In high school Jen wore Nike Cortez sneakers in PE class. Now most of us knew that Nike Cortez sneakers were worn by cholos, cholas, or kids trying to be cholos and cholas. As a bunch of Filipino kids, we were far from fitting that status. Sure we knew a bunch of them in school. Sure we wore only lipstick liner and no lipstick. Sure we had crunchy permed hair and really high feathered bangs. Sure we had super thin eyebrows. But we weren't cholas. It was the 90s, all those aforementioned styles were fashionable things for a teenage girl in the 90s to do.
In high school we had a uniform. We wore either light blue or white button down shirts with a horrendously ugly pleated skirt. The only thing you could jazz up in your uniform was your shoes, which had to be black. All black. You couldn't have a Nike swoosh visible or you would get detention. I had to put electrical tape on top of the Nike swoosh, but when it would fall off and a teacher saw it I got detention. It was ridiculous.
PE was the only class you could change your shoes. You could wear whatever you wanted and not get in trouble with your PE uniform that consisted of a grey shirt and grey shorts with St. Genevieve screened on it. So most of us had a different pair of shoes for PE. If you played another sport like basketball or volleyball, you usually changed into the shoes you'd wear at practice. Jen didn't play sports, so she wore Nike Cortez because her dad got them for her. They were on sale. She needed sneakers. Problem solved. But we were dickhead high school kids who pointed out she was wearing "gangster" shoes.
Jen and I were both in the honors track, which meant we were the "good" kids. Were there gangsters in the honors track? Probably. But we were not them. So when she busted out her Nike Cortez's the other honors kids laughed. We all knew what the shoes meant and Jen did not fit those shoes.
The funny thing was we knew who did. We knew that THAT life existed. We simply were not a part of it. I found writing and sports. Jen found art and music. The kids with gang affiliations were more than the crews they claimed. They were also kids we had known all our lives.
When we talk about college or work places there tends to be the thought that "it's just like high school." But for us "it's just like high school" means so many oblivious things. For me it's the memory of my BFF Jen wearing Cortez's and not even thinking that those were gangster shoes.
Seeing this ad for Nike Cortez sneakers making a comeback is interesting. I saw it thought, "Nope still don't want to rock those." Why? Because I'm not a gangster. Never was, will never claim to be. Those shoes mean something that I don't want to fake. If and/or when these kicks become the latest hipster find, I will be totally sad. My memories are tied to an era where those signifiers really meant something. Am I saying it's sacred? Not really, but sometimes I wish some things were.
Truth be told. When hipsters start rocking these I will be unable to hide my side eye. That is an oblivious fact.