As a Brit living in New York City, whenever I’m lucky enough to be invited to a squash club, my excitement to play again is tempered by the inferiority complex that comes with being anyone’s guest at a private establishment. Beyond requiring a membership (or a friend with a membership), squash clubs, like many other private clubs, also encourage a certain dress code from head to toe. And of all the very specific things one must wear — from the all-white clothes to the goggles to the headbands — none are more important than the shoes, which must specifically have a white or gum sole so as not to mark up the courts. After anxiously getting by with a pair of black-soled Asics sneakers for a few visits, I realized that buying my own squash shoes would not only make me feel slightly less unworthy every time I got invited to a club, but might also ensure I’m not marched out in front of jeering Ivy Leaguers should I ever separate from a generous host.
I found my new pair over the holidays at an old athletics department store in London. I wasn’t looking for anything special when I walked in: Any squash shoe with a legal sole that didn’t cost too much would have worked. I ultimately went with a white pair from Prince (a brand I recognized as trusted within the racket-sports world) that has a gum sole, subtle detailing in the form of stitched green stripes, and a shape that reminded me of Adidas Sambas. Never did I imagine that a pair of shoes I bought simply to blend in would make me stand out among cool people in New York (and beyond).
Of the four pairs of shoes I bought in the past six months — which include the oft-praised New Balance 990s, Chris Black–approved Bass Weejuns, and expensive Grenson Rutherford boots — none have garnered more attention or compliments than my humble squash shoes, which cost a fraction of the price of any of those others. The first person who noticed them was my streetwear-obsessed roommate, who asked me if I had recently been to Dover Street Market without him. A few days later, I wore them into Kith’s Brooklyn store, where a second guy stopped me and asked if the shoes are Margielas. When I started joking with friends that this was happening, many quickly went from laughing along to asking me for more information: Where did you get them? I’ve been looking for a summer shoe! Are they comfortable?
The answer to that last question is a resounding yes. The shoes’ padded ankle and tongue provide a healthy amount of cushioning on the street and the squash court, and their leather-and-synthetic upper is both breathable and stabilizing. While I haven’t yet worn them for a tennis match, the rubber sole allows for great traction and speed on the wood of a squash court, so I imagine the shoes would be similarly capable on the asphalt of a tennis court. At their full price of $68, the shoes are already pretty affordable given their performance and unexpected street-style appeal. But since I bought them, I’ve seen some places slash that price to a mere $29 — which means anyone who buys them now will have $39 more to put toward that Heights Casino membership than I do.
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