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PF Flyers: The Shoes That Could’ve Changed My Life!

PF Flyers: The Shoes That Could’ve Changed My Life!
By Khalil Amani

Remember the scene in the movie, "The Sandlot?" If you're a young'un (under 50), this scene went over your head. It was cameo of the greatest sneakers of the 60's and early 70's! Benny "The Jet" unboxes a pair of PF Flyers in an attempt to jump a neighbor's fence and retrieve a baseball that was being heavily guarded by a big, mean, salivating dog they called, "The Beast." Benny's regular sneakers would not allow him to (as the PF Flyer slogan says), "Run faster and jump higher," so he put on his secret weapon--PF Flyers

It's about the shoes! PF Flyers! Check out these two clips from the movie "The Sandlot" and again, it's about the sneakers! PF Flyers!

This next clip epitomizes how every kid back then felt about PF Flyers! You could do the unimaginable! After Benny puts on his PF Flyers WATCH him run!!!

Kids today have it made! I don't care if you're six months old or sixteen years old! Your mama gonna have you in some Nike sneakers or some other fly-ass tenna-shoes! Hell! My grand-babies be sporting Nike Foamposits, Jordan 11's and all kinds of designer brand name sneakers! Parents today have become more progressive in their understanding of how children are teased if they come to school wearing some off-brand sneakers. It wasn't always like that though. I'm from the era (da 70's) where parents didn't give no fucks about fashion! You'd better put on the shoes yo' mama bought you and take your ass to school and learn something! They either forgot what it was like to be a child or were poor themselves and lived at a time when just having shoes on your feet were a blessing. That was 40 to 50 years ago---and then this happened.

I had a traumatic experience while walking in the mall the other day. My local shoe store opened a deep wound—scratched an emotional scar that had healed many years ago! For over 50 years I had suppressed this “scar” in the recesses of my long-term memory and now, as an adult, a painful memory stares me in the face from ages gone by—the longing for a particular pair of sneakers—the elusive PF Flyers!

Wouldn’t you know it that PF Flyers have made a comeback, retro-fitted for us old-heads to relive our youth.

Before Nike, Fila, K-Swiss, Converse, Puma, Adidas, ProKeds—before your favorite pair of designer sneakers—Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton—before the hip-hop ghetto sneakers—Sean John, S. Carters, FUBU, 310 Motors, Mecca—there was PF Flyers.

PF Flyers were the first tennis shoe that youngsters had to have. Created by BF Goodrich, PF Flyers’ motto was “Run faster, Jump higher.” NBA ballplayer Bob Cousy wore them. From 1960 to 1963 they were all the rage until Converse stepped up their advertising game and stole the market from them.

But I was a child of the 70’s and I can still remember wanting a pair of PF Flyers! I remember watching this commercial on TV where a white kid runs through the jungle with his PF Flyers—avoiding such obstacles as quicksand and alligators by leaping over and high in the air. From a little kid’s perspective every parent should want their child to wear PF Flyers for safety!

As far as I was concerned, PF Flyers ranked up there with sliced bread and the invention of the wheel.

But, you know how parents can be—sometimes they lose sight of the more important things in life, like making sure their kids are outfitted with the latest fashion statements (in my case, PF Flyers) and opting to make sure we had those trivial, mundane and essential non-important things like food, clothing and shelter. (What’s wrong with parents?)

PF Flyers were the shoes that could’ve changed my life! But I never owned a pair! Had I had a pair I could’ve ran fast enough to escape the neighborhood bully German shepherd that chased me through the alley and caught me at my back porch and ripped a chunk out of my ass! Thanks ma & pa! Had I owned a pair I could’ve jumped over that car that hit me and threw me twenty feet in the air! Again, thanks ma & pa!

You know you’re fucked when your mama buys your sneakers from the grocery store! That’s where they sold them in the 70’s—right across the way from the dog food and detergent. These so-called “tennis shoes” were a horrendous sight! They didn’t even have rubber bottoms! No! They were made of plastic. We called them “bobos” “flo’ bottoms” or “slip-n-slides.”

We had to wear bobos and then be subjected to watching commercials of white kids in PF Flyers running, leaping—yea, flying over things small and large.

And so, 50 years later, as the father of five adult children and ten grandchildren--now that I'm damn near in a wheelchair, my childhood sneakers are staring me in the face in the mall and I'm supposed to just forget about how I once longed to have them shits on my footeses? I'm supposed to be all "adult" about the "shit-uation" and chalk it up as white folks fuckin' with a little colored boy's psyche by waving sneakers in my face and dealing with the rejection of my parents, who thought that tennis shoes bought at the grocery store was cool? I'm supposed to let that shit ride when I can now afford any damned brand of sneakers I want?

If ever there was something on a "Bucket List" that needed crossing off, it was buying me a pair of those elusive PF Flyers, and since I’ve never owned a pair of PF Flyers, what do you think I did? You damned skippy! I copped a pair!

—and I might buy another pair—one, which I will never wear, but use in the African Griot tradition—get my “raconteur” (story-telling) on about the times when kids didn’t have the latest ish—to my grandchildren. This pair of sneakers will stay tightly wrapped and boxed and only taken out of its climate-controlled room on the occasion that I need to remind young folk of the respect for craftsmanship. The other pair, I will put these 58 year old feet in and proudly sport them with a pair of knee-high black silk dress socks and some daisy-duke 70’s-style basketball shorts and go outside and hit up the nearest court for a game of pickup basketball. They better not laugh at me either! I’ve waited 50 years to wear PF Flyers and jump higher than I’ve ever jumped and run faster than I’ve ever run! They just better not test me! I swear fo' gawd, they best not make fun of me!

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