kind of person who compliments their cuffs with some Chuck Taylor high tops for that 50’s teenager look, or do you hark back to your hazy, crazy days of youth by sporting some shell toes or boots named after your favourite basketball player? We all have some kind of sneaker nostalgia, but does it work with your denim?
As a kid I skated ….. a lot….but I could never get on with skate shoes like Vans or Vision Street Wear due to the ridiculously high instep on my feet, so I always wore Nikes and managed to get through quite a few pairs of Air Max much to my father’s wallets disappointment. Through my early teens I always had a pair of sneakers for skating and another pair for showing off, which invariably ended up being whatever Air Jordan model was out at the time. Even today I have a strong affinity for retro Air Jordan’s, and still sincerely believe that the Jordan III is the greatest pair of sneakers ever made, so good that I still own 2 pairs. Getting older and more mature I got into the British Indie music scene, which invariably meant wearing Adidas Gazelle’s, Campus or shell toes as that is what all the bands wore. I owned all of them, I wore them, but I never really felt over comfortable with them. The brand with three stripes always seemed a little too rigid, plain and more than a little dull. For me Nikes were always cooler, always more comfortable and always had the better designs, they also had more associations with the things I liked, The Terminator, Basketball, and The Fresh Prince Of Belle Air (sorry, I was young).
Traditional denim sneakers tend to be the ones which best compliment the retro/ repro look of so much of the raw selvedge denim scene, by this I mean the ones which echo the trends of the 1950’s when raw selvedge denim first made large strides into the casual wear of American youth, and no other sneakers better fit this mould than my arch (deliberate pun) nemesis, the Converse Chuck Taylor. Apart from my high instep issue with these shoes, and not to mention that they are about as comfortable as walking on rough wood barefoot, I do have a couple of other issues with the denim scenes darling sports shoe. Firstly, they are boring, you might describe them as classic but to me they are plain, dull and common as dirt, even the 70’s Chucks (touted as the CT you always wanted) are hardly a massive departure, secondly they are made from just about the cheapest materials going by a company which is touted as evil by just about every man and his dog in the clothing industry….until they turn out your good old Chucks. That’s right folks, Converse is owned by Oregon’s finest, Nike.
The thing is, I do actually own some Converse Chuck Taylors, I have a leather pair with a massively padded tongue from their Skateboarding line up, I expected them to be a little more supportive and comfortable and they certainly look a little less boring, but they are just simply awful to wear, I honestly believe when I hear someone tell me that CT’s are the most comfortable thing for your feet that they are either blatantly lying, or completely insane in a masochistic kind of way. So what do you do? What are the alternatives if you want something traditional, retro and in keeping with your 50’s greaser aesthetic which doesn’t give you Hobbit feet? Well, you could buy some Vans. Skateboard sneakers of the masses since Skateboarding began, but they are also hilariously uncomfortable, cheaply made and about as interesting as a TED talk. There has to be an alternative right? Something which has genuine retro value, without being boring or uncomfortable, well there are a couple of contenders.
I must stress that I am in new territory here, I don’t own and have never owned a pair of either of the following shoes that I am going to discuss, I am merely suggesting them as a viable alternative to the more ubiquitous options already mentioned. I have listened to the opinions of people I know who own them, and share some of my thoughts on Cons and Vans, and I have ordered a pair of each of the brands so I can see for myself if Converse are being deliberately spiteful by making their most popular shoe as much fun to wear as nipple clamps. The brands and shoes I’m thinking about are PF Flyers High Tops and Palladium Pampas, both have been around for decades, both share certain design features with the better known CT’s and both look much less boring to my eyes. I feel a pair of reviews coming on…