Before Instagram, there were blogs. And if you liked to learn about clothing, there was style blogging. Born into a generation of influencers, who transcend what that title now means, style blogs – alongside print magazines and word of mouth – are where you got your advice. And in the fall of 2009, I had put a ton in my favorites.
This fall has been a formative year for me, both personally and artistically. As far as the latter goes, my personal style ambition, I thought, must start to resemble that of my career ambition, which, at the time, was to be some sort of editor at Squire, or a magazine like this. Esquire’s style blog was one of dozens in this bookmarked folder, titled “Blogs,” and in 2009 many of them suggested that I add a pair of Clarks Desert Boots to my arsenal. And it was in the fall that I bought my first pair: a pair of “slate gray” suede that I thought would stand out in the sea of battered brown boots that were sweeping the sidewalks of my college town.
Before this order, I don’t remember buying any clothes or shoes online, and I don’t remember ever feeling this way yes-it’s-here excitement either. It was, for all intents and purposes, the first pair of shoes I ever bought on my own, to meet my own self-interest in my appearance. I was 19, and alongside my aforementioned career goals, wanted to be known among my friends as someone they could turn to as an example to dress and truly live with consideration. It is a pivotal moment in my life that has come to define it. A chase that I’m still, really. And it started with Clarks Desert Boots.
I have worn these boots throughout the pursuit of it all. I wore them when it was raining (silly) and when it was snowing (what?). I have worn them to soccer games and people have asked about them. I wore them to parties, and when I could get in, to bars. I wore them for my senior photos and graduation the following year. I wore them at home after saying goodbye to college and wore them to my first job, in a magazine in my hometown of Pittsburgh. I kept buying more things. My jeans tightened for a while. I wore a lot of ties to work. I desperately rolled out pattern matching and tried to layer like the bloggers, whom I have now come across on Twitter and Tumblr accounts that have evolved from their primitive, bookmarked forms. I was also evolving. When I look back now it seems like it was going slowly. Trying to uncover the logic behind these crises often leaves my head in my hands. But these gray comics have never let me down.
I don’t remember exactly when I said goodbye to them, but I do remember it was because I ended up wearing holes in my heels. Their crepe soles, until then crystalline, were now damaged, my college years sunk into their hardened bottoms. After years of neglect and rejecting forecasts, the fallow deer had hardened and the upper bore signs of much exploration.
I thought long and hard before throwing them away, not because they weren’t too worn out, but because they had a distinct place in my wardrobe. I may have hoarding tendencies, but I would like to believe that this is more a testament to the eternal relevance of the Clarks Desert Boots and not my own reliance on ‘things’.
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