On Orange Shoes

Dan Tarnowski

Modell’s. There’s one across from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. You know, that rust-rimmed pleasure palace which rap mogul Jay-Z once owned 1/5 of before selling his shares in 2013. Myself being a hermit with an aversion for leaving South Brooklyn (we’ve got hummus and funk music, yo!) the extent of my roaming usually involves going to two specific bookstores, sometimes hovering around the center known as Barclays, and then riding the escalator safely back down to the subway.

But, while I’m there, I often feel compelled to browse Modell’s Sporting Goods. There’s something in me, psychologically, that has an affinity, even reverence, for seeing fresh tennis rackets looking trim in their shiny cases; tennis balls in their canisters ready to be popped open and ploinked off a racket; yoga mats rolled and still smelling of rubber. There, I can try on batting gloves. I can marvel at spare basketball nets.

I never buy any of this shit, but it’s delightful seeing it in all its freshness, and I’m happy kids growing up in nearby Brooklyn will probably be treated to it by their parents, and I’m glad they’ll enjoy the fresh rubber, and the tennis ball containers popping open.

Yes, I browse/smell that stuff, but that’s just on the WEST end of Modell’s. Go over to the other side, and that’s why I come in. There’s something in me, psychologically, that wants to look at utilitarian clothing. You know, Carhartt jackets, work jeans, work socks, raincoats, ZIP UP FLEECE SHELLS, thermal underwear, cargo pants, shiny basketball shorts, ski jackets that are by no means warm enough to wear in winter, hoodies that 90’s punks would approve of (not the updated chic ones, no disrespect to David Bazan), and most importantly, OFF-BRAND TIMBERLANDS. Where else, besides SEARS does one look at such apparel?

I have a reverence for such clothing. The construction workers outside my building have a reverence for such clothing. My father has a reverence for such clothing. His father before him had a reverence for such clothing. Readers, we’re talking about clothing made of such stiff canvas, that you could wear it in -20 degree Fahrenheit weather, and if the wind hit it, the WIND would break. In 10 years, will such clothing still even be manufactured?

You’ve got to browse the off-brand Timberland boots. You’ve got to. Get the genuine leather upper, or the man-made, I don’t give a fuck, I’m not judging. They will both keep your feet dry. Modell’s has about 12 varieties of work boots, snow boots, and work/snow boot hybrids.

On one recent occasion, it was when walking through the shoe and boot aisles, when I saw a type of shoe that really began to foment my thoughts. That’s right, I saw Orange Converse All-Stars.

“Who gives a fuck? They make Converse in all styles, from pink-glitter, to Blastoise-themed” you say?

Well, firstly, they had matching orange laces, so we’re talking all orange all the time, plus some white rubber. They were pretty nifty. And looking at these orange shoes, I stumbled upon a very big, and VERY intriguing quandary.

To wear orange shoes, or not to wear orange shoes? That is the question.

Let’s take a closer look. Orange shoes. Orange Converse Shoes. Converse already being a ubiquitously popular shoe associated with counter-culture (having been worn by every iconoclast from Mick Jagger to Ellen Degeneres), I think it’s safe to say the Chuck Taylor All-Star shoe is at home in incongruous situations. Business people wear them with suits on Wall Street. A Google search for “converse and dress” returns a pic of Kristen Stewart wearing Converse, and a dress. Wearing Converses that don’t match the outfit is a thing. Therefore, those orange ones, you could wear them with everything from jeans to teal sweats. Wearing the orange chucks whenevs wherevs would be fair game, but here’s the thing: I think we can agree that every place you went, people would say, “I like your shoes.”

You’d get compliments at parties. At the beginning of internet dates, your date would see moving, foot-shaped orangeness as you appeared from afar, and when you got up close, before even looking at your face, they’d say “nice shoes.” Your six year old cousin would want them, constantly punching the rubber toe as you sat on the couch trying to watch football on Thanksgiving. The orange shoes would start so many conversations. The conversations would be delightful.

When people talked about your shoes, you’d be humbly self-aware in your wearing of shoes that were a little bit wacky. You wouldn’t let the attention you were getting go to your head. You’d know you’re not special, just a guy or gal unconventional enough to wear throwback basketball shoes of a bright color. You’d gratefully accept the compliments and graciously segue into real conversation. But as much as you downplayed it, put it into perspective, and saw it objectively, it could not be denied: these shoes had made a marked difference in your life over the course of a year. Think of all the attention you had received, all the situations that had been triggered; they were like something from a picaresque novel. Would all of the fun have unfurled if you were just your ordinary self, in a black coat, and black shoes?

And there’s the quandary: when the shoes wear out, when the year ends, do you re-purchase the same ones?

Will something be missing without them?

Will you still have the same opportunities without the orange shoes?

If by NOT buying the orange shoes, you were only depriving yourself of wonderful experiences, wouldn’t you have to be a fool to NOT restock the orange shoes in the Foot Locker of your life?

But then, if you NEED to buy the orange shoes, aren’t you essentially basing your identity upon the orange shoes? Does all the attention at parties and on streets and on dates even count, if it is contingent upon the shoes that are not even of a primary color? Will anyone even speak to you if you’re in regular shoes?

Can you even, at this point, live without the orange shoes?

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