My affection for skinny sneakers started in the 1980s and came from a place of necessity more than anything. I have very narrow feet and this, as anyone with very narrow feet knows, wreaks all kinds of havoc on your shoe-buying life. Most of the big American brands (and this is true to this day) are far too wide. This leaves a narrow-footed gal with only a few choices: shell out the big bucks for narrower, European brands, or wear a lot of skinny sneakers. My mother (whose skinny feet I inherited — all the women on her side of the family have them, and now my daughter does, too) would indulge me with the occasional pair of fancy European leather shoes or boots, but for the everyday, it was often skinny sneakers.
Keds topped my list of favourites. They were cute, inexpensive and you could get them in a rainbow of colours. Sure, I wore Converse high tops (the lacing up my ankles kept my foot secure), but Keds were more versatile. I loved to wear them with skirts and slouchy socks and with leggings paired with oversize shirts and sweaters. And they were canvas which meant, like my Converse, I would inevitably draw all over them when I was bored in Social Studies class or on the train, zipping from the suburbs to meet my much cooler friends downtown.
I didn’t feel bad about the cycle of wrecking-and-replacing. Keds were always there, always available. I suppose Keds were my first and thankfully almost only stab at the disposable fashion trend that was in its infancy in the 1980s.
I still have Keds (a traditional lace-up pair in red canvas) and had to bid a sad farewell to a favourite pair recently: cushioned slip-ons in black-and-silvery-grey. I quite literally wore them out.
1. Esprit de Corps, Seventeen, September 1985. Photograph by Roberto Carra.
2. Keds, Vogue, February 1989.
3. Jordache, Seventeen, March 1984.
4. Nike, Seventeen, May 1984.
5. Mufich Designs, Seventeen, May 1984.
6. Keds, Elle, September 1987.
7. Jordache, Mademoiselle, March 1984.
8. Nike, Seventeen, April 1984.