Old things are cool (and no, this is not some kind of encrypted endorsement of John McCain). Young things may sometimes be more beautiful, but beautiful is hardly cool. The cliché, as clichés are wont to do, is based in truth. A wrinkled face has more character. A weathered home holds more stories. And beat-up leather doesn’t shine– it glows. Yes, my toddler’s skin is so creamy sometimes I have to bite it, but given the choice of a brand-new Volkswagon bug and one from 1967, I’ll take the original–scars and all.
In the eighties, during the height of the preppie craze (which started as a satire and, in becoming a national craze, lost its sense of humor along the way) I bought one pair of shoes in September every year. They were penny loafers made in a nice coppery color (it went well with nearly disintegrating denim), a very stiff upper (you can draw your own analogy there) and a high shine. I appreciated them at first but only started really to like them around November, when they started to soften up. By December, they had trudged through enough puddles to lose their shine. Come March, they were a few different shades of dull brown, the soles sloped like see-saws (my feet, apparently, pronated), and they were beginning to wear thin at the toes. By June, I couldn’t just feel the ground with my big toe, I could actually touch it. Sadly, as soon as I had gotten them this far, it was time for flip-flops again.
Just looking at this bag makes me feel twelve again (but in a good way), when I would wrestle my shoes out of my mother’s hands as she was headed toward the garbage with them. It is the kind of treasure you would hope to run across in a Florentine flea market or inherit from a thrillingly well-travelled great-aunt. If I see you with one, I won’t blow your cover.