Róisín Ingle: Nobody could ever accuse me of being well groomed

I noticed my daughter’s grotty runners. Holes in her socks added to the Dickensian look

There are a good few ‘runners shops’ near Covent Garden where runners are more commonly referred to as trainers or sneakers. Photograph: iStock

There are a good few ‘runners shops’ near Covent Garden where runners are more commonly referred to as trainers or sneakers. Photograph: iStock

 

We were sitting, the four of us, in a bustling Covent Garden shortly before Christmas, eating some of the finest chicken burgers London has to offer, when the enjoyment of my meal was interrupted by an accidental glance down at one of my daughter’s grotty runners.

I had tried to hide them from her when we were packing. but she found them somehow and wore them for our trip, insisting they were perfectly fine. They were not perfectly fine. They were grubby and had more holes than Portmarnock Golf Club.

Nobody could ever accuse me of being well groomed but even I have my limits. My daughter’s runners were falling apart. “We’re getting you new ones,” I declared and, on finishing my burger, commenced some intensive googling of “runners shops near Covent Garden”.

There are a good few “runners shops” near Covent Garden where runners are more commonly referred to as trainers or sneakers. Being lazy, I went for the nearest one, which I’m going to call Game of Trainers, after Game of Thrones because of what turned out to be an epic parenting fail involving fantasy prices. My daughters had been talking vaguely about some class of runner called a Nike Air Max and I reckoned it was about time they had runners they could be proud of.

Admiring glances

The old runners were perfectly functional but even when brand new they were never going to elicit admiring glances in the playground. They had been purchased in a small shoe shop called Hampton Shoes in Portadown, Co Armagh, where runners are widely referred to as gutties. We picked out some pale silver, slightly velvety gutties and the excellent salesman explained that they were a favourite of middle-aged women who get their steps in while walking around Craigavon Lakes. This categorisation did not bother either myself or my daughters. They may not have been head-turning from a brand perspective but were reasonably priced and comfortable enough for long lakeside walks. This was good enough for us.

Game of Trainers in Covent Garden, a one-minute walk away according to Google maps, was, philosophically, about as far from Hampton Shoes as you could get. There was a small queue outside which should have given me a clue that this was no ordinary runners shop.

My daughter’s battered pale silver gutties were already off her feet. I noticed her socks also had holes in them to add to the general Dickensian feel of our party

Inside, this became even clearer. In Game of Trainers, the runners were displayed on the walls like works of art. Each carefully curated runner was covered in a protective plastic coating. Even when presented with this evidence I continued on in my quest to acquire trendy runners to replace the pale silver middle-aged woman’s favourite gutties now rapidly falling apart around my 12-year-old daughter’s feet. We picked a random Nike Air Max off the wall. We sat down. We removed my daughter’s dilapidated footwear and asked the young man with an asymmetrical haircut for the runner in her size.

‘Sneaker exclusives’

While he went off to fetch the shoe, I did a bit more research and realised definitively that Game of Trainers was not for the likes of us. Game of Trainers, the website informed us, “showcases the latest drops of globally sold-out sneakers and apparel, alongside USA and Asia-Pac sneaker exclusives which cannot be bought elsewhere in the UK. With our expert sneakerheads on hand, you’ll be in the know about what makes each sneaker rare and unique.”

I had read enough but we’d gone too far to leave immediately. My daughter’s battered pale silver gutties were already off her feet. I noticed her socks also had holes in them to add to the general Dickensian feel of our party. Her runners were now a stain on the shiny floor of a place where “sneakers” don’t arrive, they “drop”, and there are no clothes to be found, only “apparel”.

Her lack of brand desire brought to mind her early childhood when I used to fast forward through the ads between Peppa Pig and Teletubbies

When our “expert sneakerhead” came back with the correct size we asked for the price and made a show of trying it on while his fellow sneakerhead asked a colleague to work out the cost. In Game of Trainers the price of each runner is as unique as each runner, so has to be calculated by an expert sneakerhead using a mobile phone. While I tried not to faint at the price my daughter loudly declared the rare Nike Air Max to be “not comfy at all”. And then we made like Usain Bolt and got out of the place.

Matching black runners

Across the road was a runners shop that rhymed with Fetchers. For a fraction of the Game of Thrones sneakers, mother and daughter purchased matching black runners with added arch-lift support. “Fetchers are kind of cool these days,” I fibbed to my daughter, who neither believed me nor could care less about cool. “They are so comfy,” she said, bouncing around the shop.

In conclusion, we love our Fetchers and my daughter has not hankered once after the rarified Nike Air Max from Game of Trainers. Her lack of brand desire brought to mind her early childhood when I used to fast forward through the ads between Peppa Pig and Teletubbies. When my children asked why I had a no-ad policy I’d tell them: ads are just people selling you things you mostly don’t really need. I don’t know if brainwashing them to ignore or at least be vaguely suspicious of ads led to this lack of brand fetishising, but I like to think it had something to do with it.

Or perhaps, like their mother who grew up being only thrilled to open the black bags full of second-hand clothes given to us by the Sisters of Charity, they are just very easily pleased. And maybe this last nearly two years has done that for us if nothing else. When all the unpleasantness is over, maybe we’ll be a bit more easily pleased by comfy, hole-free footwear and nights out that last beyond 8pm and all the other things we took for granted in the beforetimes. Those times are coming back and soon. I feel it from my head to my comfortably shod, middle-aged toes.

roisin@irishtimes.com