Upon moving to college, my heaviest basket contained the multitude of books I had deemed necessary, for either academic referencing or “free time” reading. I deemed, as so many do, erroneously, as a great majority of those books served only as extra weight to carry back out to my truck at the year’s end. Such is not the case for Katherine York, Sturgis first-year, who elected to bring a collection of more pragmatic items: shoes. And while her school stock of somewhere between 20 and 30 pairs of shoes would stymie most, it pales in comparison to the collection of nearly 100 pairs of Converse tennis shoes shared by Katherine, her older sister Gracie—an Albion senior—and their mother.
Since middle school, Katherine has actively taken part in what is fast becoming a family tradition of collecting and wearing Converse shoes, though her first pair dates back to her more infantile days when her mother bought her a pair of hot pink baby-bootie Converse shoes. Since then, the collection has only grown, added to by all three women.
“I like them cause you can match them with different outfits,” Katherine said. “I think they’re pretty cool shoes, and they are comfortable. My mom and my older sister started wearing them, so I started wearing them, too.”
It all began on a road trip for a young Amy York—Katherine’s mother.
“When my parents would drive us to Florida to visit our grandparents, there was a Converse outlet store at the Valdosta exit in Georgia,” Amy said in an email. “The trick was to get my dad to stop at that exit. Like with most dads when traveling, there were no unsanctioned stops, except to get gasoline. When our mission was accomplished, my brothers and I had about ten minutes to run in the outlet store and buy as many pairs of shoes as our babysitting and paper route money would allow.”
Years later, a 12-year-old Gracie discovered her mother’s high school and college collection of Converse shoes, more affectionately known as “Chucks,” in the basement and began wearing them to school herself.
“I recall trying on a pair, and since they fit I asked if I could wear them, and from there ended up coordinating them with outfits or just wearing the brightest ones for fun, even though a lot of the kids at school did not think that they were as cool as I found them to be,” Gracie said in an email. “About two years later out of nowhere they became cool again, and peers would ask me where I got them.”
From there, Gracie—and later Katherine and her younger sister—began receiving Converse shoes as birthday and Christmas presents, laying the foundations for what would eventually become a significant collection. When the girls found themselves at approximately the same shoe-size, they justified their purchases of new Converse by claiming they would be for the good of the group.
Today, the collective collection includes glow-in-the-dark, autographed and individually designed holiday-themed (including a nice pair adorned with bells for Christmas) and bacon-themed Chucks, in addition to the many other standard color designs. Converse hoodies, phone cases, clothing, flip-flops, binders, notebooks, duffle bags and purses supplement shoe collection.
Because they reserve making most purchases for special occasions, abstaining from online Chuck shopping for anything except an individually designed, made-to-order pair, Katherine says that they never buy for buying’s sake.
“If we see it and we think it’s cute, we buy it,” Katherine said.
While the collection has not been appraised in several years, Katherine estimates that they own nearly, if not more than, 100 pairs of Converse shoes. Amy says it’s entirely possible that, if they have not met the mark already, Christmas morning may be forever hailed as the day the York ladies broke 100.
But even then, the collection will grow. Katherine said that the Converse collection, now composed of a spectrum of shoe sizes, is something that can be passed down to and expanded by the next generation, for, as she says, shoes are a girl’s best friend.
Photo courtesy of Katherine York