Boots made for walking

Originally Posted on The Yale Herald - Medium via UWIRE

Boots Made for Walking

From seventh grade to my senior year of high school, I wore the same pair of shoes every day: Dr. Martens, black leather, 1460 Smooth, the Air Wair tags cut off in deference to my hatred of any kind of visible branding. (This made them a pain in the ass to pull on, but at least I maintained a sense of moral superiority) I got the boots as a birthday present precisely two years before I started seeing them on everybody, and to me they were a balm: I was thirteen and painfully awkward. I had shed my friend group, a cabal of athletic white girls with whom I had absolutely nothing in common beyond sports and ethnicity, but I hadn’t yet made any new friends. The combat boots were armor. Even more importantly, they were solid ground to stand on.

This was 2011; Tavi Gevinson of Style Rookie was at the height of her powers. Misfit teenage girls around the country rallied around her as our patron saint. This was before Rookie went fully mainstream, before Tavi became just another hot young influencer who was friends with Taylor Swift and posted #sponcon on Instagram. She, too, was thirteen and weird. She wore bulbous glasses and had short hair. For a certain type of girl — probably white and suburban and yet far too cool for the suburbs, deep into Sofia Coppola and Ghost World, nostalgic for the ’60s or the ’90s or really any time before widespread digital photography — she was a godsend. Tavi was what inspired me to break away from the Abercrombie funk that defined my style in sixth grade. She made it seem both possible and desirable to dress differently from your peers.

When I first got the Docs, I hadn’t anticipated wearing them every day. Gradually, though, every day that I didn’t wear them felt strange and wrong. If I wore a skirt (during this period I almost exclusively wore skirts, since I thought they hid my thighs better than pants did), the combat boots kept my outfit tough. If I wore jeans and a T-shirt, they kept my outfit weird. (It seems crazy nowadays to consider Dr. Martens anything other than mainstream, but to a seventh-grader in suburban New Jersey, they were truly countercultural.) No matter what I wore, the boots seemed to make the outfit more me, or at least more in line with the “me” I wanted to present to the world — infinitely cooler, tougher, and more punk rock than my reality. A lot of things changed when I left middle school and entered high school, but the boots stayed.

I still have the same pair with me at college. Seven years of heavy wear have taken their toll. The glossy black leather is cracked and scuffed and remedied time and again with Sharpie. The original laces are gone, replaced with an overlong pair I have to wrap around twice in order not to trip. There’s a hole in the right boot’s rubber sole from the time I stepped on a nail, which had wedged itself deep enough to stay there for a week, but not deep enough to pierce my foot. There’s a hole in the left one’s leather upper, and when I wear them now I have to remember not to wear bright socks. But I don’t wear them that often. They take too long to put on; they’re too bunged up for polite company. Mostly, though, it’s because I no longer need to rely on my shoes to tell everyone how tough I am.

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