We’re back with the 10th Issue of the WearTesters Weekender. This week we will be looking into the pasts of some of our writers for a story. Be sure to read through them and let us know if you identify with any of the experiences, memories, and throwback photos. Also, we want to hear your stories as well so feel free to share in the comments below.
I asked some general questions t0 get the memories flowing from everyone. What memory do you associate with the shoe? What success or failure did you experience with it? When did you wear it? Do you still have the shoes or have re-acquired another pair?
Now, this is the story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down, and I’d like to take a minute, so just sit right there… I’ll tell you how I wound up getting my first pair.
Basketball was everything to me at this time in my life. I was ‘growing up’, moving on from nerd shit like G.I. Joe, TMNT, X-Men, Batman, Power Rangers etc. It was time that I entered adult-hood. Now at this same time, I started to realize that my Payless exclusives weren’t really all that exclusive. In fact, they were fucking hideous abominations that got me picked on all the damn time. Hell… my pants didn’t even reach my ankles at this stage of my life. I was a total wreck – I say all of this dramatically, from the mind of an 10-11 year old. You know, when this type of thing starts to become important to a boy that thinks he’s on the verge of entering manhood.
So, like I was saying. All the kid stuff was removed. I sold all my comics, action figures and anything else that helped raise me, and my interested turned towards basketball and the equipment I thought I needed in order to play the game… proper footwear. Most notably, I noticed little check marks on everyones feet. What in the world was NIKE?!? Naturally, I began to research. Found that Nike’s were not for kids like myself… they were for rich kids… or those families that thought looking like you were wealthy was important. That wasn’t my family.
“Mom, I need a new pair of shoes. I need a pair of basketball shoes” said little Chris.
“Okay, how much will they cost?” asked Chris’ Mom.
“I don’t know, but everyone is wearing Nike’s.” Chris explained.
Like any good parent would do, they went out of their way to research with their child how much these “Nike’s” would cost in order to properly provide for ones young’n. Right around this time, Barkley was the man. Jordan was retired and Air Flights weren’t just cool… they were fucking amazing. These shoes don’t just look cool, but they make you run faster and jump higher… holy shit! I don’t think I’ve ever had a bubble burst so fast in my life. We opened up the Sunday paper – for those of you too young to know what that is, there were once these giant rolled up piles of paper that had everything in them. It was like Walmart all rolled up into one giant recycled mess. Everything from current events, local news, sports… shit, they even predicted the weather. But the special ones were delivered on Sunday – the day the funny pages came in color. There were ads galore. Every retailer paid big bucks to showcase what they’ve got in-stock so that you could flock to them like bee’s to pollen. And then it finally happened… the sneaker section was unveiled.
Just like that, my Mom belted; “You want a pair of $100 shoes?!? Hahahahahahahahahaha!”
If there were emoticons back then… I’m pretty sure you’d see an entire row of them right now.
But wait, there’s more. I was persistent, and my Mom was a Jew… so we had to compromise. Way in the back of the paper, the sale/ clearance section… My Mom handed it to me. “If you can find a pair of Nike’s (she pronounced it like the word hike’s… but with an “N” replacing the “H” – drove me nuts!) for $40 or less, then you can have a pair.”
You might stop yourself right here and think – $40 for some fresh Nike’s?! This kid is screwed – well, that’s exactly what I thought too… but that didn’t stop the hunt. I searched my tail off. It took me a few Sunday’s worth of papers to find a pair, but I eventually did. Oshman’s – a now extinct sporting goods store – was having a blowout sale! There were Nike’s there for $40! But it was first come first serve and sizing was limited. I showed my Mom, and off we went.
To make this long story short – I got my pair of Nike’s – Nike Air Flights to be exact. The battle was long, I may have obtained a few paper cuts searching through Sunday papers for deals, but in the end… I emerged victorious. As for the kicks, they were all black with a tiny bit of white. It was Sunday, and I had just gotten my first pair of “real” shoes… so I did what any soon-to-be-sneakerhead would do. I stayed home and wore them in the house all day long because I couldn’t wait for school to start.
The very next day was my first time wearing the shoes to school. I woke super early because I had those anxious butterflies in the pit of my stomach all night long – the kind that make you feel like you have to take a shit – yeah… this was serious. I got dressed, laced up my kicks and walked to school thinking I was the flyest mother-f***er on the planet. When I finally arrived, the bell was about to ring, everyone noticed that I had on new kicks… everyone! It was phenomenal! They all walked up to me and said; “Looks like you got some new shoes, huh?”, and I replied with a huge grin and a nod…
They replied with a… STOMP!
Man, what in the fuck?!!
(note: This image is the only picture I have of me when I was younger. The picture was taken two years later from the story above, and the shoes I’m wearing were still from Oshman’s $40 clearance section.)
What shoe from my past brings the most memories for me? This is tough – my past is longer than most of the people I associate with, so I can remember when Jordans sat and Reeboks were hot. My first Nike’s were the silver nylon Vandals, and my first Jordans were just that – the first Jordans (kids sizes, then called Sky Jordans). The shoe that changed it all for me though? The Adidas Supernatural Creator East All-Star edition. Not a very sexy pick, and not a very popular shoe. So why did I pick it, when I have worn every Jordan, Kobe, Lebron, Rose, et cetera? It was my first real review that I ever did. It was Derrick Rose’s first All-Star game. The game was in Arlington/Dallas, my hometown. I was writing for Counterkicks, just brought in, and I had just bought the shoes. I had NO IDEA what I was doing, so I went with what I knew – Professor K and Kicksology.net. I tried to copy his style and mannerisms in writing, and I guess it worked. I am still doing this thing and don’t plan on stopping any time soon (thanks to you guys). I still have the SNC’s, and they still see court time every once in awhile, between reviews, and they still perform as good or better than any shoe on the market. I would love to see Adidas bring back the pod PureMotion. Until then, I will keep these for a flashback.
When I think about lil’ JAHRONMON, I think of the The Kobe II from adidas. Man these things were ugly, and everyone knew it, but that didn’t stop me from wearing them every single day until I grew out of them. I remember watching the commercial for The Kobe II (where he was throwing down ridiculous dunks) at Maui Brews with my mom during a commercial break for a Lakers game, after the commercial I looked at her and said “I have to have those”, to which she said “Why? They look like moon boots”. My mother never got them for me, but that didn’t stop my thirst for The Kobe II, during my annual summer vacation in the Bay Area, I conned my grandma into thinking it was OK for her to buy me a pair at Kids Footlocker for the hefty price of $60, and the rest was history. Everywhere I went, I was rocking The Kobe II, and many of my peers told me that they were weird, ugly, stupid, etc. But I didn’t care, the all black look resinated with me because in Maui red dirt is a plenty, and the all black colorway hid the fact that they were dirtier than Allen Iverson’s crossover.
Some of my fondest memories of basketball involve The Kobe II, everything from playing on the Bulls for the first time in my youth league, to battles at 505 park where I lost two teeth, but never my pride. If these were to ever retro, intsacop every colorway no hesitation, unfortunately my pair became hand me downs to a younger friend, but my eyes are always on eBay for the right price and condition to retain an OG pair.
My story will probably be a bit different from all the others, as it wasn’t/isn’t a basketball shoe that I made the most memories in…
My most memorable shoe, or the shoe I made the most memories in, and the shoe that holds a special place in my heart, is the Supra Society “Red Perf.” The original Reebok Pump was the first shoe I noticed on basketball courts as a kid but it was out way of my family’s price range. By 8-9th grade I knew a bunch of guys who skated heavily and they sported Vans and Supra. I made my way online and discovered the Supra Society, this is back in 2009 I believe. The height of the shoe, the straps, the red perforated leather, it had me right then and there. As soon as I had saved up the money to buy them, after months of saving, I did.
I rocked that first pair of Red Perf Supra Societys until there was nothing left of them, as you can see in the photo (pair on the right). I wore them to parties, wore them to hike, wore them to stunt on the kids flossing the Jordans their parents bought them. I chased girls in them, did graff in them, got into fights in them, and caused all kinds of trouble in them. In high school everybody knew me as “the weird kid with the red high tops.”
I still cherish my first pair. Years later, when I was working a lot more and had more money to spend, I found a DS pair on eBay and snatched them right up. I immediately gave them the same lace treatment—one black and one lime green. Over time, I wore them out as well. While I don’t wear either pair much anymore, I’ll never get rid of them. They’re the only things that keep a lot of my memories from just…vanishing.
The sneaker that holds the most memories for me is the Jordan Melo M4 in the “Oak Hill” colorway. It’s by far my most worn pair of sneakers and it’s not even close. the tread is completely gone and there are plenty of battle scars from hooping outdoors in high school.
I really wasn’t into shoes growing up just because my family couldn’t afford any of the top brands. In high school, I started ogling Eastbay catalogs and saw the Melo M4. I had to have that sneaker, but again, the family was still in a financial bind. I got really lucky though and found a friend of a friend who was selling his sneakers for the low. I ended up getting the exact “Oak Hill” M4 I saw in the catalog, brand new, for $35! The whole sneaker obsession pretty much grew from there.
Since that time, I’ve actually talked to the designer of the M4, D’Wayne Edwards, which was awesome. If you haven’t already, check out the interview we did with Edwards and his design students (he runs a shoe design school called Pensole). It’s well worth the read, check it out here: https://weartesters.com/weartesters-interviews-pensole-founder-dwayne-edwards-students/
My story doesn’t date back very far because I don’t have very much history to recall. Regardless, I still have a very distinct memory and a connection to a certain set of sneakers. In the latter part of my high school basketball career, I used to write “They told me I was too slow” on my sneakers. The reason behind this was because through my middle school years and my Freshman year of high school, I used to get taken out of games, especially at the end because I was “too slow”. Too slow to defend and too slow to play the point guard position that I had so much experience playing on so many different teams and leagues throughout my area. Fast forward to my senior year and I was one of the fastest track athletes in my state while holding my own in the national standings. Further, I had fallen in love with defense and could guard just about anyone I shared the court with. I was told later that other teams in my conference had an objective to get me in foul trouble and off of the floor in their scouting reports (that strategy drove me insane and has fueled my general dissatisfaction with referees to this day).
To cut to the chase, there is a story and a sneaker behind this improvement. First the Nike Free Run, then the Nike Free Run 2, then the Nike Free 5.0 v2 (all picture below). These shoes aren’t rare or coveted by any means, but I transformed my work ethic, my body, and my sports career in them so they will forever be important to me. The Nike Free Run was my first running shoe actually purchased for running and training. I lifted in the early mornings and ran hill sprints at night, after practice in them. I wore them for trail runs and for the endless left turns on a track. As you can see in the picture, I wore them down past the flex grooves in the forefoot to an ultra thin layer of EVA.
With the Nike Free Run 2 I did all of the above and much more. Their white soles are stained red from training on the track, some of the segmented parts are deformed and mangled in the forefoot from running on smoldering hot pavement in the summer for so long. This is a slightly dated photo, but I ended up wearing these until the flex grooves were gone in the forefoot and holes began to form. Personally, these are my absolute favorites of all Nike Frees to date. I associate them with tough morning workouts and the pain of finishing up a 600 meter repeat workout under the hot sun.
Last, but certainly not least are the Nike Free 5.0 v2 (I know, Nike has made the Free’s naming so freakin confusing over the last decade). I took this picture when I had just bought them to show the comparisons of wear. Though this model was my least favorite of the three it was there for some of my greatest successes and progress in my training. I used it across so many surfaces and terrains without any hesitation. It always performed and was always comfortable.
My initial obsession with the Nike Free line is solely responsible for getting me interesting in footwear design and technology. I have been interested in the performance of my sneakers across all sports ever since. Further, their segmented outsole to promote the natural movement of the foot thrust me into the world of minimalist footwear and barefoot-esque running and training, something I feel has truly improved my quality of life. Any time I see someone with a pair on or see them reference or pictured anywhere, my heart starts pounding in recollection of the races, the pressure, the challenges, and how much I changed with a pair of Free’s on feet.
This sections speaks for itself, but I wanted to highlight a new feature to the WearTesters site, The Forum! If you’re reading this you should check it out, make an account, and join the discussion. We’re excited to have our readers and supporters interacting on the forum platform. Let us know what you think of it and if there are any sections you would like to see added. Check it out here ——–> https://weartesters.com/forum/
WearTesters Wordplay of the Week
Blu & Exile’s Below the Heavens album is one you many have never heard of. I believe it is one of the most underrated rap albums of all time and deserves at least a listen if you’re at all interested. Exile producers some incredibly engaging beats and hooks to pull listeners into the stories that Blu delivers with his cool, soulful, west coast flow. Whether it’s the wholly relatable lyrics in Blu Collar Worker, the emotional story telling in Good Life, or the absolutely killer beat and flow in My World Is, you have got to check this album out. Blu has a sincerity to his voice that is hard to find these days and the album is an ensemble of great lyrics and enjoyable production.
Do yourself a favor and listen to the tracks I mentioned, at the very least, before writing this one off: http://www.audiomack.com/album/thejohnstewart/below-the-heavens-remastered
I hope you enjoyed this week’s WearTesters Weekender, be sure to share your thoughts and stories in the comments and come back next weekend for Issue 11!