23 September 2014

Super Position

Y's Super Position spotted in Paris
Photograph by YoungJun Koo (I'M KOO)

Going anti-clockwise:
Birkenstock Boston Clogs
Adidas x Y's Super Position Trainers
Clarks Originals London Shoes
Dr Martens B1484 Shoes
Dr Martens 1490 Boots
Converse Jack Purcell Trainers

I remember choosing my first ever pair of "grown up" trainers. As often seems to be the case with my more memorable experiences, Summer was coming to an end. While I patiently waited for the conkers to fall from the trees at the end of the road, so that I could pick my prize fighter out from under a blanket of golden brown leaves, the back-to-school shopping had already started. Along with the excitement of picking out a new fountain pen for the year came the excitement of picking out my first pair of trainers. My father was, and still is, a stickler for dressing "respectably" - he is proud of the fact that he has never once worn a pair of jeans; but even he had to recognise the practicality of little children wearing trainers on the weekend instead of black leather derbies every single day. At school all the children were wearing either all-white Reebok Classics, or, for the cool kids, a pair of Nikes (I even remember boys coming to school with Nike swooshes cut into their fades at the back of their heads).

There I am in the shop, and I could go with the safe option of Reeboks, or I could try my hand at kicking it with the cool kids (...just reading that phrase should tell you how that would have worked out) with some Nikes. I walked around the shop running my hands across each of the trainers I could reach, feeling the leathers, feeling the meshes, feeling the shape of the toe boxes. It is something I do when I am out shopping even today - I like to touch and feel everything, after all, clothes are meant to be worn, so knowing how they feel is important to the experiential mode inherent to their design. I can still remember running my hands across the toe boxes in particular - all the trainers everyone at school wore were essentially athletic shoes, meaning that the rubber sole curved up at the front of the toe box. I felt pointed athletic toe box after pointed athletic toe box. But then something unexpected happened. I ran my hand over a shell toe.

These trainers felt different. Nobody wore these at school. As much as I wanted to buy something that would fit in with everyone else, I also knew that I wanted these trainers. I knew they were something special. Adidas Superstar - the name said it all. As a child, a name like that means something, you imagine yourself in shining lights. I tried on a pair of white leather trainers with dark blue stripes. Walking around the shop I found that the flat soles gave a completely different feel to my stride, and looking at them on my feet in the mirror, I thought they were the coolest trainers I had ever seen. There was me in a bobbly, scratchy acrylic jumper and hand-me-down corduroys, but those trainers were new and exciting. My father bought them, but waiting until we got home to try them on again seemed too long a wait, and I remember trying them on in the car and marveling at the shape.

I would later go on to wear Nikes (by then, not so cool, everyone wore them) and Reeboks like everyone else, but I fell back to Superstars regularly. The last pair I remember owning was when I was a teenager, and they were a white pair with red stripes. I still remember learning how to use a skateboard in them. They never really seemed to captivate the other children as much as they had captivated me, but to this day I still think they are one of the coolest trainers around. Heck, even Yohji owns a pair in black. Stan Smiths always looked odd on my long feet and I never liked the way the Gazelle toe box ended up looking after a little bit of wear. When it came to the round toes of other brands? I have never owned a pair of Nike Dunks, and I doubt I ever will, and as much as I like the look of Air Force Ones, they always looked far too bulky on my slender legs.

After a few years of only wearing canvas trainers, I thought it might be time to return to the realm of leather trainers. The main issue I have with canvas trainers is that they do not seem to last anywhere near as long as they should. I currently own a pair of Converse Jack Purcells, but after these give up on me, I do not plan on ever buying another pair of Converse. Where Vans are concerned, the Sk8 Hi is the only model I think I would ever consider purchasing again. However I have nothing but praise for Spring Courts - they are pretty much the king of canvas trainers as far as I am concerned. Anyhow, I had been thinking of buying some leather trainers for around two years, and whilst there were numerous Y-3 designs that appealed to me, the loud branding was something of a deal-breaker. I thought I would simply fall back to buying a pair of black Adidas shell toes, until I saw something that made me stop in my tracks.

I had already seen the photographs of the Y's Super Position when they were released, but I had yet to see any photographs of people actually wearing them. That is, until I stumbled across the photograph I have posted above of somebody wearing them at Paris Fashion Week. There were the Superstars of my childhood, but not as I knew them - Yohji had gotten to them. I was taken. These were the trainers I wanted. The design evoked all the personal memories and emotions of the Superstar, but those were combined with all the personal memories and emotions that I have connected to the work of Yohji Yamamoto. Of course by this time they had long sold out everywhere, but after months of searching, I found a brand new pair in my size, and snapped them up.

I have been wearing them for a few weeks now, and they feel exactly as I remember them feeling, albeit with a leather-lined interior rather than the mesh fabric of the Superstar. I left the strings uncut for some time, and although they did not impede me when walking, they did look a touch too messy in movement, so I cut them down to provide a sleeker look. I enjoy the smooth shell toe, as opposed to the ribbed shell toe of the Superstar, especially in contrast to the gentle creasing of the leather and the soft nap of the suede. Seeing them and wearing them feels altogether familiar and foreign. It is that feeling that I have whenever I wear Yohji's work - here is something new, but it greets you like an old friend. That is a rare thing these days.



  1. "something new, but it greets you like an old friend."
    well said

  2. Man this whole story brings back memories, we share very similar ones. I remember being taken for a new pair of trainers, and to this day I look back and cringe and how much they cost and how poor my mum was. I had my heart set on a pair of Nike Air Max 90 in Navy leather and Neon Green. They lasted a solid year, but then I found the adidas Superstar in white leather with gold stripes. I loved the way they looked from the side, in the mirror and were the first trainers I bought with my own money. I love the fact you have revisited your childhood, it's a connection thing. Really enjoyed this post.

  3. Love red stitch on white sneaker.But all the other shoes are black:)