Thursday, 8 July 2010

Trainers in 1992

Ghana's captain at this year's World Cup was called Stephen Appiah. That got me to thinking about a chap of the same name whom I went to school with in the early 90s. I'm pretty sure it's not the same bloke. At the time I was in Newcastle and my Stephen Appiah had had a heart transplant. He was black though. And he bullied me.

That's what's been bothering me. You see, he had the gait of someone with serious disabilities AND he was black (probably the only black person in our year) and yet he was the chief bully in our class. Retrospectively I think he might be my hero. On paper, given the nature of where I grew up (Britain) you'd have thought he'd have been the first port of call for anyone wishing to dish out some abuse. Instead he was a phenomenal ringleader, with all his minions dancing to his tune - invariably 'rave' based. 

So how did he achieve this status and more importantly how did I end up close to the bottom of the social pile? The answer is trainers. I'm sure some of you remember that in the early 90s trainers were a key part of social structuring at school. I wonder if they still hold the same power? It seems to me that it's now quite fashionable to wear what are essentially plimsoles (easy for any parent to fork out for) so perhaps not. Then again I'm probably being naive.  In 1992 the big brands were of course Nike, Reebok and Adidas but there were some that seem to have fallen by the wayside - LA Gear, BK Knights. Dunlops and Hi-Techs were not acceptable but what if your parents couldn't afford (or at least weren't prepared to sacrifice nice French cheese for) even them? Then you were stuck with either Clarks or white plimsoles. Then you were me. Appiah, of course had the peak of footwear technology - Nike Air Max. I always wondered, is Nike Air different to normal air? If you were to breathe it in would it give you powers?   

Every day I suffered laughter and taunts aimed at my shoes all emanating from Appiah. I guess his disabilities had given him a resolve to never be someone's inferior. To dish it out before the taunts came his way. Either that or he was a cunt. People often forget that I think - those with disabilities can be pricks too. But then one day I arrived at school confident that there would be no laughter headed my way for a while because I had a new weapon... some gleaming new BK Knights. Praise be to shopping centres there was a sale on in town the night before and I'd managed to persuade my mother to get me them. 

That morning I arrived early and sat at my desk (just in front of the form teacher, I was a real boffin) and struck a pose. It was a pose I'd seen Appiah perform on a number of occasions. Lent back on my chair, BK enclosed feet on the desk I felt as cool as I had ever done in my previous 12 years. To give Appiah credit he burst my bubble with real aplomb. The second he saw me he burst into a villainous cackle - one that really put me in my place. I immediately became aware of how ridiculous I looked. I had thought that simply sticking some C-List trainers on my feet would earn me instant respect. I'd be welcomed into the cool gang with open arms - 'We thought you were a right bender but now you've got them BKs we'll show you where we keep our popularity juice'. The fact was though I was still the same dweeb with a shit haircut. You can put a monkey in a suit but unless he's got some seriously high powered mates he won't get into The Ivy. Lesson learnt. I focussed on my studies for a while.

Did trainers play a massive part in social hierarchy at your school or was it just in my hood?

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