There’s never been an easier time have—or to rationalize—a sneaker addiction than in 2019. With more options than ever to choose from and a constant flood of “limited-edition” releases, the temptation to buy new kicks lurks at the bottom of every scroll. In navigating this asteroid field of fire footwear, I lost myself on more than one occasion. “Oh, I can always flip them later” was a go-to excuse, as was, “if I don’t buy them now, they’re going to be impossible to cop on the aftermarket.” Probably my favorite self-talk line over the years was, “Once I buy them, I’ll just save money elsewhere,” which usually meant a week or so of being antisocial and subsisting off of food from my local deli. Thankfully, I never let my sneaker addiction get me into real trouble, and I stayed true to my need to sell off under-utilized pairs when times got tight. For a while, I've recognized that a revolving-door closet is not sustainable—not to mention an exhausting, stressful way to live. Something, I thought, would have to give.
Except, a few months ago, I fell backwards into a sort of zen-like state with my sneaker rotation, and I have one pair in particular to thank for waking me from my “must-cop” mentality: the Reebok Club C.
The Reebok Club C came out in 1985, and its simple low-top design has kept it a classic since then. It’s hard to even describe the shoe in detail because it’s so nondescript, defined mostly by its green Reebok logo accent, which is positioned next to a tiny British flag. The shoes retail for $70, which is insanely inexpensive in today’s sneaker market—especially for a guy who once convinced himself to buy $900 sneakers. (Balenciaga Triple S’s, which have since been sold, if you need to know.) If ever there was a shoe that anyone can wear, and that is decidedly not special, it’s the Club C.
But unlike other everyman kicks, like, say, the Nike Roshe Run, the Club C has remained below the fray of meme culture. In other words, it’s so under the radar that it never became cool, or uncool, or the subject of constant roasting. And though I didn’t know it at the time, they were exactly what I needed to hit reset on my relationship with sneakers.
Ironically, this all sprang from my desire to cop a special edition pair of Reebok Club Cs—the JJJJound x Reebok Club C 85, precisely. Justin Saunders, the man behind JJJJound, is a master curator and a legend of subtle, sophisticated taste. But even he might admit that his take on the sneakers, like so many kicks I’ve lusted over in the past, had nothing particularly special about them save for a color-change here and a logo-add there. Still, they were just different enough for me to foam at the mouth for a pair. But when, on release day, I came up short, I white knuckled my credit card and managed to abstain from copping for some $300 on the aftermarket—itself a warning sign that I was in need of change.
So I decided to run an experiment. I walked into a J.Crew in my neighborhood and bought a pair of general-release Club Cs for their $70 asking price. I didn’t get the same rush or sense of superiority that I do when securing a pair of sneakers few other people own, but I still knew the sneakers were almost identical. They also looked nearly identical to the ones I’d been lusting after. A few hours post-purchase, I went on a date—not always the safest place to try out new shoes, but these fit the bill. The next day, I woke up and slipped the shoes on to walk my dog without bothering to put on socks. They felt comfortable, and didn't wreck my ankles the way most $500 sneakers often do the few times I wear them. The day after, I wore them to the pool and didn’t care if they got a little wet.
As the days and weeks rolled on, something strange happened: I found myself opting for these generic Club Cs over and over and over again, pairing them with jeans, wide-leg trousers, shorts, and everything in between. I even wore them to the gym. They looked good with anything I threw at them, while slowly but surely providing me a level of reliability I’ve never had before with a pair of sneakers. For the first time in a long time, I felt I didn’t have to care about the shoes I was wearing, not because I want to look bad, but because the Reebok Club Cs ensured I’d look good. Their $70 price tag—as well as the fact that I knew I could get a new pair easily if I ever needed to—let me say “who gives a shit” when it came to tracking through dirt trails in Connecticut or wearing them outside in a rainstorm. Because of that, they both broke me out of the hype cycle and realigned my over-complicated relationship to stuff: while good-looking things often bring me genuine joy, the chase had become more anxiety-inducing than anything.
I’ve owned minimally-adorned sneakers before. But often they were expensive, meaning I saved them for special occasions. Almost three months later, the repetition of wearing my Club Cs has become a ritual, and a stress-free one at that. As another experiment, I recently put every other pair of sneakers (save for my running shoes) away in my closet—out of sight and out of mind. I haven’t missed them.
Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m not “cured.” I’m not done with the sneaker game for good, and I admit that the idea of dropping $300 on those JJJJound Club Cs still exists in the back of my mind. But my relationship to sneakers feels re-centered, and my regular-ass Club Cs are there as a reminder that I’ve already got all I need.
I should admit: two weeks ago, I copped a new pair of Club Cs, this time in a white and orange colorway. I didn’t need them, but my rationale for why I bought them actually felt, well, rational. I didn’t get some big rush when I hit “complete purchase.” I just got them because I liked them—same as with my first pair of Club Cs. For now, at least, I feel at peace when it comes to choosing the bottom most part of my future outfits. And for $70, that feeling is more than worth it.
Originally Appeared on GQ