August 03, 2003

It took me a while, I’ll admit, but I have learned that “Philly guys,” a demographic that encompasses teenagers, young men, the middle-aged, and beyond, regardless of whether they’re gay, straight, or whatever, really, really want to keep their new white tennis shoes, well, really, really, white.

To me this is very strange. Inexplicable. Bizarre.

I say that as one who has neither purchased nor worn a pair of white tennis shoes in nearly 20 years, and as one who believes that wearing white tennis shoes with blue jeans is among the worst of all conceivable errors.

Moreover, as one who did in the distant past buy white tennis shoes -- when I was actually playing tennis actively and seriously, I preferred Adidas Stan Smiths (long since updated) -- the first and foremost task upon purchasing these shoes, both for me and among my friends, was . . . to get them dirty.

Adidas Stan Smiths

Not necessarily obscenely filthy -- that surely would come with time -- but at least a bit scruffy, dusty, marred . . . imperfect. I can’t imagine thinking anything else, then or now.

The unique take of Philly guys on this issue was brought home to me in no uncertain terms when, a few weeks ago, I ventured out to meet a new friend for a few drinks. Not once, not twice, not three times, but four times, my friend D.M. berated me for allowing my feet, shod that night as they often are, by Adidas Sambas, to brush up against his gleaming white K-Swiss shoes, each contact being, I assure you, entirely accidental and devoid of deeper meaning or significance.

Adidas Sambas

D.M. that night at first was simply irritated, then annoyed, then outright angry and hostile about my egregious faux pas. I swear, after the fourth accidental brushing of our shoes D.M. either was going to cry, or try to punch me out, and or call me names or something.

And so, tired of his fussiness, I did the only thing I could think to do under the circumstances: I left. And I never turned back.

Let me assure you: D.M.’s fixation on the unnecessary brightness of his cherished footwear is widely shared among men in Philadelphia, particularly those who were raised in the Northeast or in South Philly.

I suppose I may someday adjust my expectations accordingly. But for me, for now at least, this is yet another of the ever-growing list of date-killers: Obsessing about how white one’s tennis shoes are and can conceivably continue to be.


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