23 May 2014

The Grays

About a decade ago I had something of an infatuation with retro sneakers, fueled primarily by my dislike of the bloated, garish spaceships that many people choose to wear on their feet. I'd already been through the all-black sneaker period, and found that was just a bit too dull. I was not ready to give up and start wearing Rockport "walking shoes," and as much as I'd like to support New Balance's efforts at manufacturing athletic shoes in the USA, their styles just don't appeal to me.

I bought several styles of adidas Originals on eBay, but I found many of them to be not especially comfortable, so most of those ended up getting resold. (The biggest disappointment for me there was and remains the Gazelle, which was pretty easy to wear but had an oversize, plasticized tongue that was just horrible.) I tried Puma, which in my mind was slightly more aligned with street style but also offered some lower-key styles. I had a nice pair of Puma Romas that I wore for several years, and a pair of "the Suede" that never quite worked for me.

Eventually I landed on Onitsuka Tiger, which is the retro brand of ASICS. The exterior styling was a bit busier than either adidas or Puma, but their shoes were often offered in multiple color choices (making ti more likely there would be one I liked), and after deciding to try a pair I also found that they are more comfortable than they look like they'll be.
The style on the left in this picture is called the Ultimate 81 LE in "gnumetal," and it's the second pair I've had. I got them about two years ago, after the first pair maybe four or five years back. I still have that pair, which is in a lighter gray with black stripes and orange accents, but they have different internal construction and this pair is a lot better for walking. The perforated leather upper is also nicer than the standard nylon.
The pair on the right is called the Tokuten in "charcoal," and I bought them last fall. I had not heard of this style until I saw them on the Nordstrom website, in four or five colorways. I was first drawn to a pale gray, but then I saw these; I've never been too enthusiastic about the look of gum soles, but the combination of the suede uppers and the red accents just clicked for me. Another element of these designs that I like a lot is the use of off-white or "birch" for the stripes and trim instead of plain white.
For warm weather I tend to keep it simple and stick to white sneakers like Vans, but for the parts of the year when it's nice enough for sneakers but not so warm that I want to wear shorts and go sockless, I prefer these gray sneakers.

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