Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Shoes, style, and the souls of black men
Somewhere beyond my book and photographic collections, there’s the matter of this growing shoe collection. My reading materials and photographs chronicle elements of my knowledge-building and black studies programming efforts while the shoes I wear these days speak to aspects of my interest in style. Diversifying and expanding my shoe selection constitutes one of the many artistic journeys that I’ve been making over the years.
Often, my studies of style and aesthetics focus on others, but thinking more about fashion lately has made it possible for me to take a closer look at my own choices and developing interests. Back in 2003 and 2004 when I started teaching, ties and suspenders became part of my signature look. Some years later, when I began thinking through other approaches, guidance from my wife – a superb stylist – led me to sharpen my interest in an assortment of vibrantly colored shirts.
The experience of those ties and the new presence of those colorful shirts were part of the priming that led me to a few bright pairs of shoes. Of course, my move from black and brown shoes to varied shades of green and blue, for example, did not happen overnight. Instead, it was...it is....a gradual process that involving thinking, rethinking, doubts, encouragement, advice- and risk-taking, observing others, and a willingness to become a more diligent student of styles and fashion.
I’ve had the advantage of working through and developing my interests among vibrant communities, including groups of collegiate black men who manage to stay on the cutting edges of multiple styles and ideas. Among these various brothers, there are connoisseurs of shoes, hats, music, food, T-shirts, books, you name it. Thinking about their development and my own development of the different senses of styles can sometimes be a useful intellectual exercise.
Unfortunately, the most notable times that we hear about black men and their fashion interests is when "somebody got shot over a pair of Air Jordans" or when economically struggling young men are criticized for spending too much money on cars and clothes. But aren't there many more stories to tell and many more lessons? Perhaps my own chronicle about my shoes is a footnote in a larger narrative about style and the souls of black men.