Saturday, December 24, 2005

Industry Rule: Number 4,080

It may not roll off your tongue with ease but before you know it, “sneaker heads” has become the word of the day when speaking with elders. Some people struggle to understand what it is that makes sneakers so attractive and sought after. It’s taken me 30 plus years to explain this to my family and some of them still don’t get IT!

This is a journey into sound.... The sound was actually the sound of the boat’s engine as it made its journey from St. John to St. Thomas at seven o’clock in the morning. Sleepy eyed children trudged onto the ferry boat dressed neatly in their crisply ironed and starched shirts, pants, skirts and blouses. If the school uniform was two shades of blue (baby and navy blue) it was without fail that some wore Fila’s on their feet. If they weren’t Filas, then they may have been some Ellesses. Nonetheless, the kicks had to match, because that’s how it had to be done.

Now, if the uniform were different shades of red (pink and burgundy to be exact) the kicks may have been a pair of Reebok Exofit Highs or as cats in NYC call them 5411s or a pair of fire red Air Jordan 3. When the Air Jordan 3s hit the pavement it was neck braces and Egyptian cotton towels for the drool. Everyday was a fashion show and it was all about the kicks. The females did it lovely but the males took it to another level.

The kicks had to match and they couldn’t be busted and leaning to the side. If your kicks leaned, that meant that you couldn’t afford to buy a fresh pair. Some didn’t care how much their kicks leaned but the ‘heads’, knew that their defining moment was being able to wear a hot pair of kicks before anyone else on the 28 square mile of an island. Competition? It was a full contact sport and laces ruled the world.

There were rules and if you didn’t play by the rules, there was no penalty box, no time outs, no time for the referees to review the play. Some of the rules were straight up immature but there was rule number 4080, not as Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest recited on Check the Rhyme, rather it was, “If you’re late for the ferry boat and you had to run in order to catch it, you’d better have a brand new pair of sneakers on to account for being late.” No one ever wanted to be caught running for the boat. It was too embarrassing and even more embarrassing if your kicks were beaters that you decided to wear because you didn’t want to mess up your new kicks.

Such was the case when someone had a new pair of Jordans. If it was raining, you could bet your last boat pass that you would see women and men carrying a small duffle bag with nothing else in there but their ‘good’ kicks. Sometimes it wasn’t a nice duffle back but a Pueblo Grocery Store bag or even a Grand Union bag. It was a sight that would incite laughter and finger pointing. Yes, I participated in this ritual, but you know I had to be fly and asked anyone that I knew that shopped at Gucci or Louis Vuitton if I could have their tote bags. I became the unofficial bag man of St. John but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You see, there are many rules to adhere to, but it is rule number 4080 that keeps people pushing the envelope daily, at least Monday through Saturday. I still had to wear ‘church shoes’ on Sunday. Old habits live forever. You know where I’m coming from.

Kicks have a special place in the hearts of many and who I am to say that they aren’t important. They are, plain and simple. Someone once said to me that they love sneakers so much that they wouldn’t know what to do if they couldn’t express themself through their kicks. So, always remember that when you shuffle your feet may we forever hear them squeak. PEACE!


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