Last week in class, I looked at one side of the room and noticed that eight students, males and females, in a row were all wearing Converse Chuck Taylor All Star’s on their feet. Mostly high tops, some low. A few different colors, mostly white. The last observation was to me one of the most striking because they were clean, which is really hard to manage in Cairo or the desert. I am not sure if they replace them regularly or have some other strategy or if their cleanliness is a sort of social status symbol—like long fingernails were at some point.
Students wear these shoes all the time. They are enormously popular. I am not sure how much they cost—though I guess about 300LE ($55US), which is probably what they cost at the malls of america today. Back in junior high school when I used to ride my bike to John’s sneakers, they were $10 a pair for “irregulars.” John’s was a small sneaker store with all of the shoes in clear plastic bags on shelves organized by size. The size was written on ink pen on the heels of the shoes. Help yourself to try them on. When you entered, John would look at your feet—to make sure that you were wearing the same thing when you left.
John used to get new shoes in every Wednesday and I used to ride over to see what they had that was new. You never knew when a pair of green low tops would come in, but you did know that when they did, they would not stay on the shelves long.
I have a pair of the Converse here—navy blue high tops with baby blue trim that I bought before I moved here. I had no clue they were so stylish. But I can’t keep them clean.