I read an article in 18 February’s edition of The Guardian (UK) called Footlocker: the brand that spells trouble all about how the Footlocker stores – all over the world – are an “automatic looter-magnet” during any kind of civil disobedience.  Hockey riots, race riots, police brutality riot…no matter what the cause, the author contends that the allure of the Swoosh, or the Trefoil are too much for the young masses to resist – legally or not.

The article was a mindless read, a little too full of innuendo about race and poverty and other social issues to be taken too seriously…and I must admit that the part of me that wants to wear a tinfoil cap to prevent the government from listening to my thoughts, thinks the article might have been a fantastic bit of Footlocker covert public relations – a free 3 page advert in the lifestyle supplement of a major Saturday paper.

But to quote the article and I believe you can replace the word trainer (for the North American crowd, we’re talking sneakers) with any other consumer good and it would still ring true…

  • “Trainers have become a very aspirational product. We all remember being bullied for wearing the wrong trainers at school. It’s inconceivable for some people not to take part in the trainer game.”

And like always, that statement took me on a tangent.  And as I am mathematically inclined, I like my tangents – this one about all those things that were so cool, that I had to – just had to – get my hands on them.  Maybe it was because I thought I would be part of the gang and the other kids would not make fun of me, or maybe because they were just fun.  But as I grew up in a “frugal-through-necessity” household, there was not a lot of money to spend on some of these “luxuries”.  Many an evening I lay in a pre-sleep daze, fantasizing about the how I, and Life, would be so much cooler if I had the gear and the fashions.

And just what were those things…well, let’s see if I can recall a few…

Shoes.  Shoes have always been a “cool factor” issue – I believe they always were and always will be (though I am positive they are never “looting-worthy”).  But my parents were practical…kids’ feet grow so quickly that expensive footwear was a silly expenditure.  Whatever was on sale, and cheap, were the shoes of choice: Sonic and Northstars were the way ahead. But, when I got to the age where the choice of shoes would be the difference between going to school happy or sulking in my room like a teenage hermit, my parents eventually gave in and I got the brand names I was looking for.  Unfortunately, the compromises was that the shoes came in the “clearance-bin” colours no one else wanted…

And in the same vein…

MoonBoots.  At our house in 1970s Toronto, the boot of choice was Honest Ed’s nylon snowmobile boots with the felt liners.  Throughout Grades 1 to 8, the snowmobile boot was a constant. I remember how the felt liner would soak up all the moisture – both from the slush and from my feet (I know…yuck!).  In order to stay dry in the soaking liners, we would wrap our feet in plastic bags to keep them dry.  Every night the felt liners would be placed upside down on the central heating register…and every morning they were still wet because my brother or sister had knocked them down, or had moved mine to dry theirs. Bummer. The MoonBoot was different…light, airy, colourful and stylin’.  It was the CoolBoot!! Everyone wanted them.  As I got older the styles changed – construction boots, Kodiaks, Sorels, Mukluks – but the MoonBoot still reigns as the most sought after by my generation of kids…

Levis Jeans – orange labels.  I did not own my first pair of Levis until I was 13 years old.  Up to that point it was always a pair of Sears’ clearance outlet pants …checkered, twill, striped, corduroy…what young hipster today would call “vintage”, but back then they were just “nerd-wear”.  Arthur Fonzarelli would never wear a pair of husky-fit Toughskins…I was doomed to be Potsie forever.  My first pair of Levis were factory seconds from a store called Booboos. Yes, they were Levis, but sadly there was no orange label…Levis had cut the label off them because they were imperfect.  But showing some materialistic ingenuity, I was able to buy a pirated orange tab from a friend who was throwing out an old ripped pair of jeans – so after a bit of sewing, I had my very own pair of cool jeans. Even through the disco period and designer jeans – the ones with that silly white pocket stitching – my love affair with Levis continued…and still does.

Intellivision.  For us, toys were a luxury item.  Not that we didn’t have toys – but I doubt very much that what we played with would be safety approved by today’s standards. We played with cars or trains or planes, cut from sheet metal, painted with Chinese-made lead paint, and with lots of sharp edges – and they were fun for a couple of hours until a wheel, or a wing, or another crucial piece fell off.  Now I had some toys that were winners in the mix, like the time I won the electronic video game Pong as a newspaper boy (along with a Freddy Fender album…Wasted Day and Wasted Nights…yeeehaw!)  But what I craved was Mattel Intellivision. I finally got one in Grade 10…and spent a whack-load of time mastering Tank Combat or Dungeons and Dragons… (click on this link – A Review of Intellivision Games for a reminder of fun times)

The Walkman.  Like all kids, music played a big part of my youth.  First there was the AM radio – belting tunes from 1050 CHUM. Then there was the cassette player…the plug in mic held to the radio so I could record the New Year’s Day Top 100 list. Next, came the radio with the built-in mic and cassette player – which eventually became the “Ghetto Blaster”.  Now the Ghetto Blaster was portable – if you were a weightlifter and had access to 12 fresh D Cell Batteries every 2 hours – but much too expensive for the younger set.  Everything changed, however, when Sony invented the Walkman… the grandfather of the iPod and the MP3 player. The Walkman changed the way we listened to music… a rockin’ 45 minutes of musical bliss, but then you had to flip the cassette over!  I wanted one so badly, and lo and behold, I got my very own Sony Walkman Cassette Player from my parents when I graduated university.  Thanks Mom and Dad…

Street Hockey Net.  Now because I am Canadian, when I was a kid there was only one real game to be played after school…street hockey.  Always at the intersection closest to our house, we played our own versions of the Stanley Cup from the time we got home, continuing under the streetlights until our mothers called us in for dinner. When we were young, piles of snow were adequate for goal posts…and the goalie guarded the scraped goal with his regular hockey stick and a baseball glove.  But as we started getting older – and more discerning – we needed the gear.  The goalie needed a proper stick …even if it was just a plastic blade!  But the piece of kit that put you on the A-list within the gang was the street hockey net.  Each game started with the intricate hockey net ritual…carrying the net to the game over your shoulder, unfolding the net, ensuring that all large holes were repaired with spare shoe lace – and then it was “game on”.  The hockey net was a status symbol…at least until your gang had three or more nets to choose from…

Anything from the Sears Christmas Wish Book…no explanation required.

It is funny that at one time these things were so important to me.  I would like to say that I am all grown up and that I have given up on worrying about “things”…but as I look around the house, I note that my toys have just gotten a little more advanced (and pricey), and since I buy my own clothes, I can buy whatever I want!  And as for my kids, I suppose I am a little indulgent…maybe I should make them wear fluorescent orange shoes to school. Oh wait, they are in fashion again… never mind.

Later,

ASF

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