They are the most stubborn of sandals – always a little out of place. I remember them appearing everywhere in the 2000s, like emo music, but it’s hard to remember the size of the trend without remembering Spotify. Adidas Slides: They’re easy to see in my mind’s eye, with a thick, spiky footbed of black or blue plastic and a single strap across the leg, white against the three stripes on the top, with an Adidas trefoil or brand name printed on it. side
I first saw them in 2003 when I watched Eric, a Korean American high school junior, tee-up at Brentwood Country Club. He wore a fly white t-shirt, basketball shorts and Adidas slides with white tube socks pulled all the way up.
The coach of our golf team, who had arranged for us to play a special course for free, was upset. He yelled that Eric’s whole outfit was wrong, especially the slides – golf shoes with cleats so you didn’t move your feet. Eric brushed off his concerns and assured him he would look “gangsta”.
We were all terrible at golf, so it was hard to tell if golf cleats would have helped our games. But when Eric took his big loping swing, his legs really, really changed. Instead of the crisp Greco-Roman curls of a pro golfer, he looked like a clothesline fluttering in the wind.
Eric wore those slides to class and PE every day. His socks were always bright white, and he often received compliments from black and Latino kids — some of whom wore their own versions of slides — about the freshness of his Adidas. It is important to note that the slides were authentic; No more than a knockoff with his fourth streak invited merciless ridicule in the yard.
Adidas Slides, or Adilettes, were created in 1963 for European soccer players who wanted to slip easily when hitting the locker room. They were designed to be transitional, to ease tired feet from long-distance running and slam on hard leather balls, slip on and forget when going from the changing room to the shower.
The Adissage model’s famous spiky soles – a later update in the series – are intended to be therapeutic, cushioning your tired feet as you walk. But they are equally famous because of how uncomfortable many find them, almost like an endurance test, the way monks sleep on beds of nails. Even the adidas website doesn’t recommend them as “all day wear”. One principle of a pair of tube socks is that they help buffer your feet against spikes.
In LA, where the weather made them a year-round option, sandals were central to style and self-definition. When I was growing up, there were Russian girls who loved Roman wrap-up sandals that made them look ready for battle. Sometimes white nerds who wore Tevas with their cargo shorts; Girls running in jelly sandals made their feet look like glittering aquariums. And then there was Johnny, the queer and Latino—the first person I knew who tried the faux-hawk, the one who wore the V-neck or the pink shirt—who upgraded from the cheap, black rubber flip-flops most of us wore to Havaianas, which were still relatively cheap. was cheap but came in endless colors to match your outfit and later, leather and more expensive rainbows.
Slides were for men whose comfort was their fashion statement. Eric was proud of his slide. He shows no respect for the old white men who pay to be at the golf club; He literally dragged his feet as they waited for us to clear the greens for their approach shots.
The dullness of the slides makes them stand out in the lightness of the sandals. Flip-flops were overtaken by rainbows and other leather options: straps were replaced by thick bands; A thin bottom, more structured than a yoga mat, giving way to a layered footbed with contours and arches. Now you can wear flip-flops to restaurants. Tevas’ Velcro straps and solid rubber soles made them perfect for long walks and hikes, and later gained a hipster cool for their ugly functionality. Birkenstocks prides itself on contouring to your feet and translates that cachet of durable craftsmanship into a $400 designer collab.
These upgraded sandals were one of the first turns toward the luxurious comfort that would define us as millennials: a precursor to athleisure, a mode of being as comfortable as possible while still being upwardly mobile, and in doing so, lowering its standards collectively. Meaning of “dress up”.
So what about those slides, which are neither comfortable nor upwardly mobile? Who was embraced by men of color in Los Angeles in the early 2000s, and still appears frequently in paparazzi photos of Drake-loving white dudes and celebrities trying to buy coffee? Which, when I showed a friend the luxury-brand version of the slide in preparation for this article, was met with the nickname “f-boy”? Why do they harbor such hatred but refuse to die?
Maybe it’s being between them that makes them bear it – they’re not completely related. Outside, they bring home with the wearer, the same effect as wearing a bathrobe, marking them somewhere on the spectrum between easygoing and lazy and entitled. Any place where slides are not acceptable is of no interest to them anyway. And the way they drag on the ground the wearer isn’t in a hurry, they won’t look rushed. Indoors, they feel a bit cold: unlike fabric or fur slippers, the plastic forms a tight barrier around the feet, and you’re always wondering when the wearer is going to water the lawn.
Today I am transported back to my early 2000s Los Angeles, that strange crossing of subcultures and diasporas where a bunch of black, Persian and Korean kids from K-Town and Fairfax and South LA find themselves at an elite country club. $100,000 just to join, playing a game invented by medieval Scottish people. It was as if L.A. was in a quiet and confused hangover from the OJ Simpson trial and the Rodney King uprising of the decade before, and its elites were doing penance as Tiger Woods opened up to a rich multicultural future.
We’re not unlike the hangover of the 2000s, when social issues around race and class forced institutions like media and fashion to reexamine themselves. That time on the golf course feels like a rehearsal for this moment, when I’m once again deciding how and when to enter institutions that weren’t built for me, to navigate the codes of speech and dress to layer into their culture. Eric refused to do what many of my friends and I believed we should: assimilate. Adidas slides capture the discomfort of difference.
I spent several hours with Eric as he took his time traversing those lush, manicured fairways at Brentwood, hitting bad shot after bad shot. Once we were out of sight of the clubhouse and caddies and greenkeepers, it was a rare place of freedom for us city kids, with no one around and nothing to do but play this odd game. And in the cinematic nostalgia of my mind, even if only for three hours in the golden daylight, Eric had made the course his home, and he was its comfortable king.
Ryan Lee Wong is the author of the upcoming novel “On Some Side.” He was born and raised in Los Angeles, lived in the Ancestral Heart Zen Temple for two years, and is currently based in Brooklyn.