Evolution takes many forms. Whether societal, cultural or personal, it’s ever-present and can’t be stopped. Ruth Bader Ginsberg said the Constitution, like society, can evolve. Sometimes, though, it is difficult to see. I propose to examine our growth as a society through the lens of a pair of sneakers. Chuck Taylor “All Star” Converse sneakers (aka “CONS” or “Chucks”), to be exact.
As the CEO of a biotech company and many decades removed from my childhood and dreams of playing big time basketball, this is the last thing I thought I’d be writing about. But, in my view, their relevance in today’s society is important. I’m still stuck on them.
Every day we see Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, don a pair of “Cons” and enter the stage to campaign across the country. She wears them as easily as she wears a pair of heels, a woman clearly comfortable in her own skin. We have come a very long way when a woman can be on a campaign stage in a blazer, skinny jeans, pearls and a pair of Cons.
Watching Kamala Harris grace those Converse Allstars “Chucks” is like music to me. In my early youth when I was constantly playing basketball, young girls were not wearing Cons off the court and barely wearing them on the court. These were the days when women played six on six because it was deemed that not all women had the stamina to run up and down the court.
Back then, Chuck Taylors were considered unfeminine, unladylike. They were only offered in high tops, black or white, but in 1966 they started making those fabulous sneakers in low tops and in colors. Suddenly they were more acceptable, the female stigma had lifted and it was ok on the court to wear those Cons. Off the court you still wore your PF Flyers or Keds. Today, female WNBA sports stars have their own Signature high top leather sneakers. Oh, how things have changed.
When I watch Kamala Harris grace those Cons, society’s evolution around attitudes toward women come into focus. Women who were once measured only by their attire alone and are now viewed far more about who they are and what they do. It’s hard to believe that just four years ago, Hilary Clinton’s pant suits were the subject of countless articles and major “mentions” in the press.
I retired my red Cons in 1970 as I left grade school and headed to high school. That 8th grade season our basketball team won the Yonkers city Championship and I was the MVP and foul shooting champ. Those Cons saw me through an amazing season. I literally wrote on the sneakers after I retired them, chronicling my achievements that year. Sadly, as I entered my high school playing days, Converse was no longer the number one basketball shoe, but I had my red Pumas for my high school playing days.
Senator Harris takes me back to those times. She has claimed her sense of self, her femininity, her masculinity and all aspects of what makes us human. She radiates joy and a relaxed state of being while serving the country as a fierce champion of right and wrong. She wears those Cons like a badge of what every woman has suffered and every change that has yet to come. To me it signifies the grace, strength and equality that women are finally claiming for themselves.
She is the right person at the right time. She has her own pedigree, one that our country’s Founders espoused. They did not dictate what schools or what subjects Presidents or Vice Presidents must study, what they should look like or what they should wear. Kamala blows it all out of the water.
So Vice President-Elect Harris, while none of us expect you to wear those Cons on Inauguration Day, perhaps when you go home in between events you can put on one of your magical pairs of CONS for all the young women who want to be like you and all women like me who could only dream of being at this moment in time with you. Take us forward.