I really want to get away from talking about politics. It’s just getting so boring. I mean, I enjoy it to some extent. But what is there to say? Saudi Arabia is an evil country that we pretend is good because they are an official ally. Said that (many times). The Republican Party is a proto-fascist revolutionary group that is far more dangerous than people will admit. Said that (many times). And the media pretend it isn’t true. Said that (many times). So I want to write about other things. And today, I thought that I would write about fashion — in particular, sneakers.
On Wednesday night’s The Daily Show, Hasan Minhaj presented a report on the secondary sneaker market. This is a subject that is probably well known to all of you. I knew that in the past Air Jordans were a very big deal and that people paid ridiculous sums of money for them. What I didn’t know is that they are still being made and people still pay ridiculous amounts of money for them. What’s more, Nike apparently makes fewer sneakers than there is demand and so has created this secondary sneaker market. It’s kind of like ticket scalping at popular live events.
I do sort of understand the whole thing. Yesterday, I went over to Treehorn Books here in Santa Rosa. It’s the first time I’ve gone into a bookstore in ages, because I have a hard time stopping myself and I’ve been on the financial edge for some time. I’m not that fond of new bookstores. (There’s a Barnes & Noble right across the street that I don’t like going into.) But used bookstores are places of adventure. And Treenhorn is great because it is so overflowing that books are hidden behind books. You never know what you’ll find. And yesterday, I almost bought the original two volume Putnam translation of Don Quixote. Why? Did I need it? No. I already own it. But the dust jackets on this one were in slightly better condition. (Although it didn’t have the box it originally came with, which would have doubled the price. I, of course, have the box.)
So I understand wanting to have stuff. But it’s also true that I use that edition of Putnam. The only other edition is abridged. And I’m definitely not collecting copies of Don Quixote to impress my friends because they just think I’m weird. Now I suppose that at least some of these people wear the sneakers. But even the nicest ones struck me as — Oh, what is the word?! — ugly. What I’ve been wearing for the last year (and will wear for about two more years) are Gen-X Mens Mercury Skate Shoes. I bought them two years ago for $15 at Big 5 Sporting Goods and they sat unused until my last pair of shoes literally fell apart. (I mean “literally” as in “actually happened.”)
But this is the exception. I don’t normally buy clothes. I accrete them. People are going to throw stuff out and they know they can give them to me because I really don’t care what they look like or if they fit. This doesn’t make me better than other people — just different. And I think I suffer for it. When I checked out at Treehorn Books, I was very excited. I had just found The Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett (first edition, seventh printing) for nine bucks. But the cashier seemed downright rude to me. Then I went to the bagel shop and I got similar treatment. I think people assume I’m a homeless man. (Not that this is an excuse; and a homeless man who reads Beckett ought to be honored!)
I’ve seen similar things. There are a lot of techs who are obsessive about the state of their computers, but who live in a complete mess. Everyone has their obsessions. But some of these sneakers sell for well over a thousand bucks. You know what you can get for that amount of money? You can get the 1755 first edition of Tobias Smollett’s translation of Don Quixote. It’s available for roughly $1,800 from Lyppard Books in the UK. And I know: to each his own. But even in 1755, this pair of books was rare — far more rare than any Air Jordans ever made. Yet the Air Jordan III OG sell for $4,500 — two and half times as much. And they are… sneakers. They are worth so much because (1) they were the first with the “Jumpman logo”; and (2) Michael Jordan himself “won a very memorable slam dunk contest” wearing them. Note: he just wore that style of shoe; $4,500 doesn’t get the actual shoes he wore.
But I would never pay $1,800 for a first edition Smollett. For one thing, I’m not that fond of the translation. But books are not objects of reverence for me. I use them. I damage them. That’s one of the reasons the two volume Putnam is so great: it’s well bounded with heavy stock pages. (Don Quixote is usually published as a single volume, leading to lots of binding breaks.) I’ve destroyed any number of other copies of Don Quixote. If I had an $1,800 Smollett, it would sit somewhere because I would be afraid to touch it. That’s what I assume is what happens to the $4,500 sneakers that other people buy.
But it is interesting to think that I could buy that Smollett right now. Because I haven’t wasted a bunch of money on nice clothes and overpriced sneakers.