Written by Sadie Hasler

Lifestyle

Styling It Out: sporting chance

The brilliant, if sartorially baffled, Sadie Hasler is still on it in her search for personal style. In fact, she’s diving in feet first.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Shoes are important. I think of shoes as comfort; as safety. Perhaps it started back in the days of having my feet measured in those robotic machines at Clarks – the buzz of the metal enclosing my small feet, and the choosing of Start-rite shoes for school. Do you remember the little key they had carved into the soles? That really did feel like The Key of Life when you were five.

The most comfortable pair of shoes I ever owned were the long brown leather boots that were my devoted friends for almost a decade. They were my utility boots. I kept things tucked down the sides of my calves: my phone, a board pen when I was teaching, tissues, Snickers (because they hold their form next to warm skin – thank you and well done, peanuts). I wore them almost all the time, certainly whenever I needed to feel strong. Then one day they both broke in quick succession. Each zip snapped, like a devoted old couple who die within days of each other. When I realised getting new zips was more expensive than buying new boots I had a little strop, and very reluctantly threw them away. Laying them into a black sack was like burying a pet. But I knew it was time.

And now I have welcomed some newcomers into the fold. Not boots, but three new pairs of trainers. I needed some bounce: to rehearse in, and to be generally springy in. I’m not going to lie – they are awesome.

Followers of my style travails so far might be asking, “Hey doofus, how come you got so confident with your sartorial choices all of a sudden?” and I shall tell you for why. SPORTS DIRECT IS A WONDERLAND AND YOU CANNOT FAIL THERE. At this stage, straight after my capitalised grand statement, I would like to offer a slight addendum. Sports Direct is a wonderland, but you can fail there. You can fail big. BUT I DID NOT. I DID NOT FAIL.

Like, for instance, I could have gone for this high-vis gear.

HighVisSoho croppedNow, I don’t know what sport you wear that for – maybe road sweeping is becoming an Olympic event – but the neon is apparently very ‘on trend’, it’s got awesome pockets, and it’s wipe-clean. I like anything that is wipe-clean. I like wipe-clean surfaces so much I often wonder why I’m not the rubber-clad mistress of a Soho sex shop. Then I remember I’d be rubbish at the discipline. Punters would swing by wanting to be punished and I’d be like, “It’s OK, dude, I forgive you for whatever. Sit down, I’ll stick the kettle on. And put your cock away, there’s a good boy.”

I could have failed in so many ways, but I think it helped that I knew what I was looking for. I was looking for bounce, so I was taken like a small child to the big sports mecca by the airport. I think it was the first time since I was a kid that I walked into a shop of such proportion and stopped in the doorway and said: “Wow.” Last time was probably Toys R Us circa 1987.

My gal pal and I spent about an hour dawdling around. I tried to avoid the mannequins who were all doing excessively active things, like flexing, and touching their toes. I kept expecting them to move, or exhale in my ear the words, “You’ll never be one of us, fat girl”, but they did neither, thank fuck. That would have been it for me and Sports Direct.

Excessive athletic toe-wiggling. Calm down, love. You’re only a mannequin.

Excessive athletic toe-wiggling. Calm down, love. You’re only a mannequin.

I spent a lot of time looking at shoes that I would quite clearly never be able to pull off. Like these.

Grey, burgundy and pink Nike hi-top trainer

Swoosh!

They look pretty perky, but what are they? If you don’t know, you shouldn’t buy them. I think that’s a good rule.

I also marvelled at the teeny-tiny trainers. How do they make them so small? I tried not to think of toddlers in India being made to do all the tricky stitching.

How? Don’t ask.

How? Don’t ask.

I eventually found three pairs of trainers, all alarmingly reduced. I took them to the till and half-expected a spotty teenage sales clerk to point at me and laugh and say, “Ha! You fell for it. Oi! Kev! She fell for it!” But no, they really were the right prices.

It was only afterwards when I got the boxes home and spread the tissue paper all over my lounge and alternated bouncing around in each pair that I realised what I’d done.

A couple of years ago I treated myself to a new pair of Doctor Marten boots. Purple. I always said I would get some purple ones. I bought them online late at night after going to visit my uncle, who had just had both his legs amputated. It was a sad visit, seeing him changed. But he was stoically chipper. He never made it seem like losing his legs would affect his spirit at all. I did not realise ’til after clicking ‘buy’ on the purple boots that it had been my trigger response to going to see him. I had come home, cosied up in bed, and searched. Sensible shoes. Celebration boots. Life. Protection. Sure-footedness. I don’t know if it’s appropriate that I wanted to quietly celebrate my own able-bodiedness, but I did. How often do we show appreciation to our feet, our legs? They carry us everywhere.

And I’ve done it again. My uncle just passed away. I visited him in hospital before he went, saw him in pain, and tried not to look at the strangeness of his stumps twitching under the covers, but I couldn’t help it. It was like seeing the ghost of his legs. He moved like they were still there, but there was nothing below the thigh but the sagging of a white sheet. Afterwards I wanted to run, to nowhere in particular, but I wanted to use my legs.

That’s when I decided to get some new trainers. Not for running – I’m not mental – but for general boing-iness. I want a spring in my step for spring. I wanted comfort.

So this is what I got.

Red and white trainersThese are Dunlop’s answer to Converse. As we all know, it’s been illegal not to own something that looks vaguely like Converse since 2009.White trainers

These are Lonsdale Velcro affairs that make me want to skip up some steps to Eye of the Tiger. Lonsdale as a brand always makes me think of boxers, and I fucking love Rocky, so these are now my Rocky shoes. ADRIAN!!!

Dog wearing boots on its front pawsHere is a picture of my dog Cooper pretending to wear my ‘Cop a load of the tongue on these’ – or – ‘I could be in New Kids on the Block’ trainers. They make me feel a bit edgy. Keep your distance. I might bust some moves in your face.

I did look at Nike Air, but the really sporty stuff made me feel uncomfortable, and that wasn’t the point of my trip. I would have felt like I had stolen Paula Radcliffe’s stuff. I’m no charlatan. She poos on the run in front of people. I’m not cut out for that. But I am cut out for appreciating what I’ve got while I’ve got it in the knowledge we can never know when we might not have it anymore.

Shoes become part of our story, don’t they; the small unthanked histories of our soles and souls. Choose carefully. And happy spring.

@sadiehasler

Pramkicker by Old Trunk Theatre is at the Brighton Fringe on 28 and 29 May.

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Written by Sadie Hasler

Sadie is a playwright, actor, columnist, artistic director of Old Trunk theatre company, and frequently discombobulated multi-tasker.