begging for jordans
We didn’t care how ugly the clothes were as long as it had one of the ten acceptable logos. I’m talking about me and everyone in middle school. The pressure to wear name brand clothes was so intense, we would beg, rob or steal just to have a shirt that said “Rocawear” on it. Even if we didn’t like it; even if it didn’t fit over our awkward, smelly middle school bodies. One year the most hideous sneakers I’ve ever seen were for sale. They were on the watch list for every pubescent kid in Brooklyn who cared about their social life.
They were called the “Dub-zeros”, and apparently, they were an exclusive release to the Jordan collection. I knew these things not because I cared, but because I had to. It’s the only way I wouldn't get harassed in school. I learned about the Dub-Zeros through whispers amongst the halls as we went in and out of class. They were coming out this Saturday and everybody already had their plan to get them. I didn’t know how they looked. I didn’t know if I liked them. All I knew is that if I didn’t show up with them on Monday, my social rank would be knocked down a peg or two. I had to start brainstorming—now.
My parents never bought me Jordans. They didn’t see the point. Too much to pay for growing feet. I had no empathy for their philosophy as a thirteen-year-old so I’d try to work around it in the most creative ways I could. I held off on asking for a pair for a year as a method to accumulate what I thought would work as “credit”. This way I could build some wiggle room without getting an immediate “No” when I asked.
One time I got impatient and cut the tongues out my everyday sneakers so that they’d be left with no choice but to buy new ones. “See? They’re broken” I said as I held them up to my mom with my head bowed down. She rolled her eyes and called my dad. “Yes. It appears there’s intentional damage done to them, Joe.” I know my parents made an effort to sound civil around each other after the divorce, but Jesus. They were talking about me like a was a case-file. They sent me to school the next day with my laces strapped super tight so that the loose tongues would stay in place.
I needed to think carefully about how I was going to get the Dub-Zeros. Terrified, I asked my mom if she wanted to walk down Fulton this weekend. Fulton is where a lot of stores are in Brooklyn. My plan was to stumble across the Dub-Zeros and make my case, while in the store. I’d rant about how long it’s been since I had new sneakers and if I had to beg, so be it.
We walked into a Foot Locker “See, these were the ones I was telling you about mom”. Of course, they were on display in the dead center, within a few step of the entrance. Mens, kids and baby sizes all lined up next to each other to look extra completing.
“Those? Those are ugly.” she said.
I looked down at them. She was right. They looked absolutely pitiful. I couldn’t find any charm in them whatsoever. They were hard. They looked uncomfortable. But they were the ones.
“Can I get these in a size 7 please?” I was so anxious, my question trailed off at the end like smoke.
“They’re sold out.”
Of course! How could I’ve not known that these sneakers would be sold out within 24 hours? I tried to absorb the embarrassment.
“Do you have a 6?” I asked, still trembling. My mom interrupted “Alex, you can’t fit a 6!” I shot my gaze at her, annoyed that she interrupted my moment.
“Let me check.” and he disappeared.
“Mom, I probably could fit a 6 okay? If I wear thin socks.” I mumbled the last part under my breath. At that point, she realized I was completely delusional and let me stare at the other shoes. He walked back. There was no box in his hand.
“The only thing we have is a 4.5” he said as he leaned over the counter.
My mom was about to turn around and walk out but I wasn’t quite ready. How could I dare to show my face Monday morning without these Dub-Zeros?
Herein lies the reason why I’m telling you this story. As a young growing girl who wore a size 7, I seriously asked the man at the Foot Locker if he could go get the size 4.5, please. He looked down at my feet. My mom looked down at my feet. I looked down at my feet. We all thought the same thing.
“Okay, I’ll go get them.” he said and he went into the back room. Trying to ignore my moms stare, I kept looking at all the other shoes. She was obviously letting me do that thing that day because she damn well she wasn’t buying anything. By the time he came back, I tried.
I really tried to squeeze my foot into a shoe that could only fit about three of my toes in. Four if I clenched. All this to avoid the smirks and giggles of Monday morning. Yet here I was—getting exactly that.
This is an excerpt from my book “RESONATE” coming out spring of 2018. This particular chapter is in reference to the power of brands and how they control/influence our lives.
In the book, I go into detail about what a brand really is because so many people don’t know. They think it’s a logo or a color but this story exemplifies why it’s way more complicated than that. To read more about my book, click here.