The power of Fashion
When I was a teenager I was friends with a really bad kid who made me do really bad things all the time. His name was Kyle and he was kind of my hero. Not because he was particularly nice or courageous or anything like that, but more because he literally didn’t give a shit about anything, except his mom, his friends, skateboarding, and pulling pranks. As an affable and acquiescent tween, his early and impressive manifestations of teenage rebellion were a revelation to me.
One of the first times we hung out outside of school (we were both 13 years old) we were walking around the shitty town we both grew up in and decided to visit the local playground. As we were most likely talking about how street skating was seriously legit way chiller than vert skating or something like that, he climbs up the ladder to the slide, waddles down about halfway and actually takes a huge dump on it.
I. completely. lost. it.
It was this really strange sensation where I simultaneously felt appalled and undeniably amused. In my ensuing panic I started berating him like “what the hell is wrong with you? You can’t just poop on slides like that! This is completely indecent behavior! What about the children and the families? Do you realize what could happen if someone slides down that now? They’ll get poop on themselves! Not only that, but did you stop to think about me? I just saw your butt in broad daylight and your poop. That’s gross, poop is really gross. It’s rotten food with all the vitamins taken out of it mixed with pee. Did anyone see us? The cops are probably coming. This must be illegal, there has to be a law against something like this! Are you a criminal? This is social deviance. Do you have no respect for law and order? Are you an only child? Are your parents divorced? Are you rich? Are you overtaken with the death drive? Is this some sort of rebellious lashing out against the enforced imperative to reproduce class society? R U stoned out….. like right now on weed cigarettes??”
He basically just laughed and said he didn’t care. It was too much for my teenage do-gooder brain to handle in one day. The next day however, I decided I wanted to be more like him so I turned bad too. Our friendship actually developed into a nice thing: we skateboarded a lot, talked about feelings, listened to music together, and spent a lot of time planning and executing ridiculous pranks. One of such pranks was the day we made a pair of shoes together.
I believe it must have been a Tuesday evening or something similar and Kyle and I were bored. We had just finished doing shooters of mustard, mayonnaise, hot sauce, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, clam juice, milk, soy sauce, and baking powder all mixed together and Kyle puked in the sink and it was funny. After we cleaned up the mess and were just sitting around I was like “hey wouldn’t it be fun to try and make our own clothes and wear them to school?” He was intrigued so we preceded to the basement where I thought we could find all the appropriate materials. For the past 20 years or so my parents had been using the basement as a storage space and it was full of tons of junk, like boxes and boxes of crap everywhere. Clothes, toys, wood, tools, house decorations, fabric, old furniture, just tons of shit, you name it.
After a little bit of searching around down there and some preliminary discussion we decided that our best bet would be to construct a pair of shoes. Being teenage skateboarders, we were both obsessed with shoes. Not only that but it seemed like it would be more satisfying and increase the feeling of accomplishment if we designed and constructed a commodity from raw materials as opposed to just cutting the top section of a pair of pants off and sewing a pair of shorts onto the legs or something amateur like that. We really were searching for wow factor here.
We started talking about the various ways we could build a shoe: cut the bottom off of an old pair of shoes and rubber band the soles to our feet ( “wait, isn’t that just sandals?”), fold up a bunch of cloth around our feet and tape it on (“wait, isn’t that just a sock?”), staple a plastic bag to the front cover of a book and put your foot in the bag and then tie it around your ankle (“wait, isn’t that just a plastic bag stapled onto a book that your foot is in?”). Then we came up with the perfect idea: wood. Wood was a fully legitimate and not to mention versatile material with which to build shoes. Not only have been people been wearing wood shoes since forever, but the basement was also full of wood. With wood we were suddenly freed from the likely thousands of dollars of investment that the GIS-D Model for welt and upper rib sewing would have cost us. All we needed was a shitty saw and like some nails and crap like that.
So we got right down to work. One of the reasons we were so successful that night is because we weren’t afraid to tackle the hard questions. “What is a shoe when you really get down to it?” we asked ourselves. Answer: a 3D rectangle with a hole in the top that feet love to hang out in. So we just built that shit. I found this long piece of wood, like I guess maybe a 2×8 or something, cut it all up into a bunch of chunks, and fucking nailed together two 3D rectangles with an opening at one end of the top for a foot to go in. After that we just found some white sport socks and like hot glue gunned them right inside those shits. Just like glued the bottom of the sock to the inside floor of the shoe. The sock was necessary because unlike a normal shoe that fits snugly to your foot, our shoes had about 6 inches of space between the spot where your foot rested and the roof of the shoe so, admittedly, they were pretty painful to walk in. With a long sock glued in there it stopped you from getting cuts and bruises every time you took a step cause the shoes were really heavy like probably 5 pounds each and full of splinters.
Once that was done we decided it was time to move into the second phase of production: exterior design. So, we glued like a fork on top of one shoe, taped a dandelion to one side of one, put some stickers on them, put a queen of hearts on one somewhere, put a cool chain on the back of one, threw a racing stripe down the side of one and called it a night. In the end, they looked a little something like this:
When the shoes were fully constructed and laid bare before our eyes it was next to impossible to contain our glee. They were just so beautiful. I think we each felt like the collection of disappointments, missteps, and failures that made up our lives up till that point were somehow redeemed. I would even go as far to say that they were transformed into the building blocks that led to this one particular moment of unadulterated creation. We were….heroes. It was quite possibly the funniest prank we had ever come up with. That feeling of elation dissipated, however, when we suddenly came face to face with the reality that only one of us could be the first person to actually wear them, to see and be seen walking down the halls first thing in the morning with these giant, five pound, incredibly uncomfortable, wood boxes on our feet. I wasn’t going to let Kyle steal my thunder though so I played a serious game. “It was my idea man and not only that but it’s my wood. In fact that’s my fork too and my dandelion. Actually, if we’re being honest here, this is my basement and my house, and, unfortunately, when we’re under my roof, it’s me, this bitch, who makes the rules. So……sorry partner but I think it’s time for your mom to come pick you up and take you home because I don’t wanna hang out no more.”
Just joking. I don’t actually remember how we decided but I know that the stakes were high, we could both feel it. One way or another, probably through some polite debate, or rock paper scissors, we decided that I was going to be the one to wear them in the morning. I was incredibly excited to say the least. The plan was that I was going to wear them until lunchtime and then he would take over and have them for the afternoon recess and the rest of the day. We high-fived, went upstairs to eat some chips, and then he went home.
The next morning I had kinda forgot about the whole shoe thing and just went about my usual morning routine. I got up, had a shower, ate some honeycombs, tried really really hard to ignore my two annoying brothers, and packed a lunch of granola bars and an apple or two. When I got to the door to head out for the bus and saw the two wooden monstrosities lying there on the ground I got real happy cause I knew it was going to be a great day. I slipped my already socked up feet into the sock part of the shoe (cause you cant wear shoes without socks everyone knows that. Especially if the shoes in question are partially made out of socks, because in that instance you aren’t allowing the socks to be what they want to be, which is a shoe) said goodbye to my mom and stepped out the door.
The thing I immediately noticed about the shoes while attempting to navigate the dimensions of space for the very first time is that they were quite difficult to walk in. Not only were they very heavy, but the sheer size, what you would call the girth of the shoes, presented their own particular set of problems for me. The shoes were so big that I was forced to adopt a wide sort of “swinging my legs out” to the side movement in order avoid hitting the adjacent shoe or coming right down on top of it during locomotion. In the first few steps I took, the shoes kept clanging together in really painful ways and I almost bailed. Falling in front of the bus of all the teenagers would have been not only extremely embarrassing for me, but also very bad publicity for the new shoes, so I’m thankful it didn’t happen. But it did take me almost double the time to travel from the front door of my house to the bus stop, which was actually kinda nice because it gave me time to admire the birds and the bees and think about some important stuff like, “what the hell is wind anyways? Just like animals farting?”
When the bus pulled up to the stop and I attempted to board, I got the first inkling of what kind of a commotion these bad boys was gonna cause. As hard as I tried, I could not for the life of me board that bus. The shoes were too big to fit on the stairs at the same time and I had to try multiple strategies in succession to mount them. People started losing their shit, especially the bus driver. She was laughing so hard that I don’t even think she was annoyed that I was slowing down her whole operation. In the end, I had to walk up the steps sideways in a calculated manner and slide down the aisle to my normal seat. The shoes wouldn’t fit in the space between the seats so I had to abandon the upright seating position and sit facing the aisle with my shoes taking up the whole walkway. People on the school bus kept asking me questions like “what the hell kinda homo thing are you wearing?” or “oh my god what kinda gay stuff is that on your feet gaylord?, or “are those wood shoes supposed to signify what happens to your ween when you see guys butts??” and I would politely answer them “they’re just shoes, I’m just wearing shoes like everybody else. I don’t see what the big deal is, I’m just trying to get to school in shoes like I do everyday.”
When the bus finally pulled in to school, the metaphorical shit hit the literal fan in a big way. I was the last one off the bus and after a few minutes of struggling down the steps onto the pavement, I walked across the yard and into the main entrance. Once I stepped inside the main hall where everyone was hanging out at their lockers I actually felt and saw a full blown panic breakout. You have to remember that I was moving very slowly because the shoes were so heavy and awkward, but one thing I hadn’t realized up to that point was how loud they were too. Every time I took a step they slammed into the ground and made this kind of deafening “boom!” sound into the tile floor. So not only were people impressed by how beautiful they were and how they made me walk in a really cool slow way, but they were also quite shocked by this brutal sound announcing my every step.
It was almost like one of those “wave” things that happen sometimes at sporting events where I saw people’s heads turn and stare at me in rapid succession all the way down the hall and erupt into laughter and mild hysterics. Some people put their hands over their mouths and cackled, others pointed in some kind of disgust, some folks gave me high fives or patted me on the back in an approving manner, some people ran up to me “like what the fuck are you doing? This is amazing” and just wanted to walk beside me wherever I went, and lots of people were just like “WHAT KINDA GAY CLUB DID YOU GO TO AND ROB A FAG GUY OF HIS SHOES AND THEN PUT THEM ON YR FEET WHICH LOOK REALLY HOMO RITE NOW”. As much as I had hoped that the shoes would cause a stir, I never expected it to reach these particular heights. People were yelling so many things at me that I couldn’t even answer all the questions, or really even hear what they were saying over the commotion.
“Good morning to you as well” I would say as calmly as I could, “Yep, looking forward to another day at school, got all my homework done so that’s good. Oh, these things? They’re just my new shoes for walking in. Just trying to get to my locker before first period starts so I can get my learning books and make it to class on time.” The attention went straight to my head, however, and I began to make some bad decisions. “I should show these off a little” I thought to myself, so I walked down the whole side hall to visit my favourite water fountain and take a few sips, I doubled back to stop in at Kyle’s locker and let people know that he was the other half of the creation team, and I even went to the washroom to take a piss. Everywhere I went people were losing it, trying to push me over, asking me if they could wear them (“no fucking way, these are custom fitted”), or just stopping to admire the decorations. I kinda lost track of time and when the bell rang for first period I was really far away from my locker. I started making my way over there but it took a long time cause my feet and muscles were really starting to hurt and everyone was trying to talk to me. When I finally made it to class Mrs. White was already teaching her lesson and I knew this wasn’t going to go over well with her. She already thought I was a troublemaker and had it out for me for reasons beyond my control. I stepped into the room while she was talking and the class erupted into laughter, slamming their hands onto the desks, turning their chairs around, cutting her off completely and undermining her hard won authority.
I was so mad at them for doing that because it was only going to make this worse for me. As I tried to get to me seat, my shoes kept running into things like desks, people’s legs, and their bookbags on the ground. I politely excused myself for every inconvenience I was causing but I saw Mrs. Whites lips begin to quiver and turn downward melting her whole face into very sharp and angry angles. People would just not shut up either and Mrs. White began to raise her voice like “Class! The bell has rang, you can joke around on your own time, not mine! We are here to learn!” but it was useless. I was stumbling around like a fool at this point trying to fit my feet under the desk, but they would not fit under there and I was, despite my best efforts, creating a scene. Someone yelled out “Oh my god those are the stupidest things I have ever seen!” and I started to sweat pretty hard. Instead of sitting at my desk I turned my chair to the side and sat down facing the wall. People lost it once again. It was like every single eye in the room was on me and every thing I did was hilarious. I could have just like coughed or whistled a basic tune in those shoes and people would have had a heart attack from laughter. In order to act like everything was chill, I decided to cross my legs, and boy was that a mistake. I crossed them, people started shrieking, and Mrs. White starts yelling at me like “Estelle! What is wrong is with you? Take those pieces of wood off your feet immediately! Do you have no respect for this school or this classroom?” And I’m like “Mrs. White I can’t take them off I don’t have any other shoes to wear. It would be completely unsafe.” And she’s like “Those are supposed to be shoes? Those are not shoes! Are you an imbecile? It is against the rules to walk around with no shoes on! Get out of my classroom immediately and go see the principal!”
So whatever, I went to the principals office, he gets right mad at me, makes me take them off, confiscates them, and gives me a few days of detention. I spend the rest of the day with no shoes on and before the the day is out, I notice that my shoes have been added to the display case of forbidden items which is now just my shoes and a shirt that says a swear word on it. I couldn’t believe it but those shoes turned everyone into maniacs and almost destroyed the whole public education system in one day.
Clothes are powerful.