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“… Ah – you’re the trainer collector guy aren’t you? …”.
“… No. For the thousandth time, I’m not the fucking “trainer collector guy”. But I do wear trainers.** Have done for more than 30 years – just like everyone else I know who is my age …”.
The difference between them and me is that in July 1978, I - or rather my Mum - bought a pair of adidas Jogger for me to wear on holiday which began an appreciation (NOT a collection) of trainers which continues to this day.
Some time afterwards (probably when those very same Joggers literally fell off my feet through me wearing them every single day since their purchase), I realised that, rather than following the normal practice of buying, wearing out, then buying again when necessary, if I had three or four pairs at the same time and wore them equally, I wouldn’t have to go through the ordeal of having to bin my much-loved shoes and not being able to replace them. As it happens, I did replace those adidas Jogger – 24 years later . . .
Even at the age of eleven, I knew that those visions in blue suede weren’t for wearing on a typically wet Scottish day, playing football with my mates. They weren’t even for wearing on a wet day full stop. That was what adidas Samba, Mamba, Bamba, Kick and, if you were well off, Ringo or VIP were for. Suede trainers weren’t for playing sport in, they were for looking good in.
I’d be lying if I said I could remember every pair of trainers I have acquired post-Jogger. But whilst still sticking to the aforementioned adidas black/white range to play football in, I do remember consciously trying to find others which measured up to the simple beauty of those original suedes. I also remember spending hours searching out sports shops whenever I was lucky enough to go abroad on school skiing trips or to play in football tournaments. Between 1979 and 1983 I went to Italy, France, Switzerland, Belgium and Denmark – and invariably came home with trainers and a football top (another vice which I still occasionally succumb to . . .
And so, gradually, those three or four pairs became ten and, with the sudden availability of shoploads of previously unknown trainers thanks to the arrival of casual culture, coupled with the increase in my spending power as I joined the paid-employee ranks, the number of training shoes increased accordingly.
Still though they weren’t - and aren’t - a collection. They’re just trainers that I wear. If I were to try and come up with what makes my passion for trainers different to that of a proper collector it’s probably easiest to do so by means of a scenario, exaggerated for obvious effect!
Imagine getting a call one day from someone offering to sell, let’s say, a pair of deadstock Nike Omega Flame. A collector’s first question would be “How much?”. Mine would be “What size are they?”. You see the idea of buying trainers, no matter how much of a bargain or rarity they are, if they don’t fit it’s just plain ridiculous. My appreciation of the aesthetic qualities of a pair of trainers begins when they are on my feet, not in being secure in the knowledge that they are tucked away in a box somewhere only to be shown and not worn.
They say that your first love never dies. That’s certainly the case with me and vintage suede trainers. Although I love my 80’s runners, classic tennis shoes or heartbreakingly PU-soled Trimm Trab/Munchen style of trainer – nothing comes close to the look of a simple, flat–soled suede trainer, especially if it’s in a particularly striking combination of colours. The following images are a small representation of what, to me, are Kings in perpetua of the trainer world ….
** They’re either trainers or training shoes. Never, ever sneakers. However snobbish or pompous this may sound, the S-word does not exist in my vocabulary. Were I an old B-Boy from the Bronx, shooting hoops in the ’hood – fine. But I’m not, I’m from the west of Scotland and just saying that word is as cringeworthy as hearing someone from Britain talking about “soccer” or “the locker room”. It’s wrong. Just wrong ….
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