When you’re young, authenticity can be everything. Probably before Holden Caulfield whined about phonies, and certainly since, we judge people by their trueness to themselves, until experience softens that stance — both because life sands down the sharper edges of our judgment and because we get cynical. Authenticity goes from an expectation to be met to a pleasant surprise when we find it. Yeah, I’m talking about sneakers.
One of the brands that really gets authenticity-oriented folks’ hackles up is Golden Goose, an Italian luxury brand (their website has “deluxe brand” IN THE URL) that specializes in sneakers. Generally basic looking sneakers — leather/suede uppers, rubber sole, sometimes decorated with a star where otherwise you might see three stripes or a swoosh. They’re quite expensive, but so are many sneakers. What drives people nuts is that they’re pre-distressed.
(Written on the tongue of Golden Goose shoes: “FOR SKATEBOARD USE ONLY,” which is a quick way to boil the blood of the authenticity-obsessed skate community. A lot of the designs are patched up in ways clearly inspired by how skaters repair/extend the life of their shoes, which wear out quickly.)
To quote Bob Dylan, I used to care, but things have changed. We had a lot of the same arguments about distressed jeans a decade ago — like everyone else I wore raw APCs for years to get some authentically worn denim. Then everyone seemed to realize that Levi’s Vintage Clothing, RRL, Visvim, Chimala, etc. made really nice distressed jeans. If some people want to spend $500 on ugly distressed jeans or sneakers, let em.
The best response to $500 artificially distressed sneakers may be less to actively hate them than to distress some cheap sneakers authentically. After all, there’s little better than a boxfresh pair of shoes, but a perfectly thrashed pair comes close. Recently, author (and skater) Andrew Luecke said “Everyone should buy a pair of canvas sneakers every May and totally cook ‘em by September,” and that’s a concept with which I’m fully on board.
May is over, but summer doesn’t technically start for another week, so there’s time to get a pair of basic canvas sneakers to be your summer pair of summer. Often I make long lists of recommendations, but in this case it barely matters, and quality/value is not necessarily a prime criterion: these are sneakers you plan to wear to death in months.
- Vans Authentics or Eras ($50): Vans original deck shoe (the simple Authentic) and an early skateboard-oriented shoe (the slightly padded era) are cheap and look great beat up. Best in white or navy (Vans navy is really pretty light), with red and black close behind. The plan is to wear these with everything, so while I like prints, etc., I’d stick with the basics.
- Sperry CVOs ($75): Another great deck shoe, with a siped rather than gum sole, and fewer subcultural connotations/less branding than Vans.
- Converse Jack Purcell ($65): A court shoe, Purcells are a little sportier than Vans or Sperrys.
- Tretorn Nylites ($70): A lightly different silhouette and vibe to preppier Tretorns, one of Luecke’s recommendations.
- Superga cortu classic ($65): Another Luecke pick, Supergas have the benefit of being a bit more unusual than the standards.
- There are number of great looking vulcanized canvas shoes out of Japan, like Moon Star/Shoes Like Pottery, Wakouwa, etc., which I recommend, but not for summer filthifying purposes.
Once you get a pair, wear them everywhere. To barbecues, to baseball games, to the beach (they can get wet). Don’t carefully clean them, don’t baby them, don’t use shoe trees. Wear them with socks, or without. Use an insole, or don’t. Maybe throw them in the washing machine once in August (afterward, I recommend stuffing with paper towels and air drying). Or just hose ’em down as necessary. Despite the general rule of thumb of giving shoes time between wears, just wear them every damn day. By Labor Day, they’ll be perfect. And you can chuck them in October.