I am not a “shoe person.” I have maybe 8 pairs of shoes in my closet, and I generally pick between two sets of practical (read boring) black or brown shoes each day when I prepare for work. I am a creature of comfort. I have a difficult enough time navigating 32 backpacks and desks in practical, close-to-the-ground shoes; I cannot imagine doing it in some of the fancier shoes I see people sport.
Ironically, while I lack much of an interest in (or knowledge of ) shoe fashion, I work in a world where shoes are the barometer of coolness…. well, at least among the 12-14 year old set. If you have read my previous posts, you know I am a teacher, and my students are… well, fascinated with shoes. Sneakers to be exact. Now, the sneakers they wear are big, bright, and BOLD. The more vibrant the colors, the better. These are HUGE pieces of footwear (the kids’ feet seemingly disappear into the depths of the shoe), with undone laces, which of course makes the old fuddy duddy in me wonder, “How do kids these days keep those shoes on their feet?” These are NOT the Keds I wore “back in the day.”
I try to be hip (as hip as a middle-aged history teacher can be), so I ask my students about their footwear. Through conversation, I have learned there is an entire sneaker subculture–the students sell and trade their shoes, attend sneaker meets, buy shoe cleaners, and occasionally even walk differently to keep from creasing their shoes. I have witnessed the utter distress that takes place when someone accidentally (remember all those backpacks) steps on someone else’s sneakers, leaving a mark… one would think the world was ending.
However, much as I have tried to learn, it is readily apparent that I will never fully grasp the sneaker fascination. Case in point: a very diligent young man asked me one day to print out an essay he wrote. After inserting his flash drive into my laptop, I see the file: “All About Tink.” Wow, I think. Didn’t realize a middle school boy would enjoy Tinkerbell.
“It’s cool that you wrote about Tinkerbell,” I comment, as I hit print. Confusion crosses his face. “All About Tink??” I say gently. A sweet, polite young man, he tries, but fails, to stifle a snort and fight back an eye roll.
“Ummm…. Sorry, Mrs. V. That would be Tinker Hatfield. You know, the guy who designed Air Jordan III-XV and the twentieth anniversary Air Jordan XX?” I blush, shrink to 2 inches tall, and send him off to lunch, where I am sure I was the subject of more than a couple incredulous comments about how “out of touch” I am.
At this point in my tale, it should be clear, fashion footwear is NOT my forte. But, when I read during Disney’s marathon weekend last January that Disney had partnered with New Balance to develop Mickey and Minnie running sneakers, I had an unusual reaction. First, I experienced a slight light-headedness… As I looked at the picture of the shoes, my vision blurred and then became laser-focused… there was a longing… I HAD TO HAVE THOSE SHOES. Is this how my students feel when seeing one of those tow-truck-sized, Crayola-crayon-color, pair of sneakers? I get it! Now, I must get THEM!
Through the amazing kindness of friends, I was able to obtain a pair of the precious jewels of footwear, even though I was not running (nor ever intend to run) the marathon. I gulped at the receipt (THEY COST HOW MUCH??? FOR SHOES???), but I reimbursed my benefactor and pondered their beauty: the red soles bespeckled with white dots, just like Minnie’s dress; the yellow “N”, a perfect reflection of the color of her own stylish footwear; the runDisney emblazoned on the tongue (who needs the “run” part, anyway? Just make it say Disney, and I am happy)…. and most importantly, the tiny image of a smiling Minnie on the heal. I’m in love. And I want to show them off!! And who better to show these amazing shoes to than THE experts of shoe fashion—my students!
I make a plan. I am going to show my students that I CAN be hip and fashionable. I prepare an outfit for dress-down Friday, making sure the clothes will complement, but not distract from– my sparkling testament to Disney loyalty and modern fashion. I was disappointed to see it was raining, so I actually packed the shoes with my school papers and wore other ones to work (couldn’t get those beauties dirty, you know….) My husband watched me do this, his mouth agape, asking what had gotten into me. I said to leave me alone… I was in love……….. with my shoes.
After getting to school, I slipped them on… And I waited. When the morning bell rang, and the waves of students fell into the halls, I stood outside my door and beamed… and waited. “Good morning! Good morning!” Tired eyes and quietly muttered “mornings” greeted me as one by one they ALL walked past and IGNORED MY SHOES! Undeterred, I walked into the room and wished them a happy Friday. As we waited for morning announcements, I mentioned I wore something special today. Quizzical eyes looked back at me. My shoes! Like Cinderella wearing the glass sleeper, I gleefully held up my foot. And thirty sets of eyes looked at the shoes… then at me… then at each other… and the buzz began. “Those are sooooo red.” “Well, those things woke ME up.” “Negative. Not fresh.” (Still working on the translation of that one, but I don’t think it’s good.)
It was not the reaction I was hoping for. “But I thought you guys would like them! They are colorful! And loud! And look! Minnie Mouse is on the back.” That did it. Now they were laughing.
I was saved by the bell (or morning announcements, in this case) and the interruption stopped the chatter and allowed me to regroup. “I pledge allegiance (they hate the shoes!) to the flag (I can’t believe it!) of the United States of America (but they are just like THEIRS!) and to the Republic, for which it stands (guess I need to get over it) one nation, under God, indivisible (sniff) with liberty, and justice, for all.”
So class went on, though admittedly, I had lost a bit of the spring that had been in my step. At the end of class, the student who researched the OTHER Tink came up and said, “ya know, Mrs. V. They aren’t all that bad. A little small, but they’ve got good color.” I thanked him and greeted a new group of students, who also, sniff sniff, did not notice my burgeoning attempt to be cool and hip in the world of footwear.
So, in the end, the shoes did nothing for my coolness factor, but they do make ME smile. I have persevered and worn them a number of times since that day, and I often get a sympathetic compliment from one of the kids. Their efforts make me smile, and remind me what sweet young adults they are…. even if they don’t understand the magnificent coolness of my shoes.
So, as this chapter of my Disney obsession closes, I wonder what the future holds in store for New Balance and Disney–and I wonder if will I be gripped by the need to buy future shoes? Perhaps Tinker Hatfield can join forces to design a Tinkerbell New Balance shoe. Now THAT would be fresh.