Circa 1992, just before I started the first grade, I distinctly remember my mom buying me new sneakers before the start of the school year. It’s the first memory I have of “new shoes.” I don’t remember the trip to the mall, the ride home, or the store we got them from, but I vividly recall how they looked. Chunky, white-based high top, red and black accents throughout the upper, white mid-sole with white laces, and straight up comfort for days.
As any kid is with new things, I was utterly stoked on them and couldn’t wait for my pops to see them when he got home from work.
He didn’t disappoint. He blasted my enthusiasm through the roof as only Dads can, “Whoa! Those are the same shoes Michael Jordan wears!” he exclaimed.
My jaw dropped. All I could do was stare at my feet before exploding with exhilaration. “Really!? No way!” I screamed. It was like he just told me he was converting my bedroom into a pizza factory that was powered by television and video games. “Michael Jordan…!”
These instantly became my favorite shoes of all-time and I couldn’t wait to show my boys at school that I, Ben Evans, actually owned the shoes of a man who could fly.
The next day on the way to school I leapt over puddles, avoided all dirt pathways, and walked completely flat footed to avoid any possible creasing. I wanted to be sure that upon arrival these kicks were crispier than morning bacon.
I arrived at school and waltzed into Mrs. Redman’s class ready to set the room on fire with my new treads. I gathered all the fellas into the corner of the room and pointed to my feet ready to be heralded as the second-coming.
I looked to the heavens with a delirious, triumphant smile that only the divinity can inspire, extending my arms wide to embrace the praise of my disciples. It was as I began the second revolution of my victory twirl, someone pointed out that what I had on my feet did not at all resemble what his Airness donned on the hardwood. What I actually had on my feet were just white, red, and black Avias - women’s aerobics shoes.
“Cool, I’ll just go kill myself,” I would have said if I had my 30 year old brain at the time. Traumatizing. It was at that moment my shoe fetish (and years of therapy) was born.
I’d go on to spend the next 20+ years making sure that I attempted to own every dope and essential pair of shoes ever released so as never again to disappoint Matt, Kevin, Donnie, and Rick. Thus, I give you the MUST have shoes for any guy’s collection in order to avoid humiliation in front of children.
#1 Errrrry’day Kicks
It’s 9pm on a Tuesday. You just finished eating dinner off of the tin foil tray it was warmed up on (...just me?), and you get a hankering for ice cream. Shit. You check the fridge and realize the only thing in there is unsweetened greek yogurt because you “promised yourself you’d be healthier.” Gross. It’s just a quick trip to the store so you look around for your flip flops only to realize the new puppy you bought to pick up chicks is on his second helping of your thong’d footwear rendering them completely unwearable. Not to worry - this is a perfect time to slip into the most timeless shoe ever - the Converse "Chuck Taylor."
Arguably nothing cool happened before like 1960, but this shoe happens to be one of the few. Originally made in 1921 for the basketball player Charles “Chuck” Taylor, these shoes fit America's ideal comfort, style, and price preferences to a ‘T’. Today they're just as hip. In fact, they've NEVER not been cool (excuse the double negative).
Leave em’ by the door as beaters, or keep that cap snowy white so you can wear them on date night - these shoes have a wider range than Whitney Houston (RIP). Gangsters, hipsters, moms, dads, moms and dads of gangsters and hipsters, can all rock these shoes comfortably with pride. And for only $50 you can pick up a pair of these terrific must-have shoes.
I also equally recommend Vans, specifically a pair from their "Authentic" line. Similar to the Chuck T’s, these are timeless kicks that look great with almost any outfit and age like a fine wine. Also $50, another incredible value for a truly resourceful shoe.
My advice: You’ll be good with either the Converse or the Vans - if you go for the Chuck T’s get the low tops. They’re a little more versatile and, in my opinion, look better with both shorts and pants.
Stay away from wacky colors like fuchsia or chartreuse. Pick up either white (my top choice), navy blue, or black. Neutral colors will allow you to sport these puppies on all occasions and with whatever outfit you’d care to pair them.
These are a rare piece of footwear in that they tend to look better with age. Don’t be afraid to knock em’ around a bit on that trip to get your Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food.
#2 Your “Friend’s” BBQ
Everyone has that guy they used to kind of be friends with in college. One of those - you were friends, but you’d never go to the movies with just him - sort of thing. That guy inevitably ends up moving to the city you live in and he’s constantly trying to hang out. You’ve successfully blown him off for 24 months before you’re officially out of excuses, and you have to attend his “Sun's out, Guns out BBQ Bash.” What to wear...
You want to be comfortable yet stylish, put-together yet casual, and fit in but stand out. Time to break out some Casual Runners. In which, you will unlikely actually run. Nike, Adidas, Asics, New Balance, and Saucony all currently have incredible casual runners that span a wide range in style and price.
Whether you’re holding down a decent income and feel like springing for the top-of-the-line, hard-to-get, Adidas "Ultra Boosts" (above) OR you’re crashing with Moms in her basement and prefer a more affordable option, a pair of stylish runners is mandatory for any sneaker collection, big or small.
Feel free to let your hair down and let that freak flag fly when picking out a color or pattern for these. Unlike your neutral Chuck T's or Vans, anything goes here.
Throw on some low cut socks, lace em’ up, and give your pant leg a little twice roll over so you have just a little ankle showing. This will give you a clean fashion-forward look, showcase your new treads, and let everyone know you have those killer ankles.
Note: casual runners should be worn somewhat infrequently to make sure they stay looking fresh. Scuff your Converse, sure, but keep these runners clean.
Nike Roshe One 75+
Alternate Options $50+
Alternate Options $100+
Alternate Options $150+
#3 Get a Sweat On
Essential to any well balanced life is exercise. Exercise strengthens muscles, decreases risk of cardiovascular disease and, most importantly, makes you feel better about eating an entire sleeve of Oreo’s in one sitting because “they get stale if air touches them.”
You never know when you might need to break a sweat and help a friend move, or go on an impromptu walk because your wife’s mother has been in town for 5 days and just said with mild disdain that you dress like a “rapper” simply because you’re wearing a baseball hat. Too personal?
Whether you’re training for the last leg of a team obstacle course relay or vigorously raising an arm so your lips can reach the Mountain Dew bottle, shoes that you can comfortably break a sweat are crucial to keep on hand when needed.
My advice: When it comes to exercise, opt for comfort over style. The best shoe depends on what kind of exercise you prefer. I look for something durable that can support lateral movement in addition to providing comfort when I run. I find that shoes of the Nike Flyknit variety - or that popular breathable mesh fabric that both Nike and Adidas make - can feel flimsy around my foot and ankle if I'm doing anything but running in a straight line.
My two favorite versatile exercise shoes right now are the Nike Air Pegasus 33 and the Nike Huarache Ultras. They’re both lightweight, durable and maintain that classic appeal. Both styles run about $120 and are well worth the cost for the quality and comfort. Your ankles will thank you.
#4 Unicorn Selection
Legend has it that in 1984 his Airness, Michael Jeffrey Jordan, was fined $5,000 by the NBA per every game he played in his first-ever signature shoe due to “league equipment violations.” The Nike Jordan 1 was a black based high top, with red accents throughout the upper, black laces, and a red sole. Jordan’s shoe violation? The shoe did not have enough white in it. David Letterman would go on to joke that, “Well, neither does the NBA.”
Business Insider says the Jordan 1s are the single most important sneaker of all time - and I agree. The success of the original Jordan 1 spawned an assortment of unique colorways and materials based on that original iconic shape. This is my Unicorn Selection - the Jordan 1.
I currently own 4 pairs of these shoes (all different versions), and am on the hunt for more. I promise this has everything to do with my mom buying me those damn Avias back in the day instead of the real thing.
From a style standpoint, the Jordan 1s in almost any color are a 10 out of 10. They’re classic but remain relevant, casual but formal, and unassuming while still boisterous.
As displayed by Jason Sudeikis below, Jordan 1s can be worn with casual jeans and a relaxed hoody or with more formal dark jeans, a collared shirt and a blazer. Oh! And to compliment those sallow stems you call legs, they look killer with shorts too.
My advice: You probably will not be able to get your hands on a pair of the Jordan “Banned” 1s (the original model banned by the NBA) without spending $300+. There’s a pair from 1985 that are USED selling on Ebay for $2,300. Luckily, the Jordan 1 line is expansive with countless affordable options to choose from depending on your commitment level.
I recommend using this Ebay link to find a pair of Jordan 1 “Phat” high tops for under $100. The Jordan 1 “Phat” line is the cheapest version of its iteration and there’s not a huge difference between these and the original model, cosmetically speaking. Expect compliments.
Note: Jordan 1s also look pretty damn good on the ladies, as demonstrated by Rihanna in NYC and my wife, Rachel, at our wedding after-party.
--Ben Evans lives in Los Angeles, CA where he is effectively converting his wife into a sneaker addict. For more quasi-quips from this quaffed quidnunc, follow Ben on Instagram, Twitter, and/or Snapchat @thebenfort. He would very much appreciate it being that his obsession with "likes" is as fervid as that of his sneaker collection.