Stephon on Up with Fashion

This is going to date me in some peoples eyes, but when I was in high school the $20 Converse sneaker was the “it sneaker” of the day. The other popular “sneakers” were Keds and PF Flyers with that mysterious special wedge that were suppose to make you run faster and jump higher. As times changed and new trend after new trend unfolded, we stopped wearing sneakers. We, now, wear either sports shoes or athletic footwear. It is a matter of self-preference to what you call them. I marvel at parents that struggle to buy groceries, managing to spring $200 for a pair of “Air Sweatshops” for their kid. I can imagine the heartfelt conversations at getting ready for school time:

“Honey, I understand where you’re coming from. I really do. But I think it’s worth risking foreclosure on the house, so our kid can fit in with the crowd. Besides, what parent lets their kid be seen in public with an Ipod and discount shoes. Seriously, where is your head at? It wouldn’t be fair to any child. I know you know that. I feel it is our responsibility to give our children every chance to be on equal footing with their peers. By the way speaking of Ipods, someone beat the snot out of little Johnny again and stole his. I know it’s the third time in three months, but that has to be replaced too. I won’t be having any social outcast in this family.”

Social pressures versus establishing values and practicing good parenting is a no win situation. You try to steer your kids to the right iconic role models. There are truckloads of famous celebrities, athletes, movies stars, etc hawking themselves through the “for the kids” concept. As soon as you find a good role model for your children to look to, they go into rehab, have a sex scandal, get arrested for assault, or whatever. I imagine the lessons learned by these events are good for kids. Our offspring should be made aware of the concepts of “nobody’s perfect” and “it’s good to lead a balanced lifestyle.” As a writer I know the appeal ofthe flawed hero and anti-hero in literature and movies. Inspite of that ideal, I champion the idea of using informed discretion in making parental decisions. For example, I don’t think I would send my kid on a sleepover at Mikey Jackson’s house.

What does this all have to do with sneakers and sports shoes for kids? Finally, a star athlete has stepped up to endorse non-budget busting sports footwear “for the kids.” The shoes, dubbed Starburys, are part of the new collection of sports apparel. They are fronted by the at present New York Knick star basketball player, Stephon Marbury. The shoes (sneakers) are priced at an affordable $14.98. To clarify the price, $14.98 is the price for one complete pair. Stephon Marbury has always been to me the classical “I want, it’s about me, me first” role model, I have never be a fan of. Now, he’s not only graduated to the status of anti-hero, but also he positions himself as a true American underdog. A current “bad boy” superstar athlete bucking the uber-superstar icons and the mega dollar sports apparel marketing forces. By doing so, Stephon Marbury, the bad boy, is upstaging the squeaky clean guys as MJ and Tiger Woods by doing the right thing “for the kids.” Unlike MJ and Tiger, Stephon has not accepted an endorsement fee for hawking his clothing line. Maybe he’s not such a “bad boy” afterall.

The history of the shoe is similar to Nike, Reebok and others. They were designed by Rocketfish who have created shoe concepts for the two aforementioned sport apparel superpowers and as well as Converse. It is being marketed as a true professional game worthy product. I would also presume it’s manufactured by either the same or similar overseas (alleged) nickel a day child labor employing sweatshops as the competition. The difference is the price and the tagline declaration. The marketing model is designed to “change the world.”

I have been monitoring the response to this campaign. From Bob Ley’s “Outside the Lines” program on ESPN to Fashion Newspaper magazine to The Wall Street Journal the effort is applauded. The expectancy of attaining a successful market share is dubious. Now, it’s crunchtime for parents and kids alike. Are you judgments and concepts of status and equality based on price? Are you turned off because Stephon is a walking tattoo bulletin board? Maybe like me, you don’t like the guy’s perceived attitude and image. Or are you just afraid to step on up from the crowd and lead?

I stated this earlier; I am not a Stephon Marbury fan. I don’t approve of clothes made in overseas sweatshops, either. My own judgments are tempered by what I know of the realities of life. I do know that there is a very good possibility that many of my clothes might be made in overseas sweatshops. I do know, these same clothes are astronomically overpriced even on sale. I do know that high priced in apparel is choking families’ budgets. I do know sometimes what we perceive may not be what is. I know that my stepsons, like Stephon Marbury are walking tattoo bulletin boards. I also know they are two of the greatest people you will ever want to meet. You can only change the world one step at a time. Many of the greatest cultural changes have begun as grassroots movements. If you remember Hush Puppies shoes and the 60’s-70’s Volkswagens, then you know what I mean.

I have heard rumblings and suggestions that six months from now the Starbury collection will be Bargain Bin bound. Parents here is a lesson you can really teach your children. Check out the product and quality of the product. Give it a chance. Hold off on replacing that stolen Ipod a few weeks and buy a pair for your kid(s) to try. Everyone has the fantasy of being on the cutting edge of fashion. Think on it. Is it worth the risk to try an affordable product or should you play it safe and put another $200 on “Air Sweatshops”?

Ask yourself what is the essence of “being cool”? Remember the kid that always led the field in “cool”? He or she did so by having the “in” thing before it was “in.” $14.98 cost less than going to the movies (a three hour event) with popcorn and soda. And if all else fails do the weighing visualization:
On one hand the mortgage or rent-on the other hand the footwear (sneakers).

In closing, I will say this one more time. I am not a Stephon Marbury fan. I am a fan of his collection concept “for the kids.” I am also a fan of clothes shopping and not breaking the bank. I proudly profess to be the anti-walking brand advertising billboard clothes wearer. I won’t buy clothes made to advertise apparel brand. My name isn’t Starter, Nike, Tommy, or Ralph. (I admit to having one Starter warm up jacket bought at Walmart for five bucks off the clearance rack.) I do wear sports team apparel. I am a fan of breaking away from the field. That is what being a leader is all about. Whether or not Stephon Marbury ever wins a championship in basketball with or without the Knicks. I am going to check out a pair of Starburys. If I find the collection is the real deal and a step toward real change in the world and fashion industry while preserving my bank account, I will wear Stephon Marbury’s sportswear in public. Who knows, I may even become a fan.

Copyright 2006 Richard L. Naran

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