Well today I think I officially cross over into the middle ages.
Meaghan has just given me the most amazing present.
Let me set the scene:
Growing up on the road in the late 70s and early 80s was pretty tough. Most of my mates were temporary and lived, like us, in caravan parks and rode secondhand BMXs. Most of us wore cords, skivvies and gym boots. Because we all wore the same uniform and all lived in the same compound (Westnova or Big 4) and all had the occasional adult supervision, we pretty much had it made out of school. It was kind of like an adventure every day. It was pretty tough though sometimes starting at new schools. I can speak with authority here because I spent a year longer than most - just researching my point. New kids, different social sets, different gangs. Kids are really mean at school, and if you didn't fit in straight away you got tough, really tough really quickly, or you just didn't fit in. That's where the gym boots come in.
Gym boots. Canvas sides, rubber soled shell toe gym boots. At the time they cost about 5 bucks and while they were absolutely perfect for the adventures in caravan parks, they were not recommended fashion wear for the schoolyard. In fact, they were referred to as "poor kids shoes". This seems like a pretty lame insult nowadays, but at the time it was pretty tough, and resulted in a few scraps. They were the kind of shoes that meant that you just weren't part of the gang if you had them on.
Looking back, the mini mates of mine that wore them included people like Muscles, Nugget and the Fridays. Kids of Outsiders, Indigenous and Hippies, they would probably still be my friends now.
Then something happened that changed the way that an entire generation of kids looked at the world. On the other side of the planet, a struggling basketball team in the USA, signed a contract for uniforms with a struggling, but cheap, sporting retailer. Converse, the manufacturer of the ubiquitous poor kids shoe - the gym boot. Although the shoes had already been popular among a few of the teams, the signing of the shoe as part of the official team uniform changed everything.
Overnight, the world changed, now the shoes, were not only cool, but had rocketed Converse to the upper echelons of sportswear fashion. The problem is though, the shoes suddenly became a whole lot more expensive, guaranteeing that me and my mates would never be able to justify the price of another pair. But for one summer, we were the shit! We were the coolest gang of run abouts in the country, our gear was already well worn when it became popular. For one summer we were the kings.
I should note here that Mum and Dad never made us want for anything, in fact they probably well prepared us for life and made us appreciate what we had, and what we didn't have. But, fashions change all too quickly as an 8 year old and sometimes, the most important thing in life is the colour of the pads on the bmx, or the style of shoes (Bata or Converse) worn to school.
Whilst we had wished for our uniform to be cool, it now was, and was out of our reach. So our shoes wore out and became ragged and we became uncool, again. They had become the type of shoes that meant that you were not part of the gang if you did not have them on - new ones at that.
For 30 years I have secretly wished for a new pair of Converse All Star Gym boots. Partly because I have regularly wheeled out my soapbox to tell the story I have just written down, I have never bought myself a pair.
Today, my beautiful wife Meaghan, gave me a new pair of my own. A red pair - because they go faster.
I know that since the revolution, a lot of people have gotten on this bandwagon, many of whom were way to young to remember the revolution, but I'll be wearing these ones with a sense of tremendous pride that
I WAS THERE. Today, a piece of me is there again.
So when you see middle aged people wearing the original and the best, take a minute to think how life changed for them, as it did for me, way back when.