When all that mattered in life was your sneakers!
If you didn’t see The New York Times Sunday issue (September 4,2011) there is a short piece in the Style Section on Steven Tiller, a founder of SeaVees sneakers. Well, it seems that Stevie was driving to work in Southern California recently and heard on NPR that the Peace Corps was turning 50. So, Steve and his business partner, Derek Galkin, began to look through old photos of Peace Corps Volunteers to see What Was On Their Feet!
What was on their feet were narrow plimsolls, a canvas and rubber sneaker…we all wore them in the ’60s.
So, Steve said, “The idea was to go back in time, re-imagine these shoes, and hopefully make them cooler.”
The result is a sneaker, in salt-washed canvas, that has a contrasting suede stripe around its rims and a vintage look. Steve says that a donation will be made to the Peace Corps for each pair sold at seavee.com and jcrew.com. The Volunteer plimsoll is $76.
Hey, Steve, give your donations to www.peacecorpsfund.org that supports Third Goal Projects by RPCVs and come as our guest to the Peace Corps Bash in Washington, D.C. on September 24, 2011, at George Washington University Smith Center. And bring your sneakers! We’ll set up a table and you can sell your new shoes.
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I read that article. I had never heard of a plimsoll. Now, if he had said Keds, I would have known what he was talking about. But who of us wore plimsolls (or Keds for that matter) in the field? In India, it was one version of sandal or another for two years. Closed shoes would have been misery.
Still, despite the oddity of it all, Mr. Tiller does listen to NPR, did notice the Peace Corps was turning 50, and did do something that got covered by the NY Times. Pretty good. And with any luck, pretty soon lots of Volunteer plimsolls will be out and about, spreading the news from the ground up.
Exactly, John, bring this item to The BASH. Lots of sentiment and lots of feet. I look forward to trying to find my size. If not, just adding $76 to the pot.
The full style on campus in 1960 was a cordoroy jacket, chino pants, narrow tie, topped off by “plimsoles.” Check out any college yearbook for the¨”look.” We even went to formal dances in them!
We had to wear sneakers instead of sandals in Cameroon, otherwise chiggers would burrow under your toenails and lay a sack of eggs. Peace Corps doctors, not having studied how to remove such a sack in med school, meant we had to go to the local juju man who would swiftly extract them with a sharpened piece of bamboo and then dump clorox on your toe.
However, since the cockroaches that colonized my house (the little dickens were the size of gerbils) loved the flavor of rubber and canvas though they would leave those little plastic tubes on the end of the laces, we had to toss the remains of the sneakers and wear SOCKS! with our sandals or suffer the chiggers. Refusing to look like a mailman, I went back to the juju man and he gave me a “special tonic” to put on my toes to keep the chiggers out. Worked. I think the special tonic was clorox died orange with kola nut.
I am now deciding which color SeaVees to buy–I hope they take you up on your offer.
Note: the kids from California, always ahead of the curve, wore high-tops!
And finally, the SeaVees website now reads that the donated portion of the price will go to the Peace Corps Fund!
Those are beautiful shoes. Having gone to school in what was obviously a cultural backwater – University of Colorado Boulder – I had never seen them before. We wore keds that had to be scuffed and full of holes.
In Colombia, it was Bass Weejuns and when the soles wore out, they were repaired with tire pieces. I also remember high heels that we wore to the city and the heels were finally replaced with unfinished wood. I remember combat boots – they were supposed to be hiking boots, but they sure looked like combat boots to me.
The uniform was levis, that had been given to all Volunteers by the Levi Company and those blue SeeBee work shirts from the Army/Navy surplus stores.
I did some research and saw that some proceeds from the shoes are going to the nonprofit National Peace Corps Association, NOT the Peace Corps (which is a government agency).
“The idea was to go back in time, reimagine these shoes and hopefully make them cooler,” Tiller said. The resulting slim-lined sneaker in salt-washed canvas has a contrast suede stripe around its rims and a distinct vintage look. Donations to the National Peace Corps Association will be made for each pair sold exclusively at seavees.com and jcrew.com.
The NYTIMES piece that I read (and that I have in my hands) was written by Bruce Pask. In this paragraph it says, “Donation to the Peace Corps will be made for each pair sold at seavees.com and jcrew.com.
On their website http://www.seavees.com is NOW says National Peace Corps Association.
I have written the company to have them change it to the Peace Corps Fund, as we have offered them the opportunity to sell their shoes at the Peace Corps Bash on Saturday night, the 23rd of September.
Maybe it’s because I grew up in Baltimore where we never heard of “plimsolls”. The cool guys (I don’t remember the “girls” shoes) wore either Jack Purcells or hummers( the name stolen by the car company 50 years later). The importance of all this, of course, was that the Sierra Leoneans from 1963-65 when I was in the Peace Corps could distinguish Volunteers from other non-Africans because of those particular shoes and our bermuda shorts.
No plimsolls for girls, it appears. Alas.
My dictionary defines “plimsolls or plimsoles” as canvas shoes with a rubber sole defined by a distinct line round the rubber or a “plimsoll” as painted on boats, e.g. Keds or ¨sneakers. I was wrong. At the University of Maryland in the early 1960s the shoe worn by male and female students alike were “gym” shoes, the bare-bones white canvas shoes welded to a flat white rubber sole with no instep or heel. We even wore them to formal dances. And the scruffier and dirtier they were, the better.
Early 1960’s? You guys and gals wore shoes then?
As Leo documented, only on formal occasions.
All I wore in Senegal was rubber flip-flops and, forever fashion conscious, I tried to coordinate colors to match my latest hand stitched boubou. However, upon returning to the States I visited a podiatrist who was fascinated to see how strong my feet were after three years of flip-flops. She had read about this phenomenon in a scientific journal — imagine that — but had never seen an African to verify the report. So I was next best. No plimsoles for me1