Designer / Facilitator, Creative problem-solving experiences
In Hamlet there’s a scene where Polonius is schooling his son, Laertes, who is on his way to Paris. He tells Laertes, among other things, that “...the apparel oft proclaims the man...” aka “...clothes make the man...” In short, he’s telling Laertes not to be a poser. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.
Fast forward a couple of years to my first day of grade 9 (and bear with me, there will be closure on that Shakespearean connection!)
It’s the first day of school and a bunch of the class already knew each other, but there were a few new kids. One kid was wearing a t-shirt with a skateboard company logo. As a fellow skateboarder, one notices these things...after all, clothes makes the man (or in this case, fledgling teenager who is learning how to express themselves and, maybe even, be true to who they are). Upon further examination, it was impossible not to note his crisp, sparkling, pristine white high-top basketball shoes. Their gleam permanently etched onto our retinas.
Being a group of insecure grade 9 kids we did what insecure grade 9 kids do best...we promptly made friends with him whilst simultaneously mocking his shoes for being new. (the author of this is now shaking his head with the incredulity of it all)
The next day, the kid walks into class with different shoes. Well worn, beat-up with holes nearly through to his socks. They were worn to shreds on the left side, as if ground down with a belt sander. We obviously noticed this right away (what’s this? Something new and different! What ho!) Our curiosity was piqued.
A couple of weeks later, a group of us went skateboarding and it turns out this kid was (by far) the best amongst us. He was doing things that I didn’t even know where possible. His board flipping and spinning every which way. I hadn’t even seen this stuff on YouTube yet (YouTube not having been invented yet) nor had I seen it on video (aka the OG YouTube).
Turns out, the scuffing and scratching was a result of all of his time and efforts practicing his craft. Not being one to focus on anything so intently, I took to dragging my shoe along the curb every now and then as a way of scuffing up my own shoes, to make myself look like a better skateboarder. Pure poser move. Clearly I hadn’t read Hamlet yet.
Fast forward many moons to current day. I skateboard less now and do even fewer tricks than I did way back when. The new kid in class is still one of my closest friends, and that story comes up every now and again over beers. In fact, his perspective on that same event could probably be its own entry in this fantastic project, but let’s bring things back to that phrase...clothes makes the man (or person).
That experience has rooted itself deep into my database of perception. I measure all skateboarders against this years-old experience. Anytime I hear a skateboard clattering across the cracks in a sidewalk or the clicking of the tail on the tarmac, I look to see the state of the riders shoes and to see what they tell me about their skateboarding style. Are they just out for a cruise? A new kid, just learning how to pop an ollie? Someone just getting around? Or, if I watch just a little longer, is there a chance that the rider will leap off the curb with a kickflip as they weave their way through the silly pedestrians, plugging their playground that is the streets.
Do clothes really make the man? Let the conversation continue but when it comes to skateboarders, their shoes can often tell the story of a thousand tricks.
Author's Note: The original shoes described in this story have long since dissipated into dust, so the accompanying photo is strictly to help paint the picture.