Retro cool is kind of a funny thing. Youngsters re-discover brands that earlier generations knew to be hallmarks of quality, and the cycle of popularity starts all over again. No one tells the younger set that their fathers wore the same shoes they do (or they would cease to be cool!) and old-timers enjoy seeing the brands that they favored as kids return to the streets. They could say, “I told you so,” but most refrain. They simply smile when a group of noisy teens walks by in a hat from yesteryear, a pair of shoes from a century-old designer, a style that lay dormant for decades but exploded anew like a volcano that just got its memory back.
One of the major differences between then and now, however, is that when these old-school hits become new-school fads, they move from the playing fields to the sidewalks. What your parents thought was cutting edge athletic footwear, for instance, is now only worn for casual occasions. That is because technology has changed athletic shoes forever. You can now pump your shoes snug, literally walk on air or bounce off coils with each step, all unheard-of features just a couple of decades ago.
As a result, the sneakers that your father wore and thought gave him a couple of extra centimeters with each jump now feel like trendy shoes that just happen to made of canvas with thick rubber soles. No one would ever wear such sneakers in an actual basketball game, for example, for fear of serious injury, but did your dad and his mates ever get injured when they played? No, but it sure seems like they should have wearing those throwback sneaks with little support and even less shock absorption.
One brand of retro athletic footwear has long been synonymous with speed, so much so that broadcasters still say that an athlete has “put on his PF Flyers” when he runs down a ball in the outfield or swiftly moves to make a tackle. That’s because PF Flyers were synonymous with speed during the 1950s and ‘60s, known throughout the States thanks to endorsements by the top basketball stars of the day and superheroes in cartoons on TV screens every Saturday morning, who boasted that at least part of the credit for their feats was due to what they wore on their feets—PF Flyers.
Well, PF Flyers did not stop making shoes, but you probably won’t want to wear them during any scrums. They look fine on the sidewalk as you traipse across campus or downtown. The canvas still breathes and the thick rubber soles still provide a decent amount of cushion, plenty for walking. They look better than ever, available in multiple colors and styles, some with a simple two-stripe look, others undecorated but not unnoticed.
The misnamed “trainers” will do far better in class than on the court. You won’t want to get them dirty anyway. Any brand that goes back to 1937 certainly earns the title of “retro cool”, and PF Flyers are still being made because they continue to look and feel great. Maybe you’ll do a few superhuman feats in them as well. The world needs all the help it can get. Put on your PF Flyers and see what happens. Posted by Roger Martin for Stand Out.