Dad Shoes

I am not quite sure when I joined the club, but it was probably somewhere in my early thirties.  The club is quite informal, but highly recognizable.  Dad’s come in many shapes and sizes, but many of us have one thing in common.  We wear a pair of sneakers that practically define “men of certain age”, most of whom are fathers.  Normally they are white, bulky and have a Nike or New Balance logo on them.  To some they may seem like an everyday wardrobe malfunction, but to those of us who wear them, we know otherwise.  Despite looking like a sneaker created for astronauts, they are some of the most comfortable and durable shoes on the planet.

This footwear had become such an ingrained part of my life that I did not even recognize them as unusual or distinctive of my season in life until one of my boys said something.  We were getting ready to go to an event when one of my guys looked me up and down and said, “Are you really going to wear those?”  At first, I thought he was talking about some other aspect of my dad attire like my baggy jeans or polo shirt, but his eyes were resting on my shoes.  Admittedly, they had seen better days, but that was not his real problem.   Apparently, I had failed some standard of dad “coolness” and my shoes were exhibit number one. As the years wore on and they moved from being teenagers into adulthood, they even started using the words “dad shoes” when referring to my sneakers.

To compensate for this newly revealed fashion faux pas, I entered my dark sneaker phase.  For several years, I bought the black version of these sneakers and fooled myself into thinking that they were somehow much cooler.  Then I made the mistake of actually changing styles of shoes from “cross-trainers” as they had been labeled to “joggers” that were really just running shoes.  Did I really expect to take up jogging now that I had changed sneakers?  Was anyone actually going to notice that I no longer wore those bulky relics of the past?  No.  Instead, I had to live with the fact that these new shoes were not nearly as comfortable and wore out much faster.  So maybe I did go to the gym a little more often, but I was never going to become a fashion icon.

Recently, I discovered something extraordinary.  Dad shoes have evolved.  Someone has finally started designing these shoes with a little bit of flair.  I couldn’t resist and immediately bought a pair.  As clear vindication of this wise decision, both of my boys commented on the shoes and gave me that knowing look that said – “Hey those are not too bad after all”.  One of them even made some reference to them looking like Michael Jordan throwbacks.  Now I can be comfortable again and not feel like a total embarrassment.  Or maybe, I have finally accepted that part of being a Dad is membership in the “white sneaker” club and that it really is OK.

Growing up, I remember having similar feelings about my Dad’s choice of attire, but not because of his choice of sneakers.  In those days, the dreaded choice of embarrassing footwear was dark dress shoes with white socks.  Did men of that era really think that they were somehow going to be more athletic by wearing white socks?  In a few weeks’ time, I look forward to seeing my Dad again in person.  We will both sit in recliners, share terrible jokes, and drink a diet coke.  As we lean back and put up our feet, I suspect we might have one more thing in common – the most comfortable shoes a man can wear and we will do so proudly.

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