Today I wore my Doc Martens to work. These are not tall clunkers painted with screaming skulls. It was icy and wet and miserable, so I wore my Docs to work today. They are watertight, slip-proof, and comfortable, so they have become a workhorse in my wardrobe on rainy or slushy days.

I bought them in London in 1999. If they were human, they’d be in middle school. There were years and years between then and now when I never wore them at all, but couldn’t bear to give or throw them away.

My Docs crystallize who I was for a moment: just enough of a rebel that going to Carnaby Street to buy a pair of Docs was high on my to-do-in-Europe list, but with enough knowledge of myself to not consider neon green thigh-highs. And dorky enough that another item on my to-do list was “go to Shakespeare & Co. in Paris and buy a book that was written by someone who hung out there in the 1920s.” I was existing in this weird, liminal place where I wanted, very badly, to be tough and shiny. I was a junior in college, and it was my semester abroad, and I was still playing games with identity because I still could. I just wasn’t very good at it. I was, however, apparently very good at buying shoes.

I’m a lot more punk rock fearless and punk rock comfortable in my skin now than I ever was then, but I still never mastered being tough and shiny.

I chose a pair of four-eyelet oxblood brogues. I loved the color, the way the cloudy tones of dark and light marbled the leather’s surface, how I couldn’t decide if the shoes were red or brown or orange—and still can’t. I love how they’ve aged since. I love how oddly RIGHT NOW in the present fashion moment they suddenly are.

My mother hated them, which was part of the point, but because she thought they were ugly and not because she knew what they meant.

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