What changed leisure footwear forever and created the wonderful,
hideous behemoth of contemporary consumer culture? It's gotta be
By Damien Cave
Aug 5, 2002 | I'm running toward the local sneaker outlet with cash in my hand and nothing but Air
Jordans in my head. It's 1985 and I can hardly believe it's happening. I've spent the entire year begging,
arguing and subtly suggesting that my parents spring for the sneakers that I crave. Their colossal social
importance, the extent of their style, coolness and athletic support -- I've explained it all to my parents. But
they've never seemed to get it.
"They're too expensive," they kept saying. "Forget it, we're not spending nearly $100 on footwear."
Until now. Finally, I've won. After agreeing to split the cost, after working at a flower stand to earn my
share -- and especially after finding a store that sold the overhyped kicks for $50 -- I've convinced my
parents to let go of their anti-materialistic urges. They've brought me here, to a dingy, musty store housed
in the basement of an old brick factory in Worcester, Mass. And they've conceded defeat. My 12-year-old
palms are sweating. Through the skewed lens of my memory -- in which all things visual are clear while
emotions are remembered as vague but intense -- I think I'm afraid. As I sprint through the aisles looking
for my size, I remember thinking: What if they don't have my size? What if my parents suddenly decide to
rescind their offer?
What if I never get the shoes?
Thankfully, my fears proved unjustified. Perhaps because I actually prayed for the sneakers, God smiled on
me and my size was not sold out. Within a matter of minutes, I had pulled down a pair of blue and black
high tops, tried them on, paid and strutted out of the store. Later, I regretted my decision to forgo the
black and red classics in favor of the blues, but in the midst of that first sweet, short moment of ownership,
as I pretended to juke Magic Johnson in the parking lot, I can only remember feeling relieved, excited --
and intensely happy. Never before or since has a single purchase brought such bliss.
Of course, I know now that this feeling was sick and twisted. I've digested the writings of
I know that Nike took advantage of my adolescent vulnerabilities. I know that forging
emotional ties to Nike's flagship offering -- quite possibly the single most marketed fashion product of the
20th century -- puts me in the "shallow consumer"
category dominated by teenagers on the WB, Imelda
Marcos and Annette Bening's character in