Monday, March 8, 2010

Those Dirty Keds!

I spend a lot of time perusing vintage magazines, for work as well as fun. I find them to be one of the best tools for researching vintage fashion but I also get a huge kick out seeing what was going on in Pop culture at the time. This morning I came across an ad that just tickled me pink , even better it was a true flash from my own past.

Let me start with a little story…

As a girl, in the mid 60s, the beginning of May marked the time for new sneakers. The weather was turning warm and it was time to retire the brown lace up oxfords that had served me well over the school year. Mom would take my sister and me to the shoe store where we would wait our turn in smooth vinyl seats with chrome handles, our stocking feet dangling above the floor. The salesman would soon come over and measure our feet on his trusty “Brannock” being careful to measure twice, once sitting and once standing.

Size determined... off to the back room he went, emerging soon after with two pristine shoe boxes, the word Keds printed in bold letters across each. Then the salesman would loosen up the laces and slip our feet into the brightest, snow white sneakers you ever saw. Deftly, he would tie them up and we were asked to stand... toes were checked to make sure they didn’t touch the end and we were told to walk up and back the aisle. When both Mom and salesman were satisfied that our new sneakers fit properly, back into the boxes they went and the sale was rung up.

The job of buying the sneakers was over but making them presentable was another thing …you see, in the mid 1960s no self respecting girl would allow herself to be seen in a pair of clean-white-right-out-of-the-box sneakers. A humiliation like that could never be lived down. To look cool, sneakers had to be dingy and worn (don‘t ask, there are no answers for these things).

The minute we got home, on went the sneakers, and out the back door went I. Stairs were a nuisance so off the porch I would jump, landing in the bald patch of yard at the edge of our sidewalk. There was a method we kids had for making new sneakers look acceptable … first you had to scuff up the rubber sides which was done by dragging your foot at every possible angle in the dirt and grit. Next came the cloth uppers which got a thorough rub down with same said dirt… laces too.

The final results were never ideal but they would do. You see the perfect look did not happen for a few weeks, after the wear and tear of summer play had worked it’s magic. By July every sneaker in the neighborhood had taken on a lovely gray patina and frayed holes had begun to appear . By August they reached their prime.

I had forgotten about this little ritual until I saw the above Keds ad in and old Ladies Home Journal from May 1968. Click and enlarge the picture at the top of this blog. You need to read the text, it’s the best part. Like they said “A clean pair of white Keds? Ridiculous!”

....'till next time take care and Peace to all.



  1. Oh! I love it, I do remember, I also remember somehow talking my mother into a pair of red converse with purple shoe laces, this was probably in the early 70's. It's so nice to be reminded of old memories.

  2. I had a pair of multi-color striped Keds one summer! Another summer I had them in yellow!

    We loved our Keds. Thanks for bringing back the memories.

  3. What a fun story! I also love reading old fashion magazines for inspiration and it's so lovely that this particular article took you back on a journey to your childhood. A great read. :)

  4. How fun! I had forgotten what a big deal it was shopping for shoes in those days. I'm still totally dedicated to keds sneakers.

  5. I just found your blog today - love it! As for the Keds, it's amazing how far Keds have come. I still remember the first time I met one of my very best friends when we were only four years old. We were both walking down our street and just happened to be wearing the same exact pair of red Keds, and that's where our friendship started. Keds!