One of the first lessons I learned about life back when I was a wee little Random Hero was that you had to rock the right shoes. I have two distinct memories etched in my psyche about this. I was in the third grade and my mom bought me a new pair of shoes from pay less. They were a pair of Raider shoes. They had the team colors, logo and everything and I remember friends telling me, “Aww cool. Raider shoes.” Later on in junior high I learned that you got clowned on for having pay less shoes because it implied your ass was po’. I remember being in gym class in junior high and these two guys were making fun of people for their looks and/or clothes. I was sitting down next to them minding my own business and one of the guys starts eye balling me. He looks me up and down and thinks about making fun of me, but the guy next to him looks me up and down too and stops at my feet. He see’s that I have some Jason Kidd Nikes and says, “nah he’s cool.” As shallow and materialistic as it is, having the right kind of shoes makes or breaks a person sometimes. For some of us, sneakers are way more than just things we wear because we need to, it’s an extension of who we are and what we represent.


Kicks can say everything from what musical genre you listen to what barrio you from. Growing up, I knew that you had to have a decent pair of shoes, but nothing too fancy because then you’ll get robbed. Anything high end like Jordans and Nikes was always a target for all the punk cholo and bangers that would take them from you so they can have them. I also knew that you couldn’t wear certain shoes, like the Cortez because it was a signal that you were a cholo. You had to make sure you weren’t wearing the wrong colors and shoes por que sino, you’d end up dead and barefoot. My parents knew this as well and they made sure that even though we didn’t have money to buy a bag of tortillas, that we had a decent pair of shoes and looked presentable because if we looked bad and po’, they looked bad and po’. Weird how that worked. The Warehouse Shoe store has been theee spot for shoes for my entire family. For years, this store has always had the shoes we wanted and cheap. We used our school ID’s and coupons to save money here and there because when you have four kids that need new shoes for back to school, every penny counts. The WSS is easily the number one store for Latinos/as shopping for shoes outside mom and pop stores. Everyone knows it and it’s like a family tradition to go shopping there. Getting dressed in your Sunday best and looking for that new pair of shoes that you can show off at school the following week.  My taste for shoes changed over the years from basketball shoes that said that I wasn’t po’ and I was some what cool to wearing Adidas Samba and saying, “I know these are soccer shoes, but damn are they comfortable. I’m smart and into different things than everyone else.” It may be shallow and judgmental on my part, but when I meet someone I always check out what shoes they’re wearing and help tailor my mode of communication to match one that would be close to their personality. It never fails.

It’s also impossible to talk about sneaker culture without mentioning the influence hip-hop has had over the years. Hip-hop culture has thrust sneakers as a fashion accessory that made your outfit complete.  Starting from the late ‘6Os to present day, it’s become a life style in its own right and if you own more than five pair of sneakers that color match your outfits, chances are your a sneaker head. I’ve seen $500 dollar pair of shoes that looked like someone put them together blind folded with whatever materials were around. I’ve seen custom shoes that have jewelry encrusted in them. While I enjoy a good pair of sneakers, I’ve never paid more than $70-$80 for a single pair. No shoe is worth that much money in my mind.


In the end however, they all share they same fate, no matter what they say or cost. They’re just sneakers. We wear them to protect our feet from the brutal world and if you’re like me, then you wear sneakers for one reason and one reason only, for sneaking.

12 thoughts on “Kicks

  1. I remember thinking I was unique when I wore my Red Nikes with a blue swoosh to Nightengale Junior High back in 1981-1982. I remember some fool named Jose Loera who would always nudge his asian friend, point down at my shoes and snicker. It use to irritate me when he did this, but i quicklly realized he was the only one who bagged on them. Meanwhile, the cholos were sporting the blue nike cortez’and the preppy asians would wear the white canvas nikes with either a red or blue swoosh. My brother had a totally different shoe experience at Mount Gleason Jr.High, everyone there were sporting vans,hush puppies,as well as the nikes. Remember the Reeboks with the pump on the tongue?

  2. Anything high end like Jordans and Nikes was always a target for all the punk cholo and bangers that would take them from you so they can have them. I also knew that you couldn’t wear certain shoes, like the Cortez because it was a signal that you were a cholo. You had to make sure you weren’t wearing the wrong colors and shoes por que sino, you’d end up dead and barefoot.


    Damn, what school did you attend? Would this be called bullying or school-yard terrorism?

  3. Tales from the Crypt!

    Shoes, how important it is to a kid to have good shoes, self esteem and confidence are so essential, and good shoes on a kid also insures that his feet will grow healthy.
    My old man was a cheap SOB and was always buying me those fucked up Japanese ripple sole sneakers they sold at the Thrifty’s Five Points store. $2.00 a pair for those pieces of shit sneakers, even as an 8 or 9 year old I would throw that evidence of being poor and ragged into the fucking LA River.
    Even if I had to rob and steal, I would do it to get myself the proper, podiatric, and sartorial, footwear. My toes and feet are still fucked up from having to wear those crappy ass Goodwill or hand me down shoes that never fit right. But as soon as I was able to buy my own shoes I started to buy the very best I could afford, and I still do to this day. An uncomfortable shoe will fuck up your whole day, not to mention your vibe and persona.

    When I was a kid in the fifties there were no Nikes, Reeboks, or Adidas, but we had US Keds to wear then.
    The kids on the Eastside would wear US Keds tennies and that was that, no substitutes or imitations allowed.
    And the rule for wearing your US Keds properly was to customize them in the right way, as the “Chicano Daily News” dictated of course.
    First, the shoestrings would be taken off and dyed black with Shinola liquid shoe polish, the shoestrings then relaced in a horizontal pattern instead of the X pattern.
    And then the visible white rubber part of the US Keds sole would be colored black using liquid “Shinola” so that the whole shoe was black. But most important of all was that your name (a kids nickname), had to be neatly visible on the black canvas part of the shoe, just above the rubber sole and directly in the middle between the toe and heel. This was accomplished by using a combination of purex or clorox and dipping a wooden matchstick into it to bleach out the name in white against the black canvas background. The printing also had to be flawless and in the old Chicano placaso style.
    Nothing would give a little Chicanito more pride than to have his US Keds done up all bonaroo with his name on them, and in this way nobody could steal the customized US Keds that had “Howdy or Goofy, Tin Man, or Tuffy” on them and walk around very long before getting rat packed by the real owners or his little homies.

  4. Sneakerhead here!
    After a couple years of collecting Nikes, Jordans and other rare pairs, i have accumulated over 100 at 1 time. Now i find myself wearing nothing but my Chuck Taylors and my biker boots.
    i think my infatuation came from not being able to afford the Jays i wanted when i was in grades school & Jr high. I still remember my 1st check from my 1st job at Mervyns went to a Air Jordan 13 “Flints.” I still have them too! i plan on diplaying them w/ other rare old shoes, new and worn.
    I see shoes as ART and much more! Not just something that protects your feet.

  5. The obsession with rocking the right shoes is a real problem in poor areas. So is the obsession with rocking the right hair doo, the right jackets and pants, and shit like that.

    A new study came out that says that the average net worth of a black woman is $5. Certainly racism plays into that, but so does spending money on stupid shit.

  6. “I see shoes as ART and much more! Not just something that protects your feet.”

    I see that as playing right into the hands of nike, reebok, adidas, and the rest of the large shoe corporations, that make you pay $100 for a pair of shoes, well paying sweatshops workers a few bucks for them.

  7. off the street is right, but I don’t know what the solution is.

    I guess you could buy cheap ass shoes from the Latino owned businesses on Broadway. I got my last few pairs of shoes there when I was in the neighborhood. At least the money doesn’t go to a big chain and you’re not supporting sweatshops too much, though I’m sure most shoes are manufactured in near slave labor conditions anyway.

  8. I’ll keep it simple.
    “In LA we wear Chucks not Ballys, that’s right.” – Tupac

    Btw, vintage Pro-Wings are all the rage with hipsters =)

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