Posts Tagged ‘chucks’

You Might Call It Chuck Karma. By Kat Fierce

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

I’ll try them on, sure. But I’ll be immediately visited with a sensation I wouldn’t wish on another human being (unless they killed my dog or something and even then I might feel bad for a few seconds.) It’s just that, when I step in, I can’t shake the impending, doom-like feeling that I’m about to become inescapably, mind numbingly bored.

Like algebra bored. Like dinner party with my parents bored. In fact I’m pretty sure every pair of girly drenched foot pumps comes with a copy of War and Peace: The Totally Self Serving and Completely Unnecessary Director’s Cut, but I’m not the kind of masochist that would voluntarily investigate. I don’t like pain, I like my Chucks.

Where did I ever get such a crazy idea, you ask? Maybe because chicks I know who wear them are kind of boring. The only outfit they seem capable of putting together is whatever Miss Glamour Face America Magazine told them was a “must wear” this spring. What they lack in imagination they make up for an ever growing collection of lady shoes. Maybe because those same girls feel the need taunt me for choosing Chucks.  And I can’t help but associate their footwear with the blather spilling out of their mouths.

Maybe. But part of me thinks I’ve sat out the stiletto parade, because they’re nothing more than a fancy uniform.  Think about it. You wear heels to “dress up” for something. The prom, some parental conceived event, to “look pretty” – the occasion always dictates the dress. You wear them because you’re “supposed to.” (Well that, or you posses some masochistic affection for bunions).  Even if your only reason is to “look cute,” you’ve still put on what fashion and its followers determine to be cute.  And the second you put on a costume is the second you stop thinking for yourself. Boring. I’m falling asleep just thinking about it.

You could argue, “Kat, aren’t Chucks just another uniform? You know, what you wear to look different?” You’re right up to a point. But what divides the hypocrites from the authentic is what happens after you tie your shoes. Dressing to “look” rebellious is just as empty as standing around to look pretty. Not to mention, pretty freaking dull. I’m not wearing them to look different. Just like a dancer needs slippers and a soccer player needs cleats, I need reliable shoes to go out and “do” different.  For every moment to be awesome.  And awesome moments don’t happen when your feet hurt.

Take just last week for example. My high school has always been a bit of a fashion show. Sure enough, cute little Kristen is showing off some strappy black contraptions before first period (that probably cost her about three times what I paid for my Chucks). And her little follower friends are just gawking. All I can think is how unbelievably boring their lives must be if this is the highlight of their morning. Just as this thought crosses my brain, she looks over at my fading high tops, whispers something to her disciples and they all start laughing. Now I’ll be honest. Their snickers did cause me to feel sort of self conscious. I mean, I am human.  But before regret had a chance to sink in, the warning bell rang – the one that announces we have sixty seconds to make it to class before the final bell finds us in our seats. If not detention’s the word for the afternoon.

Naturally, everyone took off running.  I absolutely could not miss my afternoon drum lesson because of some stupid bell. Kristen and Co. started running too, but Kristen’s stride was broken by her scream. With enough time to turn around, I saw she’d fallen face first into the floor. The culprit? A broken left heel.  Long story short, I scooted into my seat with six seconds to spare, and ended up killing it at my drum teacher’s house that afternoon. She missed the bell and consequently got stuck after school. Plus the broken heel left her to hobble around for the rest of the day like Igor the Peg Legged Creeper. You don’t have to subscribe to Miss Glamour Face to know that’s not quite the look they had in mind.

There’s two ways to look at this situation. A surface analysis: “My Chucks won this round because, as sneakers, they’re better suited for the ‘beat the bell’ dash.” But, I believe it goes a little deeper than that. Like I said earlier, I wear Chucks because I like them, not because some magazine designed my uniform. But, Kristen only loves her (broken – ha!) shoes this season. There’s not a loyal bone in her skinny frame. She’ll use them until there’s a new pair in town. But not me, nope. Even with a fairly good sized hole on the right side and my ex-boyfriend’s name crossed out from the sole, I’m keeping them. I bought them for me, and my likes don’t fade every time the season changes.  Maybe I’m completely insane for thinking this (given the whole inanimate nature of shoes and all). But maybe, just maybe by being loyal to my Chucks, they return the favor by keeping me on my feet.

Look. I’ve got nothing against heels, stilettos, pumps, whatever you want to call them. But I’ve got drums to practice. Shows to see. Stuff to do. Because being bored sucks. Plus, I’ve never really been too big on bunions.

It Was No Ordinary Wedding Reception. By James Sullivan

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Most of all, there were no patent leather rental shoes. There were, however, plenty of Chucks. Which should tell you just about all you need to know.

The groom, a good friend I’d met years ago, when we were both living in New Orleans, is a film editor who spends a majority of his non-working hours surfing off Coney Island. The bride, no shrinking violet, wore a sleeveless wedding gown on a drizzly night and kicked off the live-band karaoke by serenading her husband with a saucy version of “Centerfold.”

The reception was held at a beer garden-style hipsters’ hangout in an old mechanics’ garage near the Brooklyn Museum. The framed photos on the walls weren’t from the family albums of the happy couple — they were part of the bar’s décor, random shots of anonymous people probably plucked from thrift stores. The guests suffered no chicken cordon bleu. They built their own outrageous tacos on the buffet line, catered by the bride and groom’s favorite neighborhood taqueria.

“Dress Nice,” read the invitation, printed to look like a concert ticket. Given the setting and the loose instructions, there was little in the way of fashion consensus. Some guys wore jackets and open collars; some wore leather and corduroy. There were funky hats and vintage dresses. For all the variety, the closest thing to a constant was the rainbow array of Converse on the dance floor.

The band in the corner, led by a moonlighting frontman whose first novel was getting some major attention, pumped out up-tempo true-love tunes all night. Guests were invited to sign up and sing. One guy-girl duet got up and belted out some honky-tonk. “We got married in a fever,” they began, and the whole place erupted.

The trend toward Chucks at weddings sure seems to be gaining momentum. Wedding blogs are full of chatter about couples rockin’ their high-tops and outfitting their groomsmen, and even their bridesmaids, in matching All-Stars. There’s even an official customizing option, including stamping the wedding date on the back of the shoe.

All of which raises a question: Are Chucks getting – heaven forbid — fancy? More to the point, it seems that weddings are just getting funner. And it’s about time. Chucks may have been designed for basketball, but their real purpose is for clicking heels. A wedding party in Chucks? Unforgettable, in every way.

James Sullivan is a Boston-based writer whose most recent book is The Hardest Working Man: How James Brown Saved The Soul Of America. James has also written for the San Francisco Chronicle, Rolling Stone, The Boston Globe, and Learn more about James at

A Size 20 Shoe. By James Sullivan

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Labbe worked at a waste management company, an independent contractor specializing in paper removal and recycling. He grew up a few towns from the old Converse manufacturing facility, wearing Chucks in gym class and after school. Still a fan of the brand in adulthood, he was amused to learn when his company cut an unusual deal to dispose of Converse’s one-of-a-kind prototypes when they were no longer needed.

Each week, when the drivers stopped by the Converse office to pick up their paper trash, they’d haul out a rolling bin or two of unmatched sneakers in various colors and materials — mock-ups of potential new Chuck Taylor styles. The company had an enormous, industrial-strength shredder that was powerful enough to pulverize big batches of canvas shoes. (We know these were prototypes that had outlasted their usefulness; still, we’re irrationally distressed by the mental image of so many unique Chucks being condemned to footwear Limbo.)

Today, David Labbe no longer works for the disposal company. He recently unpacked a pair of Chucks he’d forgotten he bought about 15 years ago, and he’s wearing those now. His son, Jack, is in middle school, a long-haired kid who’s learning to play the bass. His mother owns a vintage shop, and Jack rocks some of the coolest rockabilly shirts of any pre-teen you know. As his father stands on the sidewalk, happily recalling the sneaker-shredding process, Jack saunters over in a black hoodie featuring the All-Star logo. He was at the mall with his sister the other day, he says, and they both had saucer eyes over the new Knee-Hi Chucks. “Can we get ‘em, Dad?” he pleads. Jack’s dad has always been a pretty cool guy. His son knows he’s got some big shoes to fill. He’s up for the challenge.

James Sullivan is a Boston-based writer whose most recent book is The Hardest Working Man: How James Brown Saved The Soul Of America. James has also written for the San Francisco Chronicle, Rolling Stone, The Boston Globe, and Learn more about James at

Composers In Red Sneakers. By James Sullivan

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

From shredding guitars in Chucks, the musically prodigious Ueno has personalized a one-of-a-kind career out of his art. After training as a cadet at West Point and working as a ski patroller, he took his love of music into the heady realm of modern classical composing, studying at Berklee College of Music and earning a Ph.D. at Harvard.

Infatuated with all kinds of sounds, today Ueno composes for traditional orchestration, makes electronic music with computer software and performs with noise-rock and improvisational groups. He can also do spectacularly athletic things with his own voice, sustaining extreme registers through circular breathing and singing in overtones like an ancient Tuvan throat singer.

He’s well aware there’s a “mystique” surrounding avant-garde music that can sometimes bewilder broader audiences. So when Ueno was invited to join a group called Composers in Red Sneakers a few years ago, he jumped at the chance. In his red Chucks.

The rotating members of Composers in Red Sneakers (Ueno compares their ever-changing membership to Menudo’s) make their intentions clear. It’s right there in the name, and on their feet. “The original mission was to try to demystify the concert experience,” says Ueno. Tickets have always been cheap, and pretenses non-existent. One trademark example of the group’s irreverence was its “Louie the Eighteenth” concert, when members took turns introducing experimental adaptations of the garage-rock classic “Louie, Louie.” The hand-drawn poster for the gig, from back in the group’s earliest days, featured His Royal Highness in a powdered wig, playing a keytar, wearing a pair of red Chucks.

“They’re the quintessential utilitarian youthful shoes,” says Ueno, now teaching at the University of California-Berkeley, where he sees plenty of rubber soles on the students of the next generation. When Composers in Red Sneakers come together in their matching red kicks, they’re inviting listeners into their world. Ken Ueno grew up with the same cultural references as everyone else his age, he says. This summer the group will travel to Rome, where they have been collaborating with another composers’ collective. The Italians will recognize them as soon as they step off the plane.

James Sullivan is a Boston-based writer whose most recent book is The Hardest Working Man: How James Brown Saved The Soul Of America. James has also written for the San Francisco Chronicle, Rolling Stone, The Boston Globe, and Learn more about James at

Meet Me At The Sandwich Shop. By James Sullivan

Monday, June 15th, 2009

For Bostonians, Revere Beach has a bit of a reputation. The oldest public beach in America was once a working-class getaway, with amusements and attractions lining the broad stretch of Atlantic oceanfront just north of the city. Years ago, though, the town and its salty main drag went into steep decline. Drugs and crime moved in, and the Blizzard of ’78 pretty well devastated the last vestiges of the old vacationing atmosphere. Pronounced with a wicked Boston accent, locals took to calling the place Severe: Sevee-ah.

When I got there mid-morning, it was unseasonably chilly, and the wind was strong. Men with nowhere to go watched the seagulls pull food out of the overflowing trash barrels. A group of burly police cadets jogged down the boardwalk in matching blue T-shirts. Most of the people sitting at the bolted iron picnic tables near the ordering window hadn’t ordered anything. I circled the place a few times, looking in vain for someone who might be my interview subject.

He’d written a book about his family’s history of mental health problems. In it, he’d frankly acknowledged his own descent into hardcore drug abuse. Though he looked presentable enough in his photo on the dust jacket, in a crisp white shirt and a sportcoat, I had no idea what to expect.
Then from around the corner came a wary-looking guy in a well-worn T-shirt. This must be him, I thought. I looked down: On his feet was a pair of black Chucks.

He bounded over to me, as people tend to do in their Chucks, and extended a hand. As soon as we sat down, a windblown dollop of bird doo hit me in the forehead. Getting bombed by bird poop is good luck, my father always said. With the ice sufficiently broken, my acquaintance and I had a wonderfully long, meandering conversation. When his sister came out of her apartment building, carrying her shoes as she sprinted for the bus, her brother quickly introduced me as if we were old Army buddies.

Brand identification can be a tricky business. Years ago, I drove a particular make and model car. Soft top down, whenever possible. Drove it cross-country with the woman who would turn out to be my wife.

It was a fun, if unreliable, ride. One thing I could never get past, however. When drivers of similar cars passed me in traffic, they’d invariably try to make a connection, with a honk or a wave. It was, to be blunt, incredibly annoying. If it’s a club that would have me as a member, I’m not interested.

As an author and journalist, I interview people for a living. It can be an awkward arrangement, asking intimate personal questions of virtual strangers. I am, in some respects, a professional outsider.

Somehow, though, no matter what they drive, or where they live, or whatever their family history, no one can be an absolute stranger in a pair of Chucks.

James Sullivan is a Boston-based writer whose most recent book is The Hardest Working Man: How James Brown Saved The Soul Of America. James has also written for the San Francisco Chronicle, Rolling Stone, The Boston Globe, and Learn more about James at