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I never had name brand sneakers.

In third grade Keds were the rage. Flat white canvas shoes with eight grommets for laces. The only identifying feature was blue rubber tags at the heel; mine were green. I nicked a razor knife from the utility drawer and sliced it off, nearly taking my thumbprint with it. I wasn’t a poseur like Lauren James. I’d be damned if anybody knew our moms shopped at the same discount store.

By fifth grade, cool stratification was in full effect. In Language Arts, I was Tier 2 but in Art class, which split off Candace Berry and Jessica Pappas for gym, Tara Reese and Krissy Serafina were left needing a third for a group project. I complied, but still felt lightly aggrieved. I’d seen how they treated Marina Koss. I wasn’t like her either.

The assignment had us trace on butcher paper one member of the group, then fill in her outfit from head to toe. Krissy was the obvious choice—she didn’t even need to stake her claim. She assumed the pose of a runner mid-stride. We “agreed” she’d be striving for a soccer ball. I probably concealed an eyeroll. I played softball.

On the feet of our generic-striker-but-really-Krissy-Serafina, we colored a pair of Adidas Sambas. I don’t remember what shoes I had on, but I know it wasn’t those. I didn’t care—they were ugly. My cousin and I made fun of the boys in her neighborhood who wore them, and that’s whose company I preferred anyway.

By seventh grade, I’d picked up soccer, and basketball too. I was the only kid on the team who didn’t have Nikes, but my dad did, so I stole them.

Nikes—well, those I cared about.

They just made you faster, and I needed any help I could get in that department. Only problem was, my dad was at least two full sizes bigger than me—probably more. When I tripped and fell at half court in a home game, the jig was up.

My moxie earned me my first pair of name brand sneakers. They were equipment, my dad argued.

Fine,” my mom yielded. “But you’re taking her to get them.”

I remember them being on the right side of $50; to middle school me, priceless. I’d saved up for them with pity capital and good behavior my whole tween life. But you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing. I bet Candace Berry and Tara Reese can’t even remember the first pair of sneakers that mattered to them.

Jillian Conochan

Jillian Conochan is a professional amateur; writing and editing just happen to be two current pursuits. Opinion range: strong to DNGAF.

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