Going back to basics with sneakers

by GK on August 2, 2012

Some may find the Olympic decathlon challenging, but in the world of GK, there are much greater accomplishments. Like putting together a fly sneaker collection. I have finally done that.

I’ve worked hard on raising my shoe game in general, and I have a sweet arsenal now, but sneakers are where I really wanted to upgrade. I wear them almost everywhere in the uber-casual Bay Area: to work, errands, casual dates or barbecues.

I recently spent my commutes from work doing some online shoe dating, comparing and contrasting the available kicks. I took a close look at some Nikes and Vans. But when my hunt was over, I ended up returning to where it all began over 25 years ago.

The first sneakers I remember wearing were the high-top Converse Weapons popularized by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in their legendary commercial. I was too young to know better, which is why I wore the purple-and-gold Magic shoes just before I realized I hated the Lakers and loved the Celtics.

Perhaps because of this gaffe, I hadn’t worn a Converse shoe since. I got swept up in the Air Jordan craze soon after, and in my post-collegiate years I started wearing leather “designer” sneakers that might have looked stylish but lacked the too-cool-to-care spirit of what sneakers are about. I stopped that trend last year when I bought some brown, suede Golas that I love and will probably buy again once these wear out.

I’m a big fan of Golas in general — they have the classic low-top sneaker design down, and most Americans don’t wear them, so you’ll stand out here. But I realize now that the DNA of a truly great sneaker must include a canvas top. And no one does canvas like Converse, so it was to her loving bosom that I returned.

I knew I wanted some red-and-white Chuck Taylors, but I also knew I wanted the Converse star-chevron logo on them — it’s the only logo I can wear without feeling like a walking billboard. So I went with the Star Player EVs ($46) that you see at the top.

As the Converse Web site suggests, you should order up a half-size, and their advice turned out to be spot-on. I got a size-10 pair in the mail last week, and I wore them on a first date the same night. I didn’t call the date again, but the sneakers are keepers. They already feel broken in and contrast nicely with blue jeans.

That pair alone would have been a success, but while shopping for those I got an offer I couldn’t refuse: the chance to design my own pair of Star Players. Why other shoe companies don’t let you do this is beyond me, but I stayed up past my bedtime playing around with the feature, and it sold me. You pay a little more for the creativity, but if you’re as particular as I am, it’s worth it.

I ended up filling another need by designing and buying these white sneakers with red details for $70. I just got them in the mail last night, and I’m stoked at how they turned out. I wanted the clean white look, but if you want to go all Roger Sterling on LSD, you have lots of freedom to color the shoes how you see fit.

The shoes came with a surprise detail — when you finish designing them, the Converse site asks for your initials. In my absent-mindedness I thought this was just for bookkeeping, but they actually put the initials on the shoe, as you see here. But because they’re in lower case and on the heel, I don’t mind the extra vanity — they add an understated personal touch.

And really, with all the celebrity endorsements out there, doesn’t the world need a GK shoe?

I really hope I keep my job a while longer, because I completed my sneaker splurge with these Billy Reid for K-Swiss canvas sneakers from J.Crew, giving me the complete red-white-blue, America Fuck Yeah trifecta. The J.Crew site and my local store had run out of the color, but they were able to track down a pair for me in another city. I recommend the shoe in any color — it’s generous with the padding.

It may be gluttony to own four pairs of sneakers, but longevity means a lot to me, and the deep rotation means I should get to spend lots of time with these babies. But for anyone thinking of buying just one pair and beating the snot out of them, you can’t go wrong with some canvas Converse low tops.

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