Lifestyle

The 11 Shoes Absolutely Everyone Wore Growing Up

Don't pretend you didn't own half/all of these and still pine to wear Tevas every day. (It's fine, baby, we're all in this together.) Sambas! Remember wearing Sambas with fat white socks that barely had any elastic left in 'em? Remember the Umbro shorts you wore with them, like every day? God, third grade was awesome. 

Below are the 11 shoes you, me, and everyone on your sixth-grade basketball team wore back when life was less complicated. (You're asking where Doc Martens are, we know. But kids are still rocking Doc Martens, and probably will as long as junior high dances exist, which will be forever.)

Why did we ever grow up?

1. Air Jordan 1

Year released: 1984
Height of popularity: Late '80s through the '90s; appear to be making a comeback
Price: Roughly $100
Likeliest people who wore them: Jocks, wanna-be jocks, rich kids.
Why they were cool: Mostly because Michael Jordan was the best basketball player on the planet and remains so to this day. (You know what we mean.) These shoes were also beautiful and, well, remain so to this day. 

2. Heelys

Year released: 2000
Height of popularity: Oh, like, 2002-2003 
Price: $50-$70
Likeliest people who wore them: Skaters, that weird kid with blue hair who probably had already smoked pot.
Why they were cool: BECAUSE THEY HAD F****** WHEELS ON THE BOTTOM. That's why. Remember wheeling all around the halls of junior high? Neither do we. But remember the kids who did? You made fun of those kids. You shouldn't have, and you knew you shouldn't have. You know you wanted a pair.

Heelys fell out of popularity due mostly to safety issues. You can still buy them though. And you probably should? 
 

3. Adidas Santiossage Sandals

Year released: Like, mid '90s? (We've reached out to Adidas; will update if we hear back.)
Height of popularity: Until 2006?
Price: Like, $30?
Likeliest people who wore them: Soccer players, poor kids in the winter (I was one of the latter).
Why they were cool: We have no idea. These were the most uncomfortable sandals on the planet when worn without socks. And if you're wearing these with socks, just get out. These were, apparently, synonymous with soccer, and kids would wear them after taking off their cleats for mom's car. The cleats were softer on your feet. 

4. Teva Sandals

Year released: 1984
Height of popularity: Early to mid-'90s
Price: $60, or so
Likeliest people who wore them: The kid whose mom wanted to buy no more than two pairs of shoes all year; the kid who did a lot of science projects but actually got pretty bad grades in science who now is an engineer working for IBM making $250,000 annually. 
Why they were cool: They weren't ever cool, aren't cool now, and will never be cool.

Unless maybe you are searching for crawdads in the shallow creek beyond your house because you just moved to a new town and school hasn't started yet because it's still summer and you don't have any friends and you go to Wendy's every day alone and get a junior bacon cheeseburger and dip it in mustard and think about what your old friend Trevor is doing in your previous neighborhood with his new best friend hey what were we talking about?

5. Nike Cortez

Year released: 1972
Height of popularity: 1990s
Price: $100
Likeliest people who wore them: Cult members, wanna-be gangsters
Why they were cool: They were originally Nike's first track shoe and largely responsible for its success in running. But in the 1990s the shoes became popular on the feet of people who only thought they were cool and spent a lot of time in the food court at the mall. 

6. Sambas

Year released: 1950 (!), but got a re-boot in '85
Height of popularity: 1995 (unscientific here, but they're just SO 1995, you know?)
Price: $45
Likeliest people who wore them: You. Me. Every person you've ever spoken to. 
Why they were cool: Do you really have to ask?

7. Reebok Pumps

Year released: 1989
Height of popularity: Early '90s 
Price: Around $100
Likeliest people who wore them: The most athletic/richest kid in your 6th grade class who's dad owned a few car dealerships.
Why they were cool: Kids actually thought that if you "pumped" up the shoes, that you could jump higher. This was extremely untrue. They still looked/look awesome.  

8. Sorel Boots

Year released: 1962
Height of popularity: Late 1990s
Price: $150
Likeliest people who wore them: Everyone living near mountains. Also a lot of wear came from people stealing their parents' boots to shovel the walk or play snow football. 
Why they were cool: They were waterproof so you could trample pretty much anything. They also were very mountain man-like and you felt like the Brawny Man anytime you laced 'em up. Unfortunately, the company went bankrupt in 2000 after becoming the world's top-selling boot provider. (The company was later purchased by Columbia, and they're still available for purchase.)

9. Merrell Shoes

Year released: Like, 2001? Hard to tell
Height of popularity: 2000-2002
Price: $80-$100
Likeliest people who wore them: Lazy kids who couldn’t tie their own shoes; lazy parents who didn't want to tie their kids' shoelaces. (Yes, your former boss still wears these.)
Why they were cool: They were comfy, and rugged, but the low ones had no ankle support. The following anecdote comes from our intern, Gavin Woolard:

"Merrell shoes were banned from my elementary school because of the low ankle support. Kids would would wear them to recess and gym and end up twisting their ankles while running. I was never one of those kids, because A) I would never wear these and B) I was coordinated, but still, my heart went out to those who ended up hurt." 

10. Phat Farm Shoes

Year released: 1992 
Height of popularity: '02-'03
Price: $20-$50
Likeliest people who wore them: Did you live in a large city? You, or your best friend, probably had these. This was the era of dressing with a little swag and these shoes were just that. Also popular at the time: giant denim.
Why they were cool: Russell Simmons.

11. L.A. Gear Lights

Year released: 1992
Height of popularity: Early to mid-'90s 
Price:
$50 - $100
Likeliest people who wore them: Boys and girls in elementary school, each and every one of them wearing 'em un-ironically.  
Why they were cool: They lit up when you walked—need we say more? The L.A. Gear Lights remain one of the most successful launches in the history of footwear, selling over 100 million pairs. 

Ryan Hatch is the deputy editor for Supercompressor. He is a janitor at M.I.T., and has a gift for mathematics. Read more about it on a new app called Twitter