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Dad Shoes

Function Over Fashion

While the fashion world was consumed with Dad vibes over the last 18 months — Nike Air Monarch, Balenciaga Triple S, Yeezy Waverunner — I have been embracing the real lifestyle. Actual dad life — sans the minivan and barbecue tongs.

Six years ago I discovered Vans. The style choice was less sartorial and more Switzerland. A recent Nike alumni, my closet had zero brand diversity. I needed something I could wear to offices owned by Under Armour and Adidas. For five years I stayed brand neutral in the competitive sneaker world by choosing the least offensive brand that fit my uniform of black t-shirts and M65 utility pants.

I had other favorites like my Birkenstock London in all white, but my Vans rotation were the basic go to. Throw in the occasional Asics & Woven Footscape and I had some quiet, go-to product that kept my kicks relatively brand neutral.

All White Everything . . . or Maybe Grey.

Well, about a year ago, while my life began to ramp up a few clicks — trips to Shanghai, sick brother in Ohio, kids to college, NYC apartment shopping — my feet began to protest. I was experiencing those “Your Ass is Old” pains. The ones where for no reason you just start aching. My feet would be fine for half of the day and then they would protest a walk from one room to the next.

I noticed that the only shoes that didn’t cause me pain were my Yeezy 350 v2. Having worked on them for two years I felt a certain way about wearing them — Ye compared it to riding around in your car listening to your own music — but they were ridiculously comfortable — cushioning, support and fit.

But I needed a more generic go-to.

I tried a few pairs of New Balance but they never fit the uniform. Allbirds has zero support and the fit isn’t stable. Most Nike’s were too sporty. I very much wanted to like the Max 97 but the tooling was too stiff. I very much wanted to like the Max 95 — thanks Sergio — but that entire shoe is stiff.

Along the way I sacrificed a white London to my brother and discovered how easy the Yeezy 750 Deconstructed is if you left the zipper down. I also took on a project — the JON — to help build a more stable and supportive shoe for seniors like my brother and my mother. That shoe would house an orthotic and be wide. Too much for me personally.

I needed something basic.

Then I stumbled on a Max 1 in tan, cream and navy blue.

I wore it heavy for a week before realizing it was becoming a go to pair of shoes. The basic, inline offering had the right amount of support and cushioning.

I realized that I hadn’t really worn a Max 1. The pairs that I owned were all leather or reflective or some stiff material. I never actually wore the OG Max 1.

So I destroyed this pair of simple shoes enough to know I needed to restock. Walking through NYC is bad, but my addiction to Citibike meant that toe grease was real thing. I’d just get a new pair, right?

In classic Nike merchandising, the variant I wanted was no longer in stock.

But I found a suede pair in tan. It looked comfortable, but it was too heavy for the summer. I put them away and kept wearing my oil-stained kicks like they were new. No mind. I had a trip to Ho Chi Minh and Shanghai coming so I figured I’d destroy the navy Swoosh pair and be ready for the suede in the cold weather.

Three weeks in Asia. I trashed them. No doubt.

Got back to NYC. Kept wearing them.

Still wear them.

Now my wife notices my footwear selection enough to buy me a pair of all suede Air Max 1’s with a jewel logo while she’s out on market travel. She never buys me shoes because I’m too picky. No one ever buys me anything because I’m too picky. My mother has given me cash for Christmas from the age of nine because I was too picky.

I would have never chosen the bejeweled Max 1’s.

I repeat: bejeweled.

She handed me the bag and I was unhappy that she was completely right. I liked the shoe.

I realized that I had a predictable uniform because getting old means choosing function over fashion even if you’re simultaneously fighting the status quo.

Now, here I am with three pairs of old man shoes that aren’t the ‘cool’ old man shoes and it’s completely predictable.

This is what it means to get old.

I guess I’ll be okay with it. I’ll just go get more M65 pants and Uniqlo socks. Winter is here.

Get off my lawn.




The Business of Design from a Studio in Harlem.

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Jeffrey Alan Henderson

Jeffrey Alan Henderson

Founder of And Them Creative Consultancy. Focused on design, inclusion, sponsorship and community. And sneakers.

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