The Shoes Make the Girl
I was watching this limited docuseries on Netflix called Worn Stories. I needed a break from the usual doom and gloom movies and shows that I always end up watching not because I’m all doom and gloom (mostly), but because I just wanted something easy and lighthearted for a change. The series has several different stories about people and one specific item of clothing that has some kind of significant meaning to them. It was cute and fun and got me thinking about my pair of wingtip Dr. Martens that I bought when I was 16.
I’m not a clothes hoarder and frequently cycle clothes in and out of my wardrobe, but there are a handful of items that I have kept over the years. These shoes will never leave my presence. They are so beat up and show how much I’ve used them over the years. They were my first big purchase that I made on my own after working all summer. It was 1998 and ska was really in. I personally wasn’t a huge fan of ska, but I liked the fashion and wingtip Docs were really popular. If you look at music videos from that time of bands like Reel Big Fish, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and even No Doubt’s early stuff you probably will see people in the band or people in the videos wearing these shoes.
I had set my sights on buying a pair as soon as I knew I was going to be working that summer. I had landed a job at my old elementary school for their summer camp program. I use the word “camp” very lightly because we didn’t really do much with the kids that a normal summer camp would. It was basically a place parents could drop their kids off for the day and have someone watch them and make sure they didn’t get in too much trouble. The only really fun thing we did was go to the local swimming pool once a week. The other days were just simple arts and crafts, cartoons, the occasional guest presenter, and movie watching. It was pretty chill for a summer job.
I didn’t have all the money upfront for the shoes. If I remember correctly, they cost $140 dollars which was a huge amount for me at that time. I still think $140 is too much to pay for any piece of clothing, but I wanted the authentic Doc Martens, not the knock-offs that I saw at Payless. The store that I bought them from had a layaway policy and I had a month and a half to earn the rest of the money owed in order to buy them. I saved barely enough to make this happen.
I was so excited when I was finally able to call them mine at the end of the summer. One of my best friends went with me to the mall to get them and he watched as I immediately put them on once the transaction was complete. One of the first things I did was buy black laces with stars on them. These laces are still on the shoes! I remember walking around the mall and noticing that they were going to need to be broken in. Breaking them in was a bitch, a very painful bitch, but they eventually softened up and didn’t blister my feet. I went to a Catholic all girls high school where we were only allowed to wear penny loafers. I got busted so many times wearing them and received multiple uniform violations, but I didn’t care. They were the epitome of cool in my 16 year old mind.
I still wear them on occasion because, yes, my feet haven’t grown since I was 16. I also stopped getting taller at that age, too. Go figure. They are heavy with memories. If there is one article of clothing that represents me best, it would be these shoes. A little rough around the edges, showing their age, but built to be strong and long lasting.