There was a store when I was growing up in the 1980s called Funky Punkers. It was downtown, on the second level of an old building on the pedestrian mall, across from the big department stores and one block west of the head shops. Even at the time the shop’s name made me cringe, but that didn’t stop me from wanting a pair of their shoes.
Funky Punkers was all about taking plain canvas shoes like Vans or Converse All-Stars and painting them up. Sometimes the sneakers a theme, other times it was just neon lightning bolts and stars. There were off-the-shelf pairs and custom jobs. I wanted a pair so badly in seventh grade, but my parents refused to indulge me and my babysitting money didn’t add up fast enough. So I bought a more affordable shirt there instead. It was white and sleeveless (a “muscle shirt,” as we called them then), oversize with some kind of 1950s retro kitsch graphic that I can’t specifically remember. 1950s vintage and retro were very big, circa 1982.
I did manage to convince my parents that I needed, at the very least, a pair of Converse high-tops. My mother was concerned that since they only came in men’s sizes they wouldn’t fit my narrow feet and thought I should stick with another pair of trusty Adidas instead. But no. It was Converse or nothing.
That first pair were a natural, off-white canvas. I would have preferred a bright colour, but the plain ones were on sale and my mother clearly didn’t want to spend a penny more than necessary on ugly sneakers she worried would result in blisters.
I wore my Converse everywhere, and with everything — with cropped jeans, with big socks and skirts. I wore them in PhysEd and to hang out with my friends. I wore that one pair for a year, and then two (my feet had stopped growing when I was 12). Eventually, I drew the Dead Kennedys logo on them with a ballpoint pen, and then other things. At one point they started to tear, the sole separating from the canvas. My mother was aghast and threatened to throw them out. She offered to replace them. I wouldn’t hear any of it. I loved my ratty Converse.
The shoes didn’t hit the bin until sometime after ninth grade, when they quite literally fell apart. I considered duct tape, but ultimately I knew they had to go.
I broke in a fresh pair shortly after that (again in the natural, off-white — I had come to love this non-colour colour — but low-tops), and have had at least one pair on Converse in my shoe rotation ever since. Today, I have pairs in teal, pink and an unusual navy/black/grey wool plaid pair I can’t remember where I got. And as always, a pair in that natural, off-white.
1. Converse All Stars, Seventeen, August 1987.
2. Converse All Stars, Seventeen, August 1985.
3. Surf Fetish, Details, August 1988.
4. USED by Elie, Vogue, December 1986.
5. Palma Kolansky for Seventeen, July 1984.
6. Rudy Molacek for Seventeen, January 1984.