Ready For Ripped

Not really. It is harder to wear tattered shoes than torn jeans

The tattered version of the Converse Chuck 70

By Ray Zhang

I own only a pair of carefully tattered—but not knee-baring or buttocks-exposing—jeans, and I think I have only worn it once. It’s now somewhere inside a box of unworn clothes asking to be in favour again, but they are more forgotten than loved. I have never taken a shine to anything torn except, maybe, frayed hems. So it amuses me to no end when social media went mad with the news that Balenciaga released a pair of practically damaged shoes. I only saw the photographs, but they look ridiculous to me. The kicks in that condition are saleable? No retailer would accept returns of shoes in that state, but Balenciaga would sell them like that? I remember when Maison Margiela made available in 2017 a pair of battered sneakers for US$1,425, I told myself that the world has gone quite berserk. But at least those shoes—broken-down version of the brand’s ‘Future’ high-tops—were not dirty. Soiled shoes, I learned on SOTD, are trending—that also escapes me.

The “destroyed” Balenciaga shoes look to me like Converse kicks worn at a construction site on a rainy day. And I have really seen them in that condition, unaided by Balenciaga’s very capable China factory, but I have never been seduced by them. I own only one pair of Converse in my entire life. It was the Chuck Taylor conceived in collaboration with Junya Watanabe that came in Madras check of rather bright yellow (unfortunately the soles crumbled and I couldn’t wear them anymore). Pristine, uncoloured Converse canvas shoes do not appeal to me. People have frequently said to me that Converse shoes look better when worn out and soiled. I don’t know about soiled, but I am willing to try a little worn out. I have tried ugly, how bad can mildly ragged be? When, at The Foot Locker, recently I spotted a pair of Converse Chuck 70 High that was quite torn on the heel and collar (and on sale!), I was oddly drawn to it. I tried them on, and my friends who were with me said: “They really look good on you.” Really? I bought them despite the very certain fear that with them on my feet, I might look like I do not have money to buy proper shoes that are in tact, even if that could be true.

A fellow torn Converse wearer. Photo: Ray Zhang

While I refuse to buy into Balenciaga’s wrecked aesthetics because I am unable to entertain the brand laughing at all the idiots who could be so easily duped into this possible high-end scam, I thought I might give sneakers that are not violently ripped a try just to see how I’d feel in them. After I put on my new torn Converse, my mother caught sight of them. She said somewhat sternly, “if you have no money to buy shoes, let me know.” Why did she not say that earlier? Not long after I stepped out in my new torn kicks, I saw a buffed-up fellow in a scuffed-up pair of the same Converse I had on. Were there so many sold that I would meet someone identically togged on the very first that I put the sneakers through their paces? But, his looked worse than mine, and were as beaten-up as he was worse for wear. He did not appear to adopt the shoes to be on trend. With nondescript T-shirt and ‘berms’, he looked like your regular heartlander. I was suddenly relieved; I would not, I thought, look like an unfortunate victim.

In the MRT train, I noticed that many commuters wore white sneakers, but none of them were torn, not even a tiny nick could be seen on any. On my feet could be a fashion statement, but it did not make me feel particularly fashionable. As classic kicks go, few are as adored as the Converse, especially in school-shoe white. And perhaps therein lies the deep doubt for me. There is something not quite grown-up happening on my feet. Perhaps I need to wait till my Chuck 70s are really threadbare. I realised as I stared at them in the train car that there is, in fact, a hidden blue layer beneath. It is possible that when the upper is decorticated, what’s below will be revealed and it will be whole. Tatty, I reminded myself, is not better than tidy.

The Converse Chuck 70 High (torn), now SGD79, is available in stores. Photo (top) Jim Sim

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