Shoe Choices

Long View: My Dad’s Shoes

In honor of Father’s Day this month, I wanted to take some time and talk about my dad’s shoes.

My dad (and my grandpa before him) owned the funeral home in the small Illinois town where I grew up. He wore a suit and tie every day, which required a men’s leather wingtip shoe to complete the outfit. My hometown was a blue-collar, working man’s town. Most dads went to work in steel-toe boots and flannel shirts.

I was pretty active in sports, and at my games, you could always pick out my dad from the sea of other fathers in their jeans and flannel. His size-12 wingtips made a certain slapping sound walking across the wooden basketball court that other dads’ shoes didn’t make.

Thinking back, it was a comforting sound. It meant he was a busy guy, but he still had time to make it to my games.

Like most teenagers, I thought my father’s fashion sense was ridiculous. I can’t recall ever seeing him wear a pair of blue jeans and athletic shoes. The man mowed the grass in his wingtips!

The only pair of casual shoes I can recall was a pair of white flat-bottomed canvas basketball shoes that Dad said were sacred. They were his beach shoes, his “go-on-vacation” shoes. He claimed to have owned the same pair since high school. I suppose if you mow the grass in your wingtips, you don’t wear out and stain your white canvas basketball shoes.

My Dad's Shoes

As the years went by, even a well-loved pair of basketball shoes eventually falls apart. One day, they did. Dad walked out into the ocean and came back out without the soles. We buried the shoes on the beach that afternoon. Dad said a few words and shed a slight tear. I kind of did too. Those were the shoes Dad wore when he was playing—playing with us on the beach, in the water, taking time to be with just us kids.

Dad is retired now, and I haven’t seen him in wingtips since. He does have a pair of leather sandals that he’s quite fond of. They are fine by themselves, but when he puts his wool white socks on with shorts, my mother and I both cry foul.

Dad sees no reason for all the commotion. He’s comfortable with who he is and how he looks. As a retired and respected businessman, I guess he’s earned the right to dress whatever way makes him comfortable. He’s a good dad; I’ll cut him some slack. At least he doesn’t mow in wingtips anymore.

As is the case with many fashions throughout the years, canvas flat-bottomed basketball shoes have come back into fashion. The most popular brand is called Chuck Taylor or Chucks, named after a basketball player who started wearing them in 1917.

I recently bought a pair for myself in navy blue. I wear them on the weekends or when I feel like acting like a kid. I bought my dad a pair for his 70th birthday. I haven’t seen him wearing them yet.

I wonder if he thinks my fashion sense is ridiculous. Maybe.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.

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