10,000 years in the future, I will ruin an archaeology PhD.
Beneath layers of sediment and a few dozen boxes of No Thai, plucky young researchers will discover my bedroom, and in an instant, all their thesis work about Anthropocene males will crumble. So much for Class of 12016.
The heartache stems not from the room itself, but what it contains. Between fossilized textbooks and the laundry I put off doing for 10,000 years straight, the researchers discover shoes. Not just shoes – sneakers. Not just sneakers – but dozens of sneaker boxes, stacked into corners and closets, their contents nestled safely inside.
“I thought this era’s Millennials only bought experiences!” scream the researchers, their hours in the library evaporating under the weight of my conspicuous consumption.
So they’ll rant. And they’ll rave. They’ll exhale once in exasperation. And after a frustrating pace around the room, they’ll ask the same question that friends, teachers, and ex-girlfriends’ parents had all asked me over 10,000 years in the past: “Why sneakers?”
While some long-time readers may know the story behind my love affair with sneakers, the vast majority of my friends and classmates either a) don’t know or b) don’t care. Regardless of either group’s size (like a class with a Ross curve, most are B’s), I’m not being hubristic when I say that most notice my predilection with athletic footwear. My laptop is covered in Nike stickers. This blog’s largest topic is sneakers. For the first two weeks of my Junior year, I wore a different pair every day and was only called out in two club GroupMe’s.
In other words: I’m not subtle.
But like those disgruntled archaeologists, let’s return to our central thesis: why sneakers?
For me, sneakers are a synthesis. There’s a grand irony to the fact that something I step on represents my self-concept, but follow me on this one: no other object class combines art, design, performance, utility, and cutting-edge tech quite as elegantly a sneaker.
Just think about all the mind-bending design work that went into making an Olympic-level 8oz knit marathon flat – and past that, what considerations were taken to make that performance look good.
Distracting? Sure. Superfluous? Maybe. Unnecessary? Not quite. After all, even NASA had a style guide. This tension of functional form isn’t contradictory; and in many ways, it’s at the core of who we are. While individual personality traits themselves define consistent behaviors, there’s no Newtonian law stating that bundles of traits remain consistent. Even the great Walt Whitman, in his seminal poem “Song of Myself,” broached the idea that human beings are built to be complex:
“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself/
I am large, I contain multitudes”
So here I am: runner/writer; comedian/economist; designer/A- in Financial Accounting.
A bundle of contradictions, with sneakers at every turn.
I’m a lifelong endurance athlete who appreciates relentless function – hence, Flyknit Racers. I’m also a voracious cultural consumer who follows Instagrams dedicated to what artists are wearing – hence, SFB’s. In addition, I’m a business student at one of the world’s top public universities who appreciates entrepreneurial spirit and novel ventures – hence, Greats Royales.
Wearing and owning these diverse pairs amplifies every part of who I am by letting me quite literally put my own unique footprint on the world. Even better, I can look good doing it.
So, to that future archaeologist: here’s why sneakers.
I love sneakers because no single object genre grants true self-expression the way they do, since no single object could ever hope to capture all the sides of my personality quite like them. Throughout time and space, human beings have derived identity from (and will likely continue to love) seeing their traits amplified by what they consume. For me, that’s sneakers.
Sure, relatability is a cop out answer, but it’s only a cliché because relatability drives decisions. It did, after all, drive the decision to fill my bedroom with the stacks of boxes that just disproved your dissertation.
And really, sorry about that - if you need help rebounding, there are Air Jordans under the bed.