Back in Arkansas, Shoe Carnival was where her kids bought shoes. About $10 a pair. Why would kids want to wear shoes that cost the same as groceries?
The fashion caste class system has always existed. Children can be cruel, children want to stand out, or they are unsafe. Sneaker culture is this generation’s chapter of this enduring struggle.
One group found that by conquering one element of that struggle – getting into the school with that new pair of kicks – a lot of other elements fall into place.
“When our children receive their new athletic shoes, 70% of our schools report an increase in physical activity and 40% of our schools report higher attendance,” said a survey by shoes that fit well, the folks who put fancy feet on Mickles’ grandkids that day, giving them that ticket into sneaker culture.
The original sneakerheads trace their origins back to the mid-’80s and drip to Michael Jordan’s signature high-top shoes. Within African American sports and hip-hop culture, sneakers became a bond with Jordan and his greatest success beyond the court, they became “psychological drivers of behavior, including peer influence , self-esteem”, according to a research paper written by Delisia Matthews while an assistant professor at North Carolina State, who explained the cultural significance of sneakers.
Sneaker culture is now mainstream. And the dilemma of how much to support your kids’ obsession — and even if you’ll afford it — is why this is also a parenting story.
“Kids were saying my other shoes were ugly,” said Adedoyin Adeoye, 10, as she rocked a cute pair of peach-colored Nikes she had just received for the new school year.
Her mum said she couldn’t afford to buy these kinds of shoes for her kids – and frankly, she wasn’t sure she would buy them if she could afford them. What sense does it make to spend so much money on shoes when the kids also have to be clothed and fed, when the bills have to be paid and inflation is crazy?
“Wal-Mart. That’s what I buy from them,” said Sarena Barnes, 36, who has six feet to worry about, feet that seem to get bigger every day.
Her daughter says mom spends about $10 a pair on her shoes. But on Saturday, she squeezed the box with a delightful pair of aqua Adidas Queststars. The cost of these would put three pairs of Wal-Mart shoes on all of his siblings’ feet.
“They’re so sweet,” said 10-year-old Azaria Snowden. At the school supplies section, she got a matching backpack. She can’t wait for the first day of school.
The nonprofit that donated these shoes to Azaria says sneakers can be as important to a child’s academic performance as a new backpack and school supplies. They give a child – no matter what shape, size, color or age – a quality that is always a bit elusive to tap into. Self-confidence.
“One of the first kids we worked with had a terrible absenteeism problem,” said Amy Fass, CEO of Suitable shoes, the California-based group gave away thousands of high-end shoes to DC kids last week. The child’s parents swore they took him to school, but he rarely entered a classroom.
“The principal eventually found him hiding in the bushes outside,” Fass said. “All he had to wear were his sister’s pink jelly shoes. He was bullied every time he entered the school.
As soon as the group presented him with a pair of stylish sneakers, the principal said he had never missed a day of school.
This nice kid. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been. I feel his pain, a little. When all the cool kids had Nike Cortez on their feet, my immigrant parents gave me Kmart knockoffs that had a tulip shape where the swoosh should be. I sat on the floor of the school bus the first day I wore them, no one let me near them with those shoes.
“Shoes,” Fass said, “are one of the first signs of poverty.”
The group started in Southern California in the early 90’s. It was around the time that I was starting my career as a journalist covering crime, when one of the stories that always made the national news was the kid getting robbed or even killed for the expensive sneakers on his feet.
Me at the time: “Why would anyone spend so much money on sneakers? Especially children’s sneakers ???
Me last December at city beats sneaker store in DC, remembering my tulip shoes: “You got all the Dunks in a nine and a half? My child’s birthday is tomorrow and I still haven’t found him!
Of course, tulip shoes, jelly shoes – these hardships build character. But let’s be realistic. Most childhoods provide many opportunities for character building that don’t necessarily involve shame.
“I buy them nice shoes twice a year, tops,” said Erica Watkins, 35, whose mother is the grandmother who shakes her head at the whole sneaker scene at the convention center. The National Urban League invited families who could benefit from support for the sneaker giveaway as part of their conference, and Watkins, a hairstylist, was happy to get a little help making ends meet.
“So it’s a gift, for a birthday or for Christmas. And sometimes we meet them with other family members,” she said. “And you know what? They take such good care of them. He cleans them. He’s careful how he walks. When he gets something he doesn’t like, he walks in the mud, whatever.
I do not know. My son had these Dunks on his feet all year round, no need for any other shoes, walking dumbly the first few days to try and avoid the dreaded toe bend over them.
His brother, who doesn’t care what brand is on his feet (thanks gawd), thinks his brother’s obsession with shoes is ridiculous. But that doesn’t make it cheaper. The older brother has foot problems. And the shoes that match his original feet are also expensive. This is the other element of the shoe crusade. Ill-fitting shoes or worn-out shoes are not good for growing feet. Fas curled his fingers into a ball.
“I remember a kid whose shoes were so small that his toes were curled up like that,” she said. “There are a lot of older NBA players who are limping or have injuries now. It’s not about their years in the NBA. It’s about wearing the wrong shoes when they were growing up.
Some of these athletes donate to their organization. But most Shoes That Fit giveaways happen through donations from the usual group of benefactors, corporate sponsorships, and some stores that donate some of their inventory to the group at cost. The big sneaker companies that thrive on hype culture? They don’t help.
This is what they hope to end up buying. With sneakerheads, stars and influencers flexing their limited-edition sneakers and perpetuating a fashion that seems perpetually out of reach for the kids who worship them.
Children who received shoes from the organization also showed a 62% increase in good behavior and teachers said they felt about a 75% improvement in students’ self-esteem, according to this group. investigationwhich was made to answer the first question donors ask them: “Why shoes?”
“Look, there’s a lot of problems in the world, in the world of these kids, that we can’t solve,” Fass said. “But we can solve this one.”