These Dad Shoes Are Made For Workin’

I had to take my son to to the shoe store because his sneakers didn’t fit anymore. Once your kid crosses over into adolescence, any pair of shoes they own will fit them for a grand total of five months. So here I was again, ready to burn $75 on a pair of Nikes that I already knew would be too small by Labor Day. The next time someone jokes “baby needs shoes” to you when they’re hard up for money, take them seriously.

And then, something unexpected and wonderful happened. I left my son to try on a few pairs myself. In doing so, I stumbled upon an entire section of the men’s aisle dedicated to a new (to me) kind of Skechers that are designed for you to slip into, even when laced. I tried one pair on and my feet nearly died from ecstasy. I bought one pair, and then came back a week later to buy another.

You know the deal with Skechers by now. They long ago cornered the dad-shoe market with a variety of kicks that scream “I DRIVE A MINIVAN” with every step you take. You remember Skechers from when they capitalized on the Great Rocker Sole Boom Of 2012 by telling the world that their shoes could help you get washboard abs (this was untrue, and they were fined $40 million by the FTC). You might also remember them from when they signed reigning MVP Joel Embiid to an endorsement deal this year because yes, Joel Embiid is just that fucking lame. To wear Skechers is to surrender to a life without fashion.

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And I surrendered decades ago. As a 6-foot-3 man with three back surgeries on his résumé, I am now pickier about my footwear than I am presidential candidates. I need support, so much so that I have to restrict my shoe purchases to a clearly defined set of dad-shoe brands: Skechers, Merrell, New Balance, Hoka, Asics, Oofos, On Cloud. I can’t even tie my shoes. The lace-up sneakers that I do own are ones that I loosely pre-lace right out of the box, converting them into slip-ons. These are the shoes I wear when I write, when I go on errands, and even when I attend semi-formal events. I have little choice. Never can a pair of Bruno Maglis grace these trotters. Far too dangerous. I can just look at a pair of shoes now and ascertain if they’ll trigger a fit of sciatica that lasts a week. Most will.

But these Skechers will not. I brought them home to my wife and tried them on for her. She gave me a look that was neither approving nor disapproving. It was just, Well, if that’s what you have to wear, then you have to wear them. And I did. I slipped into my new kicks and gave them a test run by walking the dog. He peed freely while I stood comfortably. I did not look fashionable, but my situation has forced me to ignore such factors. Mostly, I was overjoyed that BIG SHOE had permanently divested me of the task of pre-lacing my slip-ons, and doing so without the need for velcro straps, because velcro shoes are for paste-eaters.

I should be ashamed of these shoes, and a very small part of me is. It’s the same part of me that squirmed when then-GQ fashion editor Mark Anthony Green told me that my Merrells were the “worst shoes on this floor” when I visited the magazine’s headquarters. But the rest of me took that shoe-shaming in stride. Not all of us are built for fashion, and I was more than willing to trade in my street cred for continued spinal health.

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And in doing so, I am at the forefront of a revolution. This country’s wardrobe is rife with items that were initially designed with utility in mind: blue jeans, cowboy boots, sweaters, and, of course, sneakers. Over the course of decades, these garments proved that form and function can co-exist peacefully. Dad shoes, which are work shoes, are no different.

So keep that in mind the next time you toss out a “WHAT ARE THOSE?” when your buddy saunters into the break room wearing a dorky pair of Skechers. You’re not only insulting them, you’re insulting me, and you’re insulting every other working American who just wants their back to stop aching. And you know what? I won’t stand for it any longer. I’m proud of my dad shoes, and I’m proud of the work I do in them. Fuck you with a docksider.

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