Growing up in the kind of area where people don’t self-actualize over a hundred dollar pair of shoes, I was always naturally suspicious of anyone whose shoes always seemed unnaturally clean. Back before the days of rainbow parties, “Me & U,” and whatever else kids these days were into (I so missed out on all of this), this was probably the easiest way to tell if a kid was a homosexual.
In fact, my high school wrestling coach (the secret source of a lot of today’s hottest hip-hop slang) seemed to derive a certain pleasure in declaring that certain types of clothing were for faggots. No Lance Bass. Among his favorite sayings was, If you want to be a faggot, you can go upstairs and join the swim team. Not that he was a homophobe or anything; that was just how he rolled.
One time though his wife bought him a Tommy Hilfiger shirt for Christmas and I guess guilt-tripped him into wearing it to school. It didn’t seem to be an issue though until after school, when one of the dumber kids on the team noticed this and remarked, Hey Coach, I thought you said Tommy Hilfiger shirts are for faggots. To which the coach responded by punching the kid pretty hard in the chest.
I say all of this to give you an idea of where I’m coming from. Unlike some of my fellow hip-hoppers, I would never spend more than $50 on a pair of shoes even if I thought I could get some sex out of it (okay, maybe I would). Of course, given that I was unfortunate enough to be born during the Blue Card Era, it’s not like I could afford to anyway. (Man, I’d be swimmin’ in pussy!)
I can only imagine what it’s like for kids who come from areas where real value is placed on the price of your tennis shoes. Contrary to what you’d hear on your average trap-hop record, I doubt very many people are doing that well in the dope game. Could this be the reason why we’re seeing so many kids making songs about plain white t-shirts, $30 skateboard shoes and what have you?
On the one hand, you can’t help but appreciate anything that would convince people to stop spending their money on Nikes. But on the other hand, it’s still rather difficult to view this as a positive development: It’s one thing when you can afford nice shoes, and you opt to wear Vans so that people don’t view you as a homosexual. It’s a whole other thing entirely when you’ve been systematically excluded from being able to afford anything else.
It was announced recently that MTV is refusing to play the video for the Pack’s “Vans,” a sort of hyphy meets snap-hop (I know), tribute to, you guessed it, Vans skateboarding shoes. Which struck me as ironic, considering they run shows like Cribs and My Super Sweet 16, where no-talent wealth addicts guide you around their mini-Xanadus, showing off their Sub Zero refrigerators and other high-ticket name brand bullshit. Gotdamn MTV.