Quite by chance the other day I found myself on eBay looking at a pair of vintage Keds 1960s style low-cut tennis shoes.
How I got there, I can’t tell you. I’m not a regular visitor to that site. I wouldn’t know how to buy something there if my life depended on it. Besides, I’m not sure I trust it. I hate to shop at all, but if I’m forced to actually try to buy something, I prefer to walk into a store and deal with a human being, much as I don’t like having contacts with random strangers.
My younger son has no fear of eBay. He buys a fair number of old T-shirts from the site. I guess they are vintage. He pays little money, and he generally ends up with something a person wouldn’t find at your average T-shirt store. He probably has the site bookmarked or whatever you do these days to keep it handy on a phone screen.
But we were talking about vintage Keds. I looked up vintage in an online dictionary, by the way. One definition refers to quality of wines. A second refers to high-quality products. The third definition, the one I suppose the tennis shoe seller on eBay intended, talks of items that are “used but of good quality.’’ The sneakers I saw on eBay certainly were used. They looked to be of good quality. They looked like the sneakers I used to wear for track and cross-country practices and for varsity basketball games back in high school. They had to be legit.
The seller wanted $119.96, marked down from $149.95. Whee, doggies! I recall handing over a $10 bill and getting not only the Keds (or Converse, whichever was in stock) but also some change. If you’d have told me to pay $100 for a pair of rubber-soled, canvas-topped tennis shoes back in high school, I’d have told you that if I did, I’d put them on a display shelf in my bedroom and never let the rubber soles touch the ground.
These days, some people have a pair (maybe several pair) of sneakers for basketball, a pair of shoes for track practice, other shoes for cross country, still others for working out in the gym and maybe a pair to wear while “going for a run’’ on a Saturday morning. Some shoes have gel packs in the soles and space-age arch supports and even little pumps to put air in the soles or sides or somewhere. So far I’ve not seen a pair of athletic shoes with rocket boosters like Wile E. Coyote, but I don’t get around much. Perhaps I missed that development.
I tell you, I wouldn’t know what to do with all of today’s shoe choices. I’d be nervous every time I looked in my closet. Should I wear the bright red sneakers with yellow flaps and laces or the black and white ones that look like walking checker boards? The last time I went into an actual store that sold athletic shoes, the shelves looked like lightning had struck the Easter bunny, there were so many colors splashed around. (I credit former state Sen. Leonard Andera with that comparison, by the way. He used it on the Senate floor to describe a four-color state annual report.)
I should feel cheated by growing up in a time when sneakers came in two colors, white or black. They came in two styles, low-cut or high-top. And they came without pumps, gel packs or other gizmos, nothing but flat, rubber soles and thin canvas tops.
At Chamberlain, we all wore white sneakers. That eliminated one choice. Going to track practice? Grab the white low-cuts. Basketball practice? Same. Game night? Ditto. Cross country? You guessed it.
Sophomore year of basketball, I tore a ligament in my ankle. When I returned to the court, Coach Vance told me to buy a pair of high-tops for extra support. The guys looked at my shoes like I was an alien or something.
I was relieved the next year to go back to low-cuts, but I sure didn’t shell out any 100 bucks for them.