January 7, 2010

Shoes Of My Childhood

I grew up in a very small town.  My town did not have a shoe store.  Each year before school started my mother would take us to the next town over, which was also the county seat, and buy us the clothing we would need to make it through the next year.  As with most boys, it was rare for me not to have outgrown my shoes from the previous year by the time our annual shopping trip rolled around.  This meant that the local shoe shop, Don Stover's Shoes, was always a stop on our itinerary.  Don Stover's smelled of leather and polish and carried the moderately-priced and popular name brands of the time:  Florsheim, Dexter, Nike, Hush Puppy, and many different brands of cowboy boot.  Now, my parents were not wealthy but my sister and I never went without the things we needed.  On a lean year we might leave with one pair of shoes each, generally the only widely-available Nike at the time, pictured below:

On a normal year we would each get the Nikes for play and school as well as one pair of casual shoes and one pair of church shoes.  I have no memory of the shoes my sister wore at the time but I've recently recalled which styles I often walked away with and the reason is because the shoes of my childhood have turned up once again the last few seasons as popular choices amongst fellows in the know.

My normal choice for casual shoes was a leather blucher like the one above.  When I was younger I wore them with socks but when I got a little older I lost the socks and rolled up my khakis to show off my skinny ankles.  Sometimes instead of a blucher I would go with a deck (boat) shoe in a gray or brown (never blue) with white siped soles.  These were mostly school shoes but could sometimes be worn to casual church events.

My church shoe was always a Norwegian (weejun) style "penny loafer."  I considered these to be stiff and uncomfortable so the idea of wearing them by choice with jeans never occurred to me.  Also, the leather sole was slick when new so getting any traction when running was impossible.  Because of this, the first thing I would do on the initial wearing was drag the soles over as much concrete as possible in order to scuff up the bottoms.  The "cordovan" or burgundy color was normally a safe choice because it would go with khaki, blue, or gray pants (which were the only three colors worn by boys at the time.)

My grandpa considered it his duty to make sure that I always had a pair of cowboy boots that fit as well.  These are the shoes that carried me through my formative years.  The Nike Cortez was reissued as a retro style some time ago.  Versions of the blucher are available from L.L. Bean and Quoddy.  The omnipresent Weejun (originally from Bass) is now available from J. Crew as well as other outlets.

What are your childhood shoe memories?


  1. I had super narrow feet as a child (AAAA) so the shoes that would actually stay on my feet had to be bought from specialty shoes stores (Stride Rite.) Therefore, I only ever had a few pair. I distinctly remember begging my mom to get me the slip-on Keds (no laces) but they would just flop off of my feet. Until one day, she finally backed down. Oh joy of all joys!

  2. There's not really such a thing as AAAA, right? My kids wear Stride Rite today. (That and Chucks.)