back when we messed with our sneakers

There's an unbelievably wide range of footwear design choices these days. If you have a budget, you could find a pair of rubber shoes that more or less fits your lifestyle and reflects your personality - choose from lace-ups or velcros; flats or airsoles; plastics or fabrics; plains or printeds; scruffy or studded with "gems". You could even buy something that looks pre-worn out.

When I was a kid, good designs were a bit more limited. In a random sample of 50 students it was likely that three to six of us owned the same brand in the same style, maybe differing slightly in color. We had to get a bit creative if we wanted our sneakers to be a bit more unique.

One of the easiest ways to "personalize" sneakers was to do away with the white shoelaces they came with and weave in some colored laces. Popular among girls were rainbow laces, the kind that had 3 or more colors fading into each other. When I was seven, I had this pair of rainbow-colored Mighty Kid rubber shoes that I wore proudly at P.E. time - until they got too dirty and needed washing. After they were washed, the colors ran together and my previously-loved shoes became a muddy shade of pink.

Another popular choice among girls was actual lace - yeah, the frilly kind - woven through their rubber shoes. It had a Madonna-esque flair to it.

In the '80s when neon colors were hot, we decided neon shoelaces added a bit of personality.

But one of my favorite things were the luminiscent laces my Mom bought for me from the 'States. Actually it was one long strand that I cut in two to wear with my sneakers. They glowed in the dark like some of Barbie's clothes. I remember wearing them at night and watching them as I walked.

Some friends of mine wore bow-biters; they came in Muppets or Pound Puppies and they were sold at Gift Gate.

I never owned any, because I thought they were just too silly. My friends however wore their bow-biters proudly and even made a bow-biters dance. Sheesh, I still remember how it went...

I don't know when or where I first saw vandalized sneakers; it looked real dirty but it was supposed to be cool. Kids had their names, friends' autographs and random symbols scrawled on their pairs of Tretorn, K-Swiss or Converse All-Star. I went the extra mile and used colored markers ... on my cheap, generic white rubber shoes.

Scuffmarks and scratched-up fabric weren't a reason to throw them away. The less new they looked, the better - because friends always wanted to mess up your clean, new shoes by marking them with soleprints.

Interesting how these days, you could buy a pair of brand-new sneakers that are already scuffed and scratched up; even those printed in such a way that they look cleverly vandalized.
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