My middle-school and high-school years were some of the most thoroughly unglamorous of my life. I wore lots of hats back then — mathlete, yearbook editor, tutor — and none of them were anywhere as cute as the CA4LA ones I own now.
I simply didn't have time for fashion, which, at the time, I only understood as the pursuit of being "cool." I could comprehend the power and appeal of clothes. After all, I did grow up in the era of Clueless and "very important designers." But for a teenager trapped in the suburbs of LA, the closest I got to fashion was finding a musician of roughly the same physical stature as me whom I could imitate. This process usually began with my best friend Jessica sharing new music with me, me declaring my undying love for said music, exhaustively searching the one vintage store within a reasonable driving distance, and triumphantly returning home with a corduroy blazer, a Western shirt, or something else equally awesome to my 16-year-old tastes.
It wasn't until I reached college that I started making my own decisions about what to do, what to eat, and — most importantly — what to wear. And that's when I began to realize how little I knew about myself. The idea of a gangly literature major aping his favorite rockstars suddenly become an awkward and uncomfortable preposition. But no matter how many times I took the train in to San Francisco and no matter how many trips I made to H&M or Urban Outfitters, I never felt anything when I bought clothes. It was almost mechanical, driven by what I read in magazines or saw on TV. My choices rarely, if ever, reflected anything deeper about myself.
Then I found these sneakers. Like any good nerd, I was doing fashion research, poring over blogs like Style Bubble and Jak & Jil, while consuming as many magazines as I could find at Berkeley bookstores. I devoted the focus I usually reserved for dissecting dactyls to learning about fashion. Digging a little deeper into the Internet, I realized that there were tons of guys, even dudes, out there who liked clothes, but weren't only interested in Dolce & Gabbana furs or Burberry checks. And in the middle of this revelation, I stumbled on to these Diet Butcher Slim Skin sneakers on superfuture.
There was no real reason why I should have bought sneakers from an underground Japanese label specializing in goth-y and deconstructed takes on skate and rock culture. And yet, there was a magnetic pull. When they arrived, I realized they were exactly what I wanted, even though I hadn't known what I wanted at all. But now I do. I wanted to stop pretending to be someone else, I wanted to feel good about my own choices and to make them for myself. Trends can suck it, but these sneakers will always make me believe in the power of fashion.
Photo: Courtesy of Marcus Leung