I really love wearing sneakers. Well, we called them in sneakers where I grew up in South central Ohio. As I traveled around America I learned other people call them tennis shoes, gym shoes, running shoes (regardless of use, I think). When I got to go overseas, I learned of other names, such as plimsolls and trainers (the British English words).
When I visited London and Cork, Ireland I learned a more specific word for the type / style of sneaker I like to wear: plimsolls, both CVO and slip-on plimsolls. If you're not sure what an American plimsoll might look like, I can give you some examples: Vans Era, Vans #95, Vans Slip-on, Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers most, if not all, variations, Mens Keds Champion (CVO and slip-on), and my favorite sneaker of all time ---- Men's Keds Surfers.
Later on I ran into Charles L. Perrin who was starting a website about sneakers. He calls it Charlie's Sneaker Pages and honestly he has lots of wonderful information, including photos of various sneakers. To provide full disclosure, I helped with starting the site and got a thank you on his Notes about Charlie's Sneaker Pages. I provided many of the photographs used on his site, as well as some of the bits of information you'll find there. You should drop by, especially if you've never been there and even if you have you should stop by today and check out the recent changes! :-)
OK, now to the heart of this blog. I have one pair of favorite sneakers dating back to when I was between 9 and 15. I still love them today and in fact will spend hundreds of dollars to buy deadstock pairs, when I can find them. Maybe this story will help you understand me and my perspective. It helped my Mother (now 85+) understand an important event in my life. She said she wishes I'd been more forth coming, as she'd had done something about it. (Oh to go back in time to that moment. Several things in my life would be different today for both the good and bad.)
It started about 18 months before the actual event. I went to the shoe store (owned and run by a friend of my Mother) to buy a pair of sneakers. We came home with a pair of boy's Keds Surfers. I wore those sneakers (plimsolls) daily for close to 18 months and in the end they not only had holes in the upper canvas (where the little toes stuck out), but also in the flat gum rubber sole. Besides the style (CVO) and the flat gum sole, what I really loved about those sneakers was the material -- DENIM! Yeah, they were made out of blue jean material, they matched my shorts and jeans! I loved denim and would wear it from the top of my head to the toes on my feet and most everything in between.
One day I went to put on these wonderful denim sneakers and couldn't find them. I looked everywhere and even think I picked up my room to look for them. When my Mother was (finally) available, I asked her and she said she threw them away. Checking the trash, I found she was smart throwing them out the night before the garbage guys came for their weekly visit.
Sigh. It was off to the shoe store for us. Now, please, don't get me wrong; even as a kid I liked clothes shopping for the most part. Yeah, I'm a strange guy as I like shopping for clothes, but I need to be able to pick out the clothes otherwise I'm not thrilled. Thus I've never been happy when picking out a suit, but a pair of blue jeans, a denim jacket, a pair of coveralls or a jumpsuit, sneakers; well you get the idea.
We went over town to Carls Shoe Store of Gallipolis, Ohio and my Mother found Jack (the owner) who measured my feet and wanted to know what we were buying today. I told him the same as I bought the last time. Well, it wasn't fair and honestly, I didn't have the old pair to show him. So Mom stepped in and told him the story and admitted throwing them away because they're so worn out.
Jack said he'd check for a pair in my size and when he came back he had some boxes, but they weren't the denim color. He had navy blue, white, and I don't remember the rest. What I remember was the disappointment and shock of him not having the denim sneakers.
It was this day I learned an important fact. Sneakers are fashion and a fashion might only come once in your lifetime! He said the denim Keds Surfers might come again in 2 years, 10 years, or never. Its has now been 45+ years and Keds has yet to re-release Men's Keds Surfer, let alone in denim.
I made a promise that day to myself and until decades later, I tried to keep it. I promised to buy any pair of sneaker I saw even if I didn't need them. I would also try to buy at least two pairs of those sneakers. The idea behind the promise was simple. Given fashion means a pair of sneakers might never, ever come again I can't count on them existing when I really did need to buy another pair of sneakers.
At this point in time, I have a collection of around 800 pairs of sneakers and it would be higher. In the early 1990s my significant other at the time talked me into giving away over 200 pairs of my sneakers. Sigh, while I didn't give anyway I really loved, I did give away some who today who up on eBay as being worth some bucks. I'm not sure you've noticed but most people don't collect plimsolls. They collect Nike Jordan and similar sneakers, well, I'm not a big fan of those sneakers. Honestly, when I look at some of those sneakers, I think of the Steve Martin "cruel shoes" monolog.
Now I'd like to get into some tidbits of information and opinions on sneakers. Hopefully, you're still with me. :-)
I highly recommend to people to own at least 2 pairs of shoes of each type of shoes you wear on a daily basis. What i mean is people should and (I think most do) own different types of shoes. They have dress shoes, workout shoes, running shoes, basketball shoes, casual sneakers, shoes for the beach, maybe even for the shower, and who knows what else. What I'm recommending is for each type of shoe you wear regularly (at least daily, if not every few days), you need to own at least 2 pairs. Thus if you work out daily you should have at least 2 workout shoes. If you say run every other day, you again should own at least 2 (if not more) pairs of running shoes. Wear casual or fashion sneakers daily, you should own at least 3 (if not more) pairs of them.
Why? Well, first I'm not a shoe salesman. I'm not suggesting it to make more money. I'm saying this because I believe it is to the benefit of your feet and shoes to exchange out the shoes on a very regular basis. Shoes need a chance to recover from your wearing them. This recover is on different levels and thus a few hours, 8 hours, or overnight is not long enough. They need at least a full day to dry out, allow insoles to restore from being crushed by our weight (whether that be 90 pounds or 400 pounds), uppers to recover, etc. Your feet will also benefit from having a pair of shoes that recovered and aren't crushed into submission or wet from your sweat. Buy extra pairs and wear them. You'll also find your shoes will last longer!!
Side Note: BTW, the current Surfers Keds is selling to women is NOT -- in any way shape or form -- the same as the Surfer sneakers I'm discussing in this blog from the 1966 - 1972 time frame. If you look at the link associated with the "favorite sneakers" words I used above and compare them with the Keds website, you'll see what I mean.
BELOW you'll find a gallery of Men's Keds Surfers. While I own the denim and red version, the others are photos I found of this sneaker owned by others.
Another side note: I bought off of eBay two pairs of the denim CVO in Men's 9.5 and a Red CVO pair in 9.5. While I do like them, I actually wear size 10 (so these can get uncomfortable after awhile). PLUS I really would LOVE to own some of the slip-on versions, which also came out during '66 to '72.
REQUEST: If you do run across someone selling Mens Keds Surfer in US size (9.5 to 10.5), please, let me know. This is especially true for the slip-on version.
OFFER: I've decided to slow down greatly my buying of sneakers now that I know it is possible to find these sneakers. In fact, I'm open to selling off my 800+ collection I have been building since the middle of the 1970's (1973 and on). I even have some Converse Chucks from the 1950s!! I have the Converse All Star 2000 and various Vans, Nike, Adidas, etc sneakers, too. If you're wanting to find an old pair of sneakers who knows I might have it and be willing to sell it to you. Why not drop me a line and ask?
As for the other photos of Men's Keds Surfers from the 1966 to 1972 time frame, here is a gallery.