I can’t remember exactly what year it was but I’ll never forget the day. I’d have been seven or eight (1985 or 86) and was in a constant battle with another lad in my junior school to be crowned ‘cool little kid’ by the big kids. It was a war I’d never intended on entering, but one day about six weeks previous when I walked in wearing a particularly natty trackie top, a lad called Steve said, “Owen, you’ve taken the crown, you’re cooler than Noddy.”
Noddy was not, thankfully, the hideously drawn cartoon character but the other lad in question, and the battle lines were set. We dueled with second-hand trackie tops bought from the charity shops and bearing the odd stain from forgotten wars, and entered into pistols at dawn with new items we’d begged our beleagured parents for. Trainers, jumpers, school bags, the lot. Looking back it was all a bit silly, but we were eight and desperate to be in with big kids so we didn’t get our heads flushed, ears flicked or bikes nicked.
On the day that changed everything, I thought I was set to be permanently crowned. I’d convinced my Nan to buy me a new tracksuit top, I had a relatively box fresh pair of Adidas hi-tops on and a head full of gel. How wrong I was.
Walking down the drive I could see Nod. He was tall, taller than some of the big kids who surrounded him. As I got closer it was Steve, again, who turned and said with the relish that only a bully can, “you’ve lost forever, check his trainers out.”
The crowd dispersed slightly and I saw what I can only describe as a vision of gold, white and yellow. He’d turned up in a pair of original Bjorn Borg Diadoras (or B-Elite), that I later found out were his cousin’s and had been pristine in a box for three or four years.
The reasons I lost the crown are twofold. Not only were they a blinding pair of trainers, but the elder lads of 10 and 11 were actually jealous as they’d no doubt lusted after similar pairs worn by their relatives and neighbours. I skulked off to Mr Phillips class, cursing my Adidas, Nod’s massive feet and life itself.
Fast forward nearly 25 years and I’m on the train home from work, frantically texting and calling the wife to ask if there have been any deliveries. It’s been like this for days. The dry throat, the naked expectancy, the crushing disappointment. My phone buzzes and the affirmative answer I have been waiting for flashes on the screen.
Arriving home I’m dying for the loo but forego that and the wailing dog to get to my office. The parcel is there, waiting, containing my own personal holy grail, a re-issued pair of the original Bjorn Borg classics.
I paused before opening it and remember not only that day, but the fifty-plus times I had considered shelling out a hideous amount buying a pair that had been sat in a cupboard for years. Removing them from the box, I sat down and carefully laced them in the over and under style and slipped my feet into them.
25 years is a long time to wait for anything, but as I walked to the loo via consoling the dog, I caught my own smile in the mirror and decided that it was well worth the wait. I might be a long way from the kid battling to be crowned the coolest, but for that moment, in fact every time I put them on, I feel like the victor. And that, surely, is what a good pair of trainers is all about.
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